The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is celebrating 125 years of law enforcement in 2012, marking the anniversary of the appointment of William Alden Smith as Michigan's first game warden.
"Conservation officers have a rich and proud heritage protecting Michigan's natural resources," said Gary Hagler, chief of the DNR's Law Enforcement Division. "These men and women take great pride in their service to the people of Michigan. I am proud of every one of them."
Michigan's conservation officers are fully empowered peace officers who not only enforce fish and game regulations, but are often pressed into duty in support of other law enforcement functions. Though the scope of their main mission has broadened widely since Smith's appointment - when snowmobiles, off-road vehicles and personal watercraft were not even on the horizon - conservation officers are often involved in everything from assisting at accident scenes to searching for lost children and performing rescues on the Great Lakes and inland waterways.
Conservation officer duties vary from season to season and include observing and checking hunters and anglers, enforcing snowmobiling, off-road vehicle and watercraft regulations; enforcing laws that protect the environment; outdoor recreation safety education; writing criminal case briefs and giving court testimony.
They work varied shifts, often outdoors in inclement weather. Because they enforce hunting regulations, conservation officers often deal with those possessing firearms. As peace officers, on occasion they make physical arrests of criminals who may be intoxicated and/or disorderly.
The DNR Law Enforcement Division will sponsor a number of events commemorating the anniversary during 2012, including a service for fallen conservation officers - 12 of whom have been killed in the line of duty - on May 15 at the Ralph A. MacMullan conference center in Roscommon. The ceremony will be held during National Police Officer Memorial Week, which honors all fallen peace officers.
DNR conservation officers are committed to protecting not only Michigan's natural resources and environment, but the health and safety of the public through effective law enforcement.