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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

October 1999

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Table of Contents
How to order printed copies

We've come a long way together since the conservation warden service started 120 years ago when Rolla Baker, Wisconsin's first warden, was assigned to patrol Ashland, Bayfield, Douglas counties, and the Lake Superior fishery. Rolla had no uniform. No expense allowance. No transportation except for his horse and his own two feet. And his daily wage was about what you and I spend on a cup of coffee these days.

The early wardens faced tough challenges. Market hunters and settlers struggling to survive in the wilderness generally ignored or resisted limits on their hunting and fishing, despite the signs all around them. Elk had vanished from the land. Deer numbers were bottoming out. Fish and ducks were stacked like cordwood on the shores of Lake Michigan bound for commercial markets, and the passenger pigeon was on its way to extinction.

Table of Contents
Resourceful & Vigilant

Caught in the middle

The unseen team

Memories and memorabilia:
History timeline

Those fatal moments

How do wardens help the
nonhunter and nonangler?

The green team's green work

Call for back-up

Special operations net results

A helping hand

Partners in crime-busting
and conservation

Wired wardens

Warden wannabes

Our changing customers

Life in a small town

The change we've seen in attitudes, resource management and enforcement in 120 years has been remarkable. Deer populations are at record levels, turkey have rebounded beyond belief, elk again roam the Wisconsin woods and fishing is great.

This didn't happen by chance. It took advances in science and our understanding of the natural world around us, and hard work from fish managers, wildlife managers, pollution control staff, conservation wardens and citizens.

We are proud of the role that Rolla Baker and the 1,610 men and women who followed him in the warden service have played in this recovery, and we celebrate their accomplishments.

We are also turning to the future. Today's conservation wardens face increasingly complex challenges, their authority and responsibilities are broader than Rolla Baker could have ever imagined – wardens enforce laws regarding fish and wildlife, boating, snowmobiling, all-terrain vehicles, the environment, water regulation, shoreline protection, and forestry. At the same time, the number of people enjoying the outdoors, and enjoying new kinds of recreation, has surged. Personal watercraft and all-terrain vehicles are but two of these new activities that provide new outdoors opportunities but also create more conflict with traditional users and with others seeking beauty, and solitude in Wisconsin's outdoors.

These conflicts and demands on our natural resources will continue as our state's population increases. We, both citizens and visitors of this state, are challenged to work smarter to insure that we can continue to enjoy and pass down to our children a clean environment, abundant natural resources, and safe recreation. To help achieve these goals, our conservation warden service will focus in the coming century on the following areas:

Thomas L. Harelson,
chief conservation warden.
© Robert Queen
Thomas L. Harelson, chief conservation warden. © Robert Queen
  • Partnerships: We can't protect Wisconsin's natural resources alone. We respond to our communities by listening and by encouraging our employees to form working partnerships to identify and resolve natural resources problems, and to capitalize on opportunities to enhance our natural resources for future generations.
  • Recruitment/training: We will recruit and hire the best qualified individuals who demonstrate good interpersonal skills, are committed to protect natural resources, and want to understand people – both those who enjoy outdoor recreation and those who don't. Once hired, we will provide staff with a wide range of training in enforcement techniques, legal changes, technology and changing human behavior.
  • Conflict resolution: The warden service will act to resolve conflicts among recreational users, and between users and non-users. The concerns of all constituencies are considered.
  • Commitment to ethics: As professionals, we will adhere to the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics and place the welfare of citizens above personal concerns while rendering our services.
  • Changing technology: The warden service exists in a dynamic, changing environment. We will actively seek opportunities where technology improves service and better protects natural resources.

We are pleased to share these articles that describe our aims and our operations. We hope they help give you an understanding of how these men and women have been proud to serve you and our natural resources for 120 years, and how we will work together in the coming century to do so.


Thomas L. Harelson
Chief Conservation Warden

To order printed copies of "Resourceful & Vigilant" send an email message to Larry Sperling with your name, address and number of copies desired.

Visit the law enforcement pages on the Department of Natural Resources' website for more information about Wisconsin's warden service.


Project coordinators
Warden Information and Education Committee
Lisa Gaumnitz
David L. Sperling

Maureen Mecozzi

Graphic design
Moonlit Ink

Image scanning
Pam Hujanen