The California Department of Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement Division has selected Warden Anastasia Norris as the 2019 Wildlife Officer of the Year.
“Warden Norris has spent plenty of time doing traditional wildlife law enforcement work, but her expertise in oil spill investigations and response is where she has shined over the course of her career,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “Investigations involving habitat damage from oil and hazardous materials spills are integral to the Law Enforcement Division’s mission. Warden Norris is one of the finest in this regard.”
Warden Norris received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Animal Sciences from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1998 and a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology from the University of Oklahoma in 2001. She graduated as part of Academy Class 53 at Butte College in 2009 and began her career as a wildlife officer in Long Beach, where she gained expertise in marine enforcement and commercial fishing.
She soon transferred to the CDFW Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR), where she has excelled as the State On-Scene Coordinator and/or lead investigator for 20 complicated oil and hazardous materials spills. In 2015, Norris was designated the lead investigator on the Plains All-American/Refugio spill in Santa Barbara County, one of the largest and most detrimental oil spills to hit California’s coast in the last 50 years.
The Refugio oil spill began on May 19, 2015. Norris managed and coordinated the evidence and documentation efforts throughout the investigation, including embarking upon a cross-country drive to ensure chain-of-custody and security of a seized section of pipeline in Ohio. She interviewed dozens of witnesses during the investigation. The final 118-page report included support documentation that was an additional 13 inches thick. Norris also provided support for the prosecution and was in court every day of the almost four-month duration of the trial. On Sept. 7, 2018, guilty verdicts were reached on nine counts, including eight misdemeanors and one felony. Even while the Refugio investigation was dominating her workload, Norris continued to respond to numerous other petroleum spills.
“Warden Norris is the force behind major investigations involving water pollution and numerous environmental statutes and regulations affecting our great state’s waterways and ocean environment,” said Brett Morris, Supervising Deputy Attorney General of the California Attorney General’s Office, which prosecuted the Refugio case. “While away from her assigned beat and her family for over three months, Warden Norris successfully guided to conviction the largest criminal prosecution of corporate water polluters in Santa Barbara County’s history.”