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Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame posthumously honors first female conservation officer in the U.S.

Aug. 19, 2021

Huldah Neal - a Michigander who, in 1897, became the first female conservation officer in the United States - was honored by the Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame as a Legacy award recipient for her commitment to protecting natural resources. The ceremony took place Tuesday at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids.

"This is an important milestone in history to recognize, not only for our state, but for our country," said Chief Gary Hagler, Michigan Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division. "Huldah Neal established a career path for many successful women who uphold her legacy today by protecting natural resources."

Neal hailed from Grand Traverse County and lived from 1855 to 1931. She had a love for the outdoors and little tolerance for the fish and game poaching occurring in Grand Traverse County. Her knowledge of the outdoors and her shooting and fishing skills made her an excellent fit for the job - which she quickly demonstrated by bringing a well-known gang of poaching violators to justice.

"Neal paved the way for new generations of women who proudly serve as guardians of our natural resources," said Ron Brown, chair of the Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame.

The Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame in a nonprofit organization that recognizes people and organizations that have made significant contributions to our environment over the years and individuals who are making contributions each day.

Today, there are 26 female conservation officers who serve at all ranks within the DNR Law Enforcement Division.

Michigan conservation officers are fully commissioned law enforcement officers who protect natural resources, ensure recreational safety and protect residents by providing general law enforcement duties and lifesaving operations in the communities they serve. Due to the nature of their job, they often work with federal, state and local law enforcement officers to ensure the safety of the general public.