Rich Burg is one of those people who made a grade school dream come true.
The Lima native wanted to be a biologist. He used to watch Wonderful World of Disney wildlife episodes. He recalled “having a blast” during a career day at Johnny Appleseed Metro Park.
Today, Burg manages the Fisheries and Non-Game Programs in the South Coast Region (coastal counties from Santa Barbara to San Diego) of California. He previously managed the wildlife and lands programs also in that same region.
That’s a long way from graduating from Lima Senior in 1980 and joining the United States Army at 17 and leaving for boot camp two weeks after graduating. He spent six years in the Army with four of those years on active duty.
He moved to California in 1984 and went to Humboldt State University in Arcata and graduated with a degree in wildlife management. Humboldt State is known for outstanding programs in natural resources and sciences. It is located on the North Coast, between the Pacific Ocean and ancient redwood forests.
Burg has two brothers and two sisters who still live in the Lima area. He also stays in touch with what’s going on in his hometown by reading the Lima News electronic version.
“I like reading about the various programs - many similar - the ones ODNR has in place and the science they are doing to conserve Ohio’s precious resources. In addition, I especially enjoy hearing the various anecdotes from Ohio’s wildlife officers and share these with our wardens here in the office. It seems like the excuses are the same everywhere,” Burg said.
Among programs Burg manages are California’s heritage wild trout, warm water reservoir (including stocking) and anadromous programs. Anadromous fish are born in fresh water, spend most of their life in the sea and return to fresh water to spawn. Salmon are a prime example of these fish.
As a youth, he fished, but did not hunt.
“I did not hunt as a youth but did fish often at local reservoirs/lakes/rivers I fished at Bressler, Lost Creek, Schnoover, Indian Lake, Faurot Park ponds, Ottawa/Auglaize Rivers and Sugar Creek. I have recently taken up turkey hunting and hope to get out with my son this fall,” Burg said.
He gets to deal with some of the nation’s most diverse wildlife and fish in California.
“As a program manager I spend quite a bit of time office bound so I really enjoy being able to get out into the field to conduct site visits and assist my staff. In fact, this week I am headed up to Angeles National Forest to visit mountain yellow-legged frog (MYLF) translocation/reintroduction sites. The MYLF is endangered and the CDFW have been working with partners (USFS, USFWS, USGS, LA Zoo, San Diego Zoo) to propagate and reintroduce/translocate into high elevation mountain streams,” Burg explained last week.
One interesting out-of-office work was a bighorn sheep capture conducted in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park in eastern San Diego County.
Burg said in part of the outing, “I was waiting for the helicopter to return so the sheep could be transported back to the capture location for release. The sheep are captured via a net gun from helicopters and then flown to a central processing site nearby. They are not sedated/tranquilized during capture or processing, which includes health exam, body/horn measurements, blood/fecal sample drawn, vaccines, etc. Desert bighorn sheep are federally endangered and inhabit rocky slopes and cliffs, canyons, washes and alluvial fans (triangle-shaped deposits of gravel, sand, and even smaller pieces of sediment). Like other bighorn sheep, they prefer rugged and open habitat, and use their climbing abilities, vigilance, and excellent vision to detect and escape from predators.”
Another interesting event occurred at the 17,500 acre San Felipe Valley Wildlife Area, which is a department owned/managed wildlife area.
“I was out conducting a mine entrance survey. This property used to be a large cattle ranch and still has an original one-room school house, outhouses and a ranch house over 100 years old,” Burg said.
When it comes to fishing, he noted in California “cold water anglers target wild rainbow stocks and warm water anglers target black bass, catfish and panfish - mostly bluegill and crappie.”
Burg added, “River fishing is popular especially north of San Francisco and in the eastern Sierras. In our region (South Coast Region) this is especially true with several record bass have been caught from reservoirs within our region. Lakes and reservoirs are popular generally throughout the state.”
As for salt water fishing, he said, “Ocean recreational fishing is very popular with a number of open year-round fisheries including rockfish, halibut, tunas, yellowtail, to various ground fish. These fisheries are managed by our Marine Region from border to border and three nautical miles out to sea.”
Despite being in a state with such diverse fishing and hunting activities, Burg said participation in these activities has declined significantly since the 1970s and 1980s.
“Our hunters and anglers play a crucial role in managing natural resources by regulating wildlife populations to maintain ecological and biological diversity, participating in wildlife surveys for scientific data collection and reporting wildlife crimes like poaching,” he said.
“The department just recently outlined a path forward intended to increase statewide hunting and fishing participation (The California Department of Fish and Wildlife Hunting and Fishing Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation Program (R3) ). In addition, our Region, as do other regions, has both a Fishing in the City (FIC) and Classroom Aquarium Education Programs (CAEP) funded thru the Sport Fishing Restoration Act (SFRA).
“The FIC Program in our region (15-20 events yearly) provides fishing in urban and suburban areas by providing supplemental fish stocking, offering learn-to-fish programs, and helping residents understand how their actions affect aquatic habitats while the regional CAEP (approximately 90 classrooms) provides an opportunity for teachers to hatch fish in classroom aquarium systems promoting stewardship of aquatic resources in upcoming generations of students. These elementary students then monitor the fish and release them in selected local waters.”
Burg, who has been married 22 years, has a daughter and son who are participants in outdoor activities. He calls his daughter a “legacy,” since she is in her second year at Humboldt State. He and his middle school son plan to go fall turkey hunting together.
Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL