Women’s History Month: A Look at Michigan’s Female Conservation Officers

Women’s History Month is a time to recognize hard working women, especially those in often male-dominated fields.

The Department of Natural Resources is one area seeing more equal representation each year.

“A lot more females are getting interested in fishing and hunting and outdoor recreation than we’ve ever had before, and they definitely start thinking about this position,” said Antrim County Conservation Officer Andrea Albert.

The nation’s very first female conservation officer worked in Grand Traverse County.

Huldah Neal became a deputy game warden back in 1897 and now, more women than ever are following in her footsteps.

“Currently, I believe we have about 31 female officers, which is the most females we’ve ever had,” said Albert.

A common theme among officers is that they feel no one truly understands how much responsibility have.

“We have to learn all the laws that a regular police officer has to enforce, but then on top of that, we also have to learn all the fish and game laws, recreation laws and how to investigate all those, so there is a lot you have to learn,” said Albert.

Officer Albert is currently responsible for training new graduate, Officer Sydney Griffor.

Griffor added that along with undergoing training in areas like marine, off-road vehicle and fish and game enforcement, every day looks completely different.

“Laws are constantly changing and everything is changing, so you’re constantly learning something new which is really great,” said Griffor.

Working in law enforcement can also be very demanding.

“They don’t make it easier for us just because we’re women,” said Alpena County Conservation Officer Jessica Curtis. “Throughout the academy, I mean we’re still expected to keep up and give it 100 percent—I mean you’re expected to run the same pace as the guys are.”

Mecosta County Conservation Officer Angela Greenway says when first starting out, it can be challenging without other female officers to rely on or work with.

“I was the only female that graduated with my class, so the last thirteen weeks I was by myself, down at the MSP Academy on the second floor alone, so mentally that was a struggle, that was hard,” said Greenway.

But they knew this was where they needed to be.

“My dad was a deputy down in Oakland County for thirty years—I really thought law enforcement, like general criminal law enforcement, would have been the path that I would take, but I love to hunt and fish,” said Curtis.

Combining law enforcement with the outdoors seemed to be a goal for every conservation officer.

“I grew up hunting and fishing and being outdoors and I figured what better job, than to have one where i’m able to enjoy doing what I love,” said Griffor. “I found out about the DNR and I found out about conservation officers and I’m like, ‘this is the job for me,’ I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.”

Especially in a field like theirs, representation matters.

“I feel that it’s on me, as a female game warden and all of us out working, to be the voice and the advocates out there for these young females, to let them know what we do,” said Greenway.

The DNR is currently hiring for conservation officers and encourage more women to contact recruiters and apply.