The first female conservation officer in United States history, Huldah Neal, is a very recent addition, inducted posthumously, to the Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame.
Born in 1855 to the natural wonders of Grand Traverse County, Michigan, Neal, an avid hunter, shooter and fisher, eventually began petitioning the local game and fish office for a position in wildlife enforcement. In 1897, at age 42, her wish was granted.
As the premier female wildlife officer of the Republic, Neal’s first order of business was busting up a notoriously dangerous poaching ring.
Of Neal’s daring crime-fighting abilities: “She is energetic and watchful,” read one account. "The worst gang of law violators have ceased operations,” reported a March 1898 edition of the newspaper in Jackson, Michigan.
“On behalf of all conservation officers, it is a privilege to nominate her for induction to the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame,” said Gary Hagler, chief of Michigan DNR Law Enforcement. “Huldah Neal was a trailblazer, literally and figuratively. She was fearless in the way she performed her dangerous duties, and in how she broke free from typical roles that society forced on women at that time. She paved the way for new generations of women who proudly serve as guardians of our natural resources.
“Huldah Neal left a positive legacy for our state,” Hager concluded.
The Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame is a nonprofit organization that recognizes people and organizations who have made significant contributions to the environment, both past and present.
At the time of Neal’s HOF induction, 26 female conservation officers served in all ranks within Michigan DNR Law Enforcement. They protect natural resources and residents by providing general law enforcement duties and lifesaving operations in the communities they serve. They often work with federal, state and local law enforcement officers to ensure public safety.
Special thanks to NRA Woman, the Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame and the Travis Area County Library for their contributions to this Mossy Oak salute to Halduh Neal (1855-1931), America’s first female conservation officer.