Local named top wildlife officer

........................................................................................................................................................................................

Being a wildlife conservation officer is more than a job for Sgt. Craig Sanchez of Grants. It's a lifestyle and one the Belen High School graduate wouldn't change for the world.

"It's the best job in the world as far as I'm concerned," said Sanchez, who is the 2012 winner of the Shikar-Safari Award for the top wildlife officer in the state.

The award is sponsored by the Shikar-Safari Club International, an organization recognized for protecting, enhancing and preserving wildlife.

The 41-year-old learned he received the award when he arrived at a meeting, which was his congratulatory ceremony filled with family and friends.

"For me, it just made me feel good about what I've set out to do in the last 16 years," he said about giving 110 percent of himself to the position daily. "I'd like to think that I made an impact with the job that I do."

He has. He received Outstanding Northwest Area District Officer of the Year from Game and Fish in 2011 and was twice named Officer of the Month.

Department of Game and Fish Maj. Donald Jaramillo described Sanchez as the epitome of a conservation officer, "who sees the bigger picture and works diligently on all aspects that affect wildlife."

"Craig excels in every area as a conservation officer," Jaramillo said.

Throughout his career, Sanchez progressed through the ranks to sergeant for the Grants Supervisory District, which manages officers in the districts of Gallup, Moriarity, Grants and Belen.

In 2006, the Grants resident was acknowledged for aiding Colorado law enforcement in reigniting a cold case. Upon searching a Grants property, Sanchez discovered bighorn sheep and elk that were stolen from Montrose, Colo. Game and Fish prosecuted the case using Sanchez's evidence, which resulted in a conviction of a six-year case.

"The thing about this job is that everyday is like a new day," he said. "Nothing is ever the same. It's always something different."


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.