Spending a day with a DNR conservation officer

Spending a day with a DNR conservation officer

A Department of Natural Resources conservation officer’s main focus is enforcing state laws concerning fishing and hunting.  They also cover other recreational activities, such as ORV and snowmobile enforcement, marine safety, and wildfire assistance.

“Every conservation officer is kind of its own police department,” conservation officer Elton Luce said. “We are the patrolmen, we are the criminal investigators, we follow the case all the way through the final disposition of the courts.  We do our own clerking, our own filing  as far as case dispositions and getting all of that information back to Lansing.”

Three conservation officers cover Marquette County.  During the summer, they put in 250 hours of marine patrolling on inland lakes and Lake Superior, and about 90 hours of ORV patrolling.

“We patrol all of the waters of the state of Michigan,” Luce said.  “These (the Great Lakes) are federally controlled national waterways; in other words the coast guard has jurisdiction on these waterways, being waterways beyond the state of Michigan.  From the state of Michigan boundaries we (the DNR) have jurisdiction on those lakes, so whether it be the Great Lakes or the inland lakes, if its within the state of Michigan’s jurisdiction that’s where we patrol.”

“(When patrolling) we’re looking for both marine safety and fish and game related violations,” Luce said.  “Some of it will be revenues like boat registrations, but we’ll also be looking for persons fishing with or without licenses.  We’re going to be looking at size limits on fish and creel limits also and daily bag limits.”

“When we’re doing our ATV/ORV enforcement we’re looking for safety, we’re looking for safety equipment as far as helmets, eye protection, persons transporting passengers on a machines that are not designed to do so,” Luce said.  “There’s other violations–revenue violations–such as the ORV trail sticker, which is a public use permit.  Anytime you’re operating on lands open to the public, whether it be a county road or on a two-track or trail in the forest you have to have the ORV sticker.”

“We also look for environmental impacts from (the) use of ORV’s.  We’re looking for people operating where they shouldn’t-operating through wetlands, running cross-country or running through our forests.”

While a conservation officer does patrol a vast area of land, they’re mindful that people they come in contact with are simply enjoying the outdoors.

“We are dealing with people in a recreational aspect.  We’re not dealing with people during their daily grind.  They’re actually spending their time and their money to go out on the weekend outside of their daily life and enjoy the outdoors and recreate-most of the time with their families,” Luce said.  “We have a job do to and it’s important that we enforce the laws, but also have to take into consideration that we are dealing with people in a recreational aspect.”

For information regarding fishing, hunting, or recreational activities, visit the DNR’s website.