ROSCOMMON – Serving as a Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officer is a physically and mentally demanding career that requires a huge commitment from both the officers and their families. During National Police Week (May 15-21) – and especially National Peace Officers Memorial Day this Sunday – the DNR is proud to recognize the more than 200 conservations currently serving our state.
“Michigan’s conservation officers protect and serve our people, parks and public lands,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “Choosing to answer the call of public service is a noble act, and today, we honor every conservation officer who has served and those we have lost in the line of duty. Every Michigander and visitor who enjoys our great outdoors knows how invaluable our conservation officers are. They are professional, personable and always eager to help people of all ages. They keep us safe, protect our pristine natural resources and represent our highest values.”
Chief Dave Shaw, DNR Law Enforcement Division, said that part of being a conservation officer is being an embedded and trustworthy community member.
“Officers and their families are often approached at the store, in school and at sporting events by neighbors eager to ask questions about new regulations, learn where the fish are biting or confirm rumors of a local trophy buck,” he said. “Our job relies on these positive relationships and doesn’t stop at the end of a shift.”
Game wardens, now referred to as conservation officers, have protected Michigan’s natural resources since 1887. Since then, 16 officers have lost their lives because of an incident that occurred in the line of duty.
“Through advanced technology, equipment and training, we’ve come a long way to ensure officers have what they need to stay safe,” Shaw said. “What remains constant, though, are the rural and remote woods and waterways officers patrol, often alone and in inclement weather. There are inherent risks involved in performing the duties of a conservation officer, and we will always support the families of our fallen officers.”
May 17 memorial event
DNR staff and family and friends will mark the week with a ceremony Tuesday, May 17, to dedicate the recently completed memorial to Michigan’s fallen conservation officers. Located on the grounds of the Ralph A. MacMullan Conference Center, 104 Conservation Drive, in Roscommon, the 7-foot-wide by 6-foot-tall granite memorial includes the names of Michigan’s 16 conservation officers who made the ultimate sacrifice.
The ceremony starts at 2 p.m. and will include a rifle salute and remarks from DNR representatives and the Michigan Conservation Officers Association. Family members of fallen officers also will be welcome to speak, if they choose.
Media are welcome to attend. For more information, contact Katie Gervasi at GervasiK@Michigan.gov.
“The Michigan Fallen Conservation Officers memorial is a place to preserve and honor our state’s fallen conservation officers,” said Jessie Curtis, president of the Michigan Conservation Officers Association. “This memorial will serve as a tribute to the Michigan conservation officers who died or were killed as a result of an incident that occurred during the line of duty, and who will never be forgotten.”
Included among those 16 are two officers, Elgin McDonough and Karl Zimmermann, who were killed together in a vehicle collision Dec. 21, 1932, but whose rightful association with the fallen officers memorial was discovered only last year.
In 2021, the DNR was notified by the Officer Down Memorial Page of McDonough and Zimmermann, who were at the time unrecognized by the department due to the details of their deaths having been lost in a 1951 building fire that destroyed 25,000 documents and damaged another 30,000 documents.
Earlier this year, McDonough and Zimmermann were added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Visit Michigan.gov/DNRFallenOfficers to learn more about the officers who lost their lives in service to the state.
Michigan conservation officers are fully commissioned law enforcement officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety and protect residents through general law enforcement and lifesaving operations in the communities they serve.