Veteran Washington County game warden Joe McBrine (center), flanked by Col. Dan Scott (right) and Maj. Chris Cloutier, has been named the 2021 Maine Warden of the Year. Credit: Credit: Courtesy of the Maine Warden Service

Joe McBrine’s interest in becoming a Maine Game Warden was sparked when he was in fifth grade.

He remembers having the chance to talk with Robert Carter, a retired warden in Machias, about life on the job.

“Just listening to his stories and things, it seemed to me like a dream job for a little kid that would rather be our running around in the woods,” McBrine said.

With that, McBrine was hooked.

The East Machias resident has spent the last 27 years in the Maine Warden Service, working most of his career in Washington County. His commitment and dedication have not gone unrecognized, as he has been named the 2021 Maine Game Warden of the Year.

“I’m very fortunate,” said the 52-year-old McBrine, who was humbled to receive the honor during a surprise celebration recently at Helen’s Restaurant in Machias.

“I can’t imagine doing anything else, even as much as it’s changed,” he said.

The award is presented to a game warden who has consistently conducted themselves with exceptional expertise in the areas of conservation law enforcement, management, community and public relations and all aspects of a warden’s duties.

Candidates are nominated by their peers.

“Warden McBrine is a dedicated game warden and truly believes in the mission of Maine Warden Service,” said Col. Dan Scott, head of the department. “He goes to work every day to make a difference in the outdoor community in which he lives and works. His level of experience, performance, and dedication is exceptional.”

McBrine has provided outreach in Washington County, speaking at safety and education courses sponsored by DIF&W and appearing at sportsmen’s shows and events geared toward children. He helped organize a fishing event for residents at the Maine Veterans Home in Machias.

Last fall, McBrine was instrumental in organizing a cemetery ceremony in Whiting to honor Lyman Hill and Charles Niles, two wardens who were murdered along the Machias River in 1886.

McBrine, a graduate of the now-defunct Machias Valley Christian Academy, was a driving force in helping establish and advise for a conservation law enforcement program at the University of Maine at Machias. His efforts have included teaching a search and rescue course as part of the curriculum.

The focus on education has always been important in McBrine’s family. His father, the late Joseph McBrine Sr., and brothers Judson McBrine and Jonathan McBrine, all have been teachers, school administrators and/or coaches.

McBrine was presented a Distinguished Alumni Award by UMM, where he also has worked with faculty to develop a Wildlife Forensics and DNA program, enabling students to analyze wildlife DNA.

“I guess it is in my blood,” said Joe McBrine, who studied education for two years before switching to law enforcement. “I can’t help but still be connected and try to help this university or local schools.”

Looking back on 30 years in law enforcement, including three as a deputy warden, McBrine has experienced many highs and lows. He said happy endings to search and rescue incidents are particularly rewarding.

However, nothing brings him greater pleasure than catching intentional repeat offenders.

“When the community gets involved to give us the bits and pieces of information we need to solve that case, and it becomes a team effort where we all have to trust each other to stop somebody’s behavior that’s ongoing, intentional, those are the best, most rewarding cases,” McBrine said.

McBrine also serves as a Warden Training Officer, a role in which he can share his vast experience with prospective wardens. He has assisted the Advanced Warden Training Academy on their trips to Washington County and even has conducted scenarios at his home, with his family members taking part in the role playing.

He has participated with the DIF&W Guide’s Board, working as a guide examiner and conducting license reviews.

“In his 27 years working for DIF&W Warden McBrine’s determination, professionalism, integrity, work ethic and drive to apprehend intentional violators has not waivered,” Col. Scott said. “He has raised his family to appreciate the outdoors and finds much joy in helping to preserve the outdoor tradition for future generations of citizens and visitors to the great state of Maine.”

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...