By Major Steve Vaughn
The Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) is rich in history and tradition. Created in 1868 as the State Oyster Police, it was tasked with regulating the oyster industry and bringing order to the turbulent Chesapeake Bay. Hunter Davidson, its first commander, with only a side-wheel steamer and two sloops at his disposal was responsible for patrolling 356,000 acres of natural oyster bars on the Chesapeake and the Potomac River. Wildfowl enforcement on the Susquehanna Flats was added to the duties of the State Oyster Police in 1870, which was re-titled the State Fishery Force two years later.
In 1896, the Office of the State Game Warden was created, charged with the protection of Maryland's game birds and animals. Over the next 75 years, the State Fishery Force would evolve into the Maryland State Marine Police and District Game Wardens became known as Wildlife Enforcement Officers. Finally in 1971, the NRP was created, consolidating the duties of the Marine Police and Wildlife Enforcement Divisions.
Since its humble beginnings as the State Oyster Police, the NRP has evolved into a modern multifaceted law enforcement agency with a great diversity of authority and responsibility. As Maryland's oldest state law enforcement agency and one of the oldest conservation law enforcement organizations in the country, its primary mission remains to preserve and protect the State's natural resources. Whether it involves the vast Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries or the state's mountains, forests and wetlands, the NRP can be relied upon to carry on the proud traditions established during its 135 years of continuous service.
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