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Huldah NealThe Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame, an nonprofit organization that recognizes individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the environment, has honored a Grand Traverse County woman who is known as the first female conservation officer in the United States.

On Tuesday at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, the Hall of Fame honored Huldah Neal with the Legacy award for her commitment to protecting natural resources. Neal became the first female conservation officer in the United States in 1897.

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

Neal was born in Ohio in 1855, and moved to Grand Traverse County with her family in 1861. She married Warren Neal in 1872 and raised two children on a farm near Long Lake.

She loved the outdoors and had little tolerance for fish and game poaching that occurred in Grand Traverse County, which lead her to become the first female conservation officer in the U.S. through future Michigan Governor Chase Osborn in 1897.

It was her knowledge of the outdoors and her shooting and fishing skills that made her an good fit for the role, which she quickly demonstrated by bringing a local gang of poaching violators to justice.

Neal passed away in 1931, and Michigan’s next female conservation officer, Kathryn Bezotte, wouldn’t be hired until 1977.

“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 Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division nominated Neal for induction into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 2018.

Currently, there are 26 female conservation officers who serve at all ranks within the Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division.

 



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