Sgt. Mike Barr is a conservation ranger with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division. The region covers 20 northwest Georgia counties, with Barr and a team of five focused on Bartow, Cherokee and Cobb. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
With hunting season ramping up, Georgia Department of Natural Resources Sgt. Mike Barr is welcoming the change.
“We spend hundreds of hours and many late nights and weekends every year in a patrol vessel on Allatoona Lake. By late August, boating patrols have worn us down,” he said. “I really enjoy hunting season. The season has changed, and time spent in the woods is a welcome relief. Meeting those involved in hunting activities and seeing the many hunting opportunities Bartow County has to offer is a real pleasure.”
Although the region consists of 20 counties in northwest Georgia, Barr and a unit of five people cover Bartow, Cherokee and Cobb counties, handling calls related to hunting, fishing and boating, and law enforcement on state land.
“It is so important to recognize that even though most of these activities are recreational, safety and training are so important,” Barr said. “Gun safety while hunting is a must, and I find most people do not really understand the rules of the waterways while boating. Both have led to some tragic events. However, when training has been completed and people take a safe attitude towards these sports, they are enjoyable and safe.”
Name: Sgt. Mike Barr
Occupation: Conservation Ranger, Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division
City Of Residence: Pine Log
Family: Married for 32 years, two children, two grandchildren
Education: Columbus State University, Command College
What led you into a career with the DNR?
A: A love of the outdoors, hunting and fishing, and an interesting job.
Seeing the progress and changes that have been made in the course of your career, what do you see as the biggest challenges facing the DNR and our natural resources?
A: Population growth. As the population grows over time, there is more of an impact and use of our natural resources and less habitat for wildlife. The challenge will be balancing the natural resources with an increase in everyday use by humans.
You’ve been at the forefront of making strides to utilize resources available from other agencies, such as the recent partnership with the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office. How beneficial are those collaborations?
A: Very beneficial. Sheriff [Clark] Millsap and I have discussed at length how cooperative law enforcement partnerships help both agencies. Allatoona Lake is one of the busiest lakes per acre in the nation and growing in use every year, and Sheriff Millsap recognizes the need for coverage. Allatoona Corps of Engineers numbers show 6.4 million visitors per year (2012 stats) to Allatoona Lake.
Due to budget reductions at DNR and the recent down economy, we are struggling with the proper number of law enforcement officers to cover the numerous calls for search and rescues, boat crashes, drownings, boating violations and criminal acts. The addition of patrol assistance with Bartow County SO deputies has allowed us to expand patrols and be on the water a much greater amount of time. It also has allowed the deputies to be on-site for criminal response calls around the lake. We are very pleased with the results and cooperative efforts of the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office and plan on utilizing the same program during the 2015 boating season.
Tell me about the services and programs offered through the DNR. I think there’s a misperception that DNR patrols the lake and deer hunters, but there really is so much more.
A: We are a multi-response agency with many duties. Our region covers 20 counties in northwest Georgia. Myself and a work unit of five people cover three counties, Bartow, Cherokee and Cobb counties and part of the Chattahoochee River and Etowah River.
We complete about 30-plus search and rescues per year for things such as lost or missing children, hikers, boaters and Alzheimer’s patients. I am part of a special team called the Critical Action Team that conducts these searches. We have an aviation unit and utilize a helicopter for searches or assistance in critical events. We are part of the Governor’s Drug Task Force. We have a special team for severe boat crashes or hunting incidents called the Critical Incident Reconstruction Team (CIRT). We have a team for counterterrorism called the Counterterrorism Task Force. We have a K-9 team and one officer in our work unit who conducts active patrols for tracking and article detection with the K-9. We now cover all law enforcement on state lands such as Pine Log WMA and Allatoona WMA and Red Top Mountain State Park. We have specialized equipment such as underwater sonar detectors to assist with body recoveries. We are trained in man tracking, litter and environmental violations, and special equipment operations utilizing 4x4 trucks, ATVs, and river and lake patrol boats. We assist other law enforcement agencies whenever possible. We offer classes on safe boating and hunter safety certifications. We promote legal and ethical sportsmanship. Our mission is the protection of Georgia’s natural resources.
Have you seen an increasing interest in hunting, fishing or boating in your career? If so, what do you attribute that to?
A: Hunting saw a downturn in participation some years ago, but now is headed back up in numbers. Hunting has been a tradition usually handed down within the family, but now we are seeing a renewed discovery of outdoor sports and shooting skills. Fishing has always been very active from private ponds to rivers to major lakes such as Allatoona. Boating has steadily increased year over year with so many new types of watercrafts available. As people discover these new opportunities, it is important to receive safety training.
What makes Bartow County special?
A: The diverse habitat from the mountains in the northeast to the city of Cartersville, to the farm and pasture land in the west part of the county. Having Allatoona Lake for boating and the Etowah River for fishing is great. Red Top Mountain State Park is the highest visitor use park in the state. The rich history of the Indian culture and history of the area all adds to Bartow County being a very special place.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: After all these years as a conservation officer, I still love to hunt and fish at every opportunity. I also enjoy introducing my two grandchildren to the sports.
What is the most memorable, whether good, bad or just funny, call you have been on?
A: I once was after a long-term poacher in another county after the deer season and found “sign” that he was still hunting on a power line for deer. The next morning at daylight I was walking down the power line and, from several hundred yards away, saw a tree stand and a person dressed in camouflage sitting in the stand. I quickly circled through the woods and came up to the back of the stand, which was 25 feet up in the tree. I addressed the poacher by name, expecting to have caught him red-handed. He didn’t answer. After several attempts and no answer, I climbed up the tree only to find that my poacher was actually a mannequin dressed in camouflage. Gotta have a good laugh at all you see in the deer woods!
Your favorite meal?
A: Salmon and a baked potato.
Ideal vacation spot — mountains, lake, ocean, exotic locale. What’s your travel “bucket list?”
A: We enjoy trout fishing in the North Carolina mountains. The bucket travel list has to include time in Alaska and Montana.