I’m proud to help commemorate an important milestone in Maryland history150 yearssince the founding of the Maryland Natural Resources Police. The department is our first state law enforcement agency, predating the Maryland State Police by almost a half-century, and is also one of the oldest conservation law enforcement organizations in the nation.

On March 30, 1868, an act of the Maryland General Assembly created the State Oyster Police Force, nicknamed the “Oyster Navy,” to battle the oyster pirates terrorizing the bay and its tributaries. The job of that agency, protecting one of Maryland’s signature natural resources, remains central to the expandedNatural Resources Police.

Today, the Natural Resources Police is charged with protecting 480,000 acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, and the people who enjoy them. Additionally, they serve asthe state’s lead agency for maritime homeland security and teach thousands of people each year how to hunt and boat safely.

Our administration has worked hard to support this vital force by providing funding for additional officers and restoring the department’s aerial capabilities with the helicopter,Natural 1. And in 2016, I was proud to be the first sitting Maryland governor to address thegraduating classof the unit’s recruits.

I applaud the Natural Resources Police for their dedication to public service as part of Maryland’s larger law enforcement community. The unit joins other state and local law enforcement agencies in their commitment to our goal to of combating criminal activity across the stateincluding expanded patrols and a new, collaborative data-sharing effort. Just like their predecessors a century and a half ago, these officers are an important line of defense in protecting our citizens and visitors.

Times may have changed, but our commitment to Maryland’s natural resources has only grown stronger. I offer my sincere appreciation and congratulations to the Maryland Natural Resources Police for 150 years of dedicated service in the air, land and sea.

Larry Hogan