Foundation Honors Two FWC Officers with Awards
Tallahassee, FL (February 19, 2019) – The nonprofit Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida recognized two Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) law enforcement officers at FWC’s Commission meeting in Gainesville Wednesday, February 20, 2019.
FWC Investigator Rene Taboas was awarded the 2018 Rodney Barreto Employee of the Year. Taboas’s enforcement and education work is making a difference for protected migratory songbirds. Investigator Taboas began working on Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) enforcement in April 2017. Since that time, he has filed 214 charges, released 272 protected birds back into the wild, and 110 illegal bird traps have been seized. His efforts have significantly increased the cases being made against violators of the MBTA and are a tremendous contribution to saving and returning hundreds of birds to the wild.
An officer with FWC since 2009, Taboas began his conservation law enforcement career in Monroe County and transitioned to Miami-Dade County in 2012, a hotbed of illegal migratory songbird poaching. “Investigator Taboas’s positive attitude and passion for protecting these bird species shows, and he is often seen at work early, on weekends and even during his days off,” said Col. Curtis Brown, Director of the FWC Division of Law Enforcement. He has also worked closely with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to investigate MBTA cases on a federal level and has served as a subject matter expert both during investigations and the prosecutorial phases of the cases. He is frequently called upon by his other officers, who have seen his knowledge and passion for this area of conservation law enforcement, to assist them with their own MBTA investigative work.
The award was co-presented by its namesake and first recipient, Miami native and entrepreneur Rodney Barreto, who began his own career as a law enforcement officer. Barreto served as chair of the FWC for 7 of his 10 years as Commissioner and has also chaired the Foundation board as part of his extensive volunteer service in Florida’s nonprofit sector.
The Foundation also honored Officer Jeff Babauta with the 2018 Louise Humphrey Achievement Award for his outstanding contributions to the conservation of Florida’s fish and wildlife. Babauta will retire from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on February 28, 2019 with 35 years of outstanding service. Over the course of his career he has been involved in the early stages of many innovative FWC programs such as urban fishing programs. During his tenure, Babauta also patrolled the 85,000 acre Three Lakes and Bull Creek Wildlife Management Areas, which included the protection of the whooping crane, grasshopper sparrow, bald eagle, and red cockaded woodpecker.
Babauta has shown outstanding dedication and professionalism through 25 years of work with the Division of Law Enforcement. He works with hunter education classes, boating safety classes and youth events. As a member of the FWC’s elite K-9 unit, he successfully apprehended resource violators, recovered evidence of crimes and conducted search and rescue missions for missing and endangered people. In his most demanding role, he was part of Operation Alligator Thief in which 14 suspects were arrested for various egregious violations. “Officer Babauta’s motivation and dedication to the FWC mission is unmatched. He has influenced and impacted all those around him during his lifetime of service to the state of Florida. We have been extremely lucky to have him and wish him all the best during his upcoming retirement. He will certainly be missed.” said Brown.
The Louise Ireland Humphrey Achievement Award is named after the first woman appointed to serve on the board of the then-Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission in 1984. A Leon County resident and owner of Woodfield Springs Plantation, Humphrey served until 1999 and was recognized as a conservationist for her love of the land, particularly the Red Hills area north of Tallahassee, and for her leadership style on fish and wildlife issues. The award reflects dedication to the conservation mission that guided Mrs. Humphrey and now guides the FWC.
“Each year, the Foundation is pleased to honor FWC employees who has gone above and beyond to further this vital conservation mission. These officers are an incredible asset for the FWC and the state of Florida,” said Andrew Walker, Foundation President and CEO.
About the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida
The Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and other public and private partners to conserve Florida’s native animals and plants and the lands and waters they need to survive. Since its founding in 1994, the Foundation has raised and donated more than $32 million to conservation and outdoor recreation and education. More information can be found at wildlifeflorida.org.