Avi­a­tion unit Nat­u­ral 1 re­turns to DNR for sur­veil­lance duty

Record Observer - - OBITUARIES -

AN­NAPO­LIS — As deer hunt­ing sea­son and oys­ter har­vest­ing reached their peaks, the Mary­land De­part­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources added a new con­ser­va­tion en­force­ment tool to its fleet — its own heli­copter.

The black and gold air­craft, Nat­u­ral 1, has re­sumed its place after a sev­enyear ab­sence on the de­part­ment’s ros­ter.

The heli­copter will be used as a sur­veil­lance plat­form to as­sist Nat­u­ral Re­sources Po­lice of­fi­cers as they pa­trol 17,000 miles of wa­ter­ways and nearly a half-mil­lion acres of pub­lic lands.

The po­lice avi­a­tion unit, founded nearly 70 years ago, was elim­i­nated by the pre­vi­ous gov­er­nor’s ad­min­is­tra­tion in 2009. The heli­copter then was trans­ferred to the Har­ford County Sher­iff’s Of­fice.

About a year ago, the 1972 Bell Jet Ranger be­came avail­able, and Nat­u­ral Re­sources Sec­re­tary Mark Bel­ton be­came de­ter­mined to bring it back home. His ef­fort to re­store the de­part­ment’s avi­a­tion ca­pa­bil­ity received the strong sup­port of Gov. Larry Ho­gan.

“Once we heard that the heli­copter was avail­able, we jumped at the op­por­tu­nity to bring it back to the de­part­ment to aid our con­ser­va­tion and en­force­ment ac­tiv­i­ties,” Bel­ton said. “Nat­u­ral 1 will as­sist our of­fi­cers pa­trolling our pub­lic lands and wa­ters, en­sur­ing the safety of our guests and vis­i­tors, as well as the pro­tec­tion of our most pre­cious nat­u­ral re­sources.”

After a year of re­fur­bish­ing, the heli­copter re­cently re­turned to ser­vice with one of its orig­i­nal pi­lots at the con­trols to carry out oys­ter en­force­ment pa­trols and aid in the search for two miss­ing peo­ple.

“I think it goes with­out say­ing we are all elated to have this valu­able as­set avail­able to us again,” said NRP Col. Robert “Ken” Ziegler Jr. “This is one more ma­jor step for­ward for our de­part­ment and its con­ser­va­tion mis­sion.”

The heli­copter will be used dur­ing the hunt­ing sea­son to en­force con­ser­va­tion and man­age­ment laws, serve as backup to of­fi­cers on pa­trol and help speed res­cuers to emer­gency ac­ci­dents and in­ci­dents.

After a seven-year ab­sence, the Mary­land De­part­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources has an avi­a­tion unit, Nat­u­ral 1, back and ready to pa­trol. The heli­copter will be used as a sur­veil­lance plat­form to as­sist Nat­u­ral Re­sources Po­lice of­fi­cers as they pa­trol 17,000 miles of wa­ter­ways and nearly a half-mil­lion acres of pub­lic lands.

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