Guardians of Pennsylvania’s Aquatic Treasures: The Vital Role of Waterways Conservation Officers

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HARRISBURG, PA — The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is on the hunt for the 26th class of Waterways Conservation Officer (WCO) Trainees, marking another year of commitment to maintaining the ecological balance of the state’s vast waterways. With 86,000 miles of rivers, streams, and lakes under its purview, the PFBC’s mission to conserve, protect, and enhance aquatic resources is a task of Herculean proportions, one that underscores the critical role played by WCOs.

Waterways Conservation Officers are more than just law enforcement professionals; they are the custodians of Pennsylvania’s aquatic ecosystems. Their work plays a pivotal role in preserving fishing and boating opportunities, as well as safeguarding the habitats of hundreds of species of fish, reptiles, and amphibians native to Pennsylvania.

“The job is full of adventure, and no two days of work are ever the same,” says Col. Clyde Warner, Director of the PFBC Bureau of Law Enforcement. Indeed, WCOs undertake a myriad of responsibilities, from enforcing fish and boat laws and ensuring watercraft safety to conducting environmental protection efforts. They are also tasked with educating the public about responsible fishing, boating, and wildlife conservation practices.

So, why are these officers so crucial to Pennsylvania?

Firstly, WCOs play a key role in protecting and conserving aquatic biodiversity. Pennsylvania’s waterways are home to a rich array of species, some of which are endangered or vulnerable. By enforcing fishing and boating rules, WCOs help to ensure sustainable practices that do not harm these species or their habitats.

Secondly, WCOs contribute to public safety. They enforce regulations related to watercraft safety, minimizing accidents and injuries on Pennsylvania’s waters. They also respond to emergencies, providing vital support in rescue operations.

Thirdly, these officers are instrumental in preserving the recreational value of Pennsylvania’s waterways. They ensure that everyone has a fair opportunity to enjoy fishing and boating activities. By enforcing laws against overfishing or illegal fishing practices, WCOs help maintain healthy fish populations that are crucial for recreational fishing.

Lastly, WCOs play an essential role in environmental education. They often interact with the public, providing information about conservation and safe boating practices. This helps to foster a culture of respect for nature and encourages responsible use of the state’s aquatic resources.

The PFBC is inviting applications for its 26th class of WCO Trainees until February 5, 2024. The selected applicants will undergo rigorous training at various sites across the Commonwealth, including the PFBC’s H.R. Stackhouse School of Fishery Conservation and Watercraft Safety. The curriculum will cover law enforcement principles, fish and boat laws, watercraft safety, environmental protection, and more.

The new trainees are expected to report for training later this year and graduate in the summer of 2025, ready to take up the mantle of protecting Pennsylvania’s aquatic treasures. Aspiring WCOs must be Pennsylvania residents, possess a valid driver’s license, be at least 21 years old, have a high school diploma or GED, and pass a criminal history background check.

To apply, please note that applications will exclusively be accepted online. To access the announcement and submit your application, visit the Pennsylvania employment website at For comprehensive details about the position, those interested are encouraged to visit the WCO Recruitment page on the PFBC website. Should you require any further information or assistance, email

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