Brandon Sperrey graduated in 2016 from Husson University with a degree in criminal justice, intent on becoming a Maine game warden.
That program gave him a good background in constitutional law and the court process but did not prepare him for the work he’d be doing outdoors or how to deal with some of the animals he’s encountered on the job, the game warden said last week.
Sperrey, 28, of Lincoln believes that his alma mater’s new program in conservation law will better prepare students for jobs policing and conserving the state and nation’s natural resources.
“I think this will give future wardens more insight into what the day-to-day job is like,” he said. “We need to protect our natural resources for our kids and our grandkids.”
The program is expected to compete for students with a similar program at Unity College, which is now a hybrid school offering online and in-person classes.
The Husson program will provide students with the four-year education they need to become state game wardens, park rangers, forest rangers, members of the Maine Marine Patrol, Maine Forest Service, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service. Classes in the program will be offered this fall, according to Husson spokesperson Eric Gordon.
“There is a real need in Maine and the rest of New England for graduates with a bachelor of science in conservation law,” said John Michaud, director of Husson University’s School of Legal Studies. “The field is growing.”
In Maine, 30 percent of the game wardens now working will be eligible to retire within the next three years, Michaud said in announcing the new program.
Lori Perez, who ran a similar program at Unity College before moving to Husson, will head up the new major. Perez previously worked for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Maine. She also assisted with presidential protection details, operational deployments and natural disaster responses, including Hurricane Katrina, and assisted with prescribed burns and western wildfires.
Husson based its decision to create the four-year degree was based, in part, on the popularity of its one-year-old conservation law enforcement certificate program, according to Michaud. Classes have had solid enrollments from both traditional students and working professionals. The new program will include field experience, Perez said.
“It’s all part of Husson’s [hands-on]/experiential learning philosophy where students learn by doing,” she said.
Members of the Maine Warden and Maine Marine Patrol are excited about the program and have been offering input to Perez and Husson administrators.
“Marine Patrol continues to need qualified and motivated applicants now and in the future,” Col. Matthew Talbot said last week. “We look forward to continuing our relationship with colleges and universities like Husson who are offering students the education and experience they need to become successful conservation law enforcement officers.”
Unity College offers a robust conservation law program, said spokesperson Joe Hegarty, adding that it continues to graduate “some of the finest conservation officers in the country.”
“Unity College is happy to see one of our peer colleges also leaning into the environmental sciences,” he said.