Jeff Summit, an NU alum (Class of ’03), recently found himself in the spotlight as a featured officer on Animal Planet’s new reality show, “Rugged Justice.” On the show, Jeff and his fellow wildlife officers (or game wardens) are documented patrolling the state of Washington in search of anyone violating the state’s wildlife regulations. We talked to Summit to get a feel for what life as a Washington State game warden is like.
When did you decide that you wanted to become a Department of Fishing and Wildlife Officer for the state of Washington?
I seriously began pursuing my career as a game warden in the winter of 2006. During this time, I was working in business in Bellevue and decided it was time to pursue the career I had dreamed of as a child. During my fifth grade year, the local game warden came to my classroom and gave a presentation on the important role that wardens play in sustaining the resources of the state. After the presentation, I returned home to inform my parents that this is what I would like to do.
We read that you had an encounter as a boy with a poached deer and were greatly affected by it. Could you describe how it shaped your perception of the interaction between human beings and wildlife?
In my current assignment, I am fortunate enough to patrol the same area where I grew up, where this incident occurred. I still think about it as I drive by during my patrols. I’m not exactly sure why it impacted me the way it did, other than having a strong sense of what was right and what was wrong. I knew that to find a deer in that condition at that particular time of year was wrong, and I wanted to do something about it.
The only way my children and future generations will be able to enjoy the great resources of Washington State is if the current generation are good stewards of the resources that we have been provided with. Responsible hunting, fishing, and harvesting are great management tools for the sustainability of all the resources of the state. In my role as a game warden, I strive to encourage compliance to the laws that have been established for a sustainable harvest of the fish and wildlife in Washington State. Many times, this compliance is gained by enforcing the laws through the issuance of citations/infractions (tickets) or through physical arrest. Other times, compliance can be gained by simply educating the public on the reasons why some laws have been established and what it means to them and to future generations.
What do you enjoy most about being a Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Officer?
However small it may be, I enjoy making a difference in an area that I care about so deeply. Previously, whether it was a weekend away from the NU campus or a weekend away from my job in Bellevue, I could not wait for the next time I could get back out in the woods. Now I get to enjoy the great outdoors every day! Whether during a several-day back country foot patrol for elk hunters, a boat patrol of the Puget Sound, or a routine patrol of our great rivers, lakes, and wooded areas, I get to go explore something new every day. I also get to interact with people who also enjoy the outdoors and natural resources that I have dedicated my life to protecting. As I write this, I am sitting in a beautiful area of the state near the Mount Rainier National Park border. How few people get to call such an incredible location their office?
What was your time at Northwest University like?
My time at Northwest was incredible, and memories were created that will last for a lifetime. I met my wife, Charla Summit (Newby) and was able to make it to graduation before marrying her in the fall of 2003. We now have a full family with Zachariah, 5, and Claire, 3. I was also fortunate to develop many lifelong friends.
The education I received from all those who spoke into my life was second to none. It was also during these very important years that I had professors such as Dr. Steinkamp and Dr. Jin who continued to develop my love and passion for the natural sciences that only a place like Northwest can provide. From the incredible classroom instruction to the work in the field where we got to see, feel, and touch what was taught in the classroom, I will forever be grateful for those experiences. As a game warden, I get asked the strangest questions and am expected to be an expert on all things outdoors. How would I ever have known that those seemingly useless bits of information—such as the identification of a tall Oregon grape plant, or understanding how lupine help build up nitrogen in the soil of the Mount St. Helens blast zone—were actually going to be useful? Such are the surprises of God in preparing us for the future he has planned for us.
Be sure to check out “Rugged Justice” on Sundays at 8/7c on Animal Planet, or watch clips from the show here.
Posted on Wednesday, December 2, 2015