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History of the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife

Christie Administration Marks 125th Anniversary of New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife (DEP News Release)

The following chronology was originally compiled in 1992 as part of the the Division's Centennial Celebration. It has recently been updated highlighting milestones over the past 25 years as the Division marks its 125th anniversary.

The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife is a professional organization dedicated to the management and conservation of the state's fish and wildlife resources. The Division has a rich heritage dating back to 1892 and the creation of a commission form of wildlife administration with an appointed, salaried Fish and Game Protector. This was an addition to nine county wardens who were first authorized in 1871. (For a detailed history of wildlife law enforcement in NJ see the feature article.)

Before the turn of the 20th Century there was not widespread support of wildlife laws. In fact, there was much resentment against these laws. This is borne out by the fact that before 1900, the first two wardens put on the job were shot to death within several years of being appointed.

1675 - The first wildlife regulation in New Jersey provides for a bounty of 15 shillings for each grown wolf killed.

1679 - The General Assembly prohibits the export of dressed skins from deer killed by Indians.

1722 - The first regulation protecting game is passed establishing a season for the killing of deer.

1765 - An Act of the General Assembly prohibits deer hunting at night.

Warden with his deputy
Warden Harry M. Loveless (seated) with Deputy Michael Bobera
Click to enlarge

1771 - The deer season is set from September 1 to December 31 and it is made unlawful to hunt with the aid of a dog.

1798 - An Act of the General Assembly "suppressing immorality" makes it unlawful to shoot, hunt or gun, or to take fish, on Sunday.

1850 - A law protecting "small and harmless birds" (songbirds) is enacted.

1862 - Deer hunting is prohibited for five years.

1870 - A Board of Fish Commissioners is created.

1871 - Nine county Fish Wardens are appointed.

1884 - A law was enacted which empowered Fish Wardens to enforce game laws; hence the position as NJ Fish and Game Wardens was created.


1892 - The commission form of wildlife administration is initiated. Three Commissioners are appointed, and the first salaried Fish and Game Protector hired. Enabling legislation (pdf, 550kb)

1895 - A law enforcement staff of a Protector and 25 county wardens is established. The salary for a warden was $600 per year plus a $200 annual expense account.

1896 - Volunteer Deputy Fish and Game Wardens are authorized.

1897 - A uniform procedure was created for fish and game enforcement. This uniform procedure established a foundation for prosecuting cases within New Jersey's legal system.

1900 - The deer population in New Jersey reaches its lowest level.

1901 - There are twenty-five Fish and Game Wardens and one Game Protector, George Riley of Newark. Later, an Assistant Protector is named. Total deer harvest is 20 deer.

1902 - The first license, a non-resident hunting license for $10.50, is required.

1909 - State residents required to purchase a hunting license at a cost of $1.15.

1902-1908 - The state is closed to deer hunting.

1904-1913 - Deer are obtained from private reserves and parks, and from other states (Pennsylvania and Michigan) to restock New Jersey.

1911 - A $3.00 bicycle maintenance allowance is provided to wardens. Prior to this, Wardens patrolled by foot, boat and horseback as well as bicycle. Often a violator would ride on the handlebars en route to the magistrate. One warden would take a trolley to a horse livery, rent a horse and patrol an area.

1912 - The State Fish Hatchery at Hackettstown begins propagation of brook trout. The State Game Farm at Forked River is established, one of the first in the nation. The first motorized conveyances were issued, those being 5 motorcycles.

1913 - Brown and rainbow trout are added to hatchery production.

1915 - The first fishing license is required; enforcement could now be adequately funded. A second Assistant Protector is named. First either-sex deer season (four days) is held with a harvest of 291 bucks and 190 antlerless deer taken.

1918 - A statewide survey of streams is conducted for trout management purposes.

1921 - A "Manual of Instruction" is provided to wardens which contained three sections: General, Legal and Accounting. A Branch Game Farm in Mt. Holly begins operations.

1922 - License fees go into the dedicated Hunters and Anglers Fund to be expended for fish and game activities. A Branch Game Farm in Freehold is established to raise pheasants.

1923 - 144 acres are acquired in Warren County to construct the Rockport Game Farm. The farm continues to be the Division's primary pheasant producing facility and now encompasses almost 500 acres.

1924 - Pheasants are raised at High Point on land donated by Colonel A.R. Kuser. Operations at the Branch Game Farms in Mt. Holly and Freehold are discontinued.

1925 - Wardens become involved with marine laws and regulations.

1926 - The Governor is requested to take up with Federal authorities the possibility of acquiring old vessels to sink offshore to enhance fishing. The Fish and Game Commission President, H.J. Burlington, informs wardens that "education...has done more for conservation than all the arrests that have been made previously." Hon. Herbert Hoover, Secretary of Commerce and soon to be president, cites New Jersey as having "done wonders" with its hatchery and is an example for other states to follow.

1928 - Sportsmen are required to wear on outer clothing a button bearing their hunting or fishing license number.

1929 - New Jersey leads the nation in production of pheasants with 16,936 reared and 6,659 purchased.

1930s - The Warden force averages thirty-two men. By the end of the 1930s the force is uniformed, with green trousers and jackets remaining the color.

1930 - The Naval Air Station at Lakehurst issues orders that dirigibles avoid flying over ducks, geese and brant in Barnegat Bay.

1932 - One-third of every resident license fee goes to the "Public Shooting and Fishing Grounds Fund." In June, 135 acres are purchased as "Public Shooting Grounds" in Sussex County which eventually becomes the Flatbrook-Roy Wildlife Management Area. Today, approximately half the 321,000 acres of the Wildlife Management Area System has been acquired with monies from hunting license fees.

1933 - Separate fishing and hunting licenses cost $2.00; a combination license costs $3.00. Women may fish without a license. The Farmer-Sportsman Cooperative Plan is inaugurated to open over 113,000 acres of previously posted lands and stock them with Commission-reared game.

1934 - The Bureau of Wildlife Management is formed. The State Quail Farm in Holmansville, Ocean County, begins operations. Beaver are reintroduced to New Jersey.

1938 - New Jersey agrees to the provisions of the Pitman-Robertson Federal Aid to Wildlife Act. 145,715 acres are now in the Farmer-Sportsman Cooperative Plan.

1941 - With the outbreak of war the Fish and Game Commission pledges that when our fighting forces return they will find their outdoor pleasures have not been neglected.

1944 - Despite loss of revenue and manpower shortages due to the war, planning of post-war activities continues.

1945 - An act of the Legislature reorganizes the Fish and Game Department as the Division of Fish and Game within the new Department of Conservation. A Division of Shell Fisheries is formed within the new Department. The nine Fish and Game Commissioners now constitute the first Fish and Game Council.

1946 - Investigations are made into the possibility of applying the "new science of electronics" to the incubators at State game farms.

1948 - The Department of Conservation is reorganized as the Department of Conservation and Economic Development. The Fish and Game Council is expanded to eleven members. The Council is authorized and empowered to establish regulations after a specified procedure to be known as the Fish and Game Code. Legislation is enacted providing a special bow-and-arrow deer season and licensing commercial pheasant shooting preserves.

1949 - The first training conference for Fish and Game Wardens was held. The "Ken Lockwood Gorge" of the South Branch of the Raritan River is so designated by Joint Resolution as a memorial to Kenneth F. Lockwood, an influential conservationist who wrote a popular outdoors column for the now defunct Newark Evening News before his death in 1948. Lester G. MacNamara designs and completes 1,000 acres of waterfowl impoundments on Tuckahoe WMA.

1950 - The Bureau of Fisheries Laboratory (originally the N.J. Lake Survey Unit) is created and its research is applied to trout management. The forerunner of "New Jersey Outdoors" magazine, the "New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Bulletin," is published monthly.

1951 - New Jersey agrees to the provisions of the Act of Congress, known as the Dingell-Johnson Bill, to "aid states in fish restoration and management projects."

1952 - Flyway Councils, bio-administrative units to offer guidance to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, are formed. New Jersey becomes part of the 17 states and 6 Canadian Provinces that form the Atlantic Flyway Council.

1953 - Trout stamps are required, helping to defray rising trout production costs, increase trout production and orient the cost of production toward the trout angler.

1954 - The titles of Protector and Assistant Protector are changed. Fish and Game Wardens are now supervised by a Chief Game Warden, District Game Wardens and Assistant District Game Wardens. The state is reorganized into two districts for law enforcement.

1955 - New applicants for hunting licenses between the ages of 14 and 21 must pass a four-hour hunter safety course.

1956 - The Divisionís monthly publication, "New Jersey Outdoors," reaches over 17,000 subscribers.

1957 - Development of a Trout Rearing Station along the Pequest River begins. Legislation is passed providing for a bow and arrow safety and proficiency course to be passed by applicants for an initial license. New Jersey is the only state in the nation with such a course.

1958 - The title of Fish and Game Warden was changed to Conservation Officer. Graduation from college is now required for entrance into the job.

1959 - The State Fish Hatchery at Hackettstown is renamed the Charles O. Hayford State Fish Hatchery in honor of its first supervisor who served until 1955. The State Quail Farm in Holmansville is renamed the Edward H. Roth State Quail Farm.

1961 - The first Green Acres Bill is passed. Spruce Run and Round Valley Reservoirs are being constructed on the "multiple-use" principle and will become recreational centers of tremendous significance. The Lebanon Freshwater Fish Lab is constructed.

1962 - The Research in Trout Management project is initiated and the application of its findings is begun.

1963 - The Pequest Trout Rearing Station along the Pequest River begins production. It remains active until the opening of the Pequest Trout Hatchery in 1982.

1964 - The Nacote Creek Marine Research Station opens. Spruce Run Reservoir opens.

1966 - Family Fishing License is approved.

1967 - Public Shooting Grounds are now Fish and Wildlife Management Areas and constitute over 122,000 acres. Although the primary objective is improvement of wildlife habitat to enhance hunting opportunities, development plans and field work are accelerated to provide multiple-use public recreation.

1968 - Round Valley Reservoir opens.

1969 - An agreement is signed with the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission to establish a 500-acre, 7 billion gallon reservoir at the headwaters of the Wanaque Reservoir; this becomes the Monksville Reservoir in the late 1980s.

1970 - The Department of Environmental Protection is created and the Division of Fish and Game is expanded to become the Division of Fish, Game and Shellfisheries.

1972 - Hunter safety education becomes mandatory for all initial hunting license purchases. First year of the mandatory deer check station system.

1973 - State waters are classified as "Trout Production," "Trout Maintenance" and "Non-Trout" waters. Ground breaking ceremony is held for 235-acre Lake Assunpink. 200 square inches of fluorescent orange clothing is made mandatory for hunters. The "Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act" is passed along with an appropriation from the Legislature.

1974 - The Deer Management Zone system is inaugurated with the state divided into 34 Deer Management Zones using highways and rivers rather than county lines as boundaries. Lake Assunpink opens. The Nongame Advisory Council is formed.

1975 - New Jersey receives three captive-bred peregrine falcons which are the first to fledge in the state in 20 years.

1976 - First Winter Bow Deer Season is held in January. Muzzleloading rifles legalized for deer hunting. All state mosquito control programs transferred to the Division's Office of Mosquito Control Coordination, formed the year before. First teacherís wildlife education weekend is held at the N.J. School of Conservation.

1977 - Reintroduction of wild turkeys is begun with the release of 22 birds.

1978 - Bobcat restoration project initiated.

1978-79 - Due to consecutive bitter cold winters resulting in widespread mortality, the Atlantic brant population on the New Jersey coast crashes. Population recovers by mid-1980s.

1979 - Agencyís name is changed to Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife. Bureau of Marine Fisheries is formed. Rearing of tiger muskies, a hybrid of northern pike and muskellunge, is begun at the Hackettstown facility and is the beginning of an ambitious Esocid (large pike) program.

1980 - Construction of the Pequest Trout Hatchery and Natural Resource Education Center begins. Peregrine falcons successfully breed for the first time east of the Mississippi since 1950.

1981 - The voluntary "tax check-off" method of donating funds to the Endangered and Nongame Species Program is approved for the coming year. First turkey hunting season is held. Black bear research project begun.

1982 - The Pequest Trout Hatchery begins operations upon receiving shipments of disease-free eggs.

1983 - "Operation Game Thief" and "Skillful Angler Award" programs inaugurated.

1984 - The first state waterfowl stamp is issued with proceeds going towards acquisition and preservation of the stateís wetlands. The mile-square Garden State Artificial Reef is constructed of used tires off Ocean County. The first trout raised at Pequest are stocked. Project WILD is introduced in New Jersey.

1985 - The Pequest Natural Resource Education Center opens to the public. Division reorganization implemented. Bureau of Law Enforcement adopts a regional concept of three inland and one marine region. Each region had two districts. First wetlands are purchased with funds raised from sale of state-issued waterfowl stamps. Osprey becomes first species to be removed from the endangered list thanks to the Endangered and Nongame Species Programís efforts.

1986 - The first "Free Fishing Days" are held.

1987 - An intensive, multi-use fish rearing system is designed and constructed at the Charles O. Hayford Hatchery for raising warm- and coolwater species. The Fall Trout Stocking Program is initiated in 16 streams and 16 lakes.

1988 - Exhibits are installed at the Pequest Natural Resource Education Center.

1989 - For the first time in decades there is more than one active bald eagle nest in New Jersey, thanks to the efforts of the Endangered and Nongame Species Program. The "Sportsmanís Responsibility Act" passes.

1990 -New Jersey begins participation with 10 other states in the Atlantic Flyway Breeding Waterfowl Survey. This survey is instrumental in the Atlantic Flyway setting duck hunting regulations on eastern populations of waterfowl.

1991 - The "Hunt SMART" campaign, encouraging sportsmen's responsibility, is launched.

1992 - As the Division began its second century it manages over 233,000 acres in the Wildlife Management System; had reestablished the osprey, peregrine, bald eagle, wild turkey, bobcat and beaver; stocked more than 600,000 trout in approximately 200 bodies of water annually; had an active warmwater fish program; stocked over 50,000 pheasant and 15,000 quail each year; had an active black bear research project to determine critical habitat; was in the midst of renovating the Charles O. Hayford Fish Hatchery; hosted over 230 school and other groups and 50,000 members of the public at Pequest each year; held workshops for teachers each year; and trained an estimated 18,000 future hunters and trappers in hunter education courses annually.

--------------------------- The Division of Fish and Wildlife Celebrates 100 Years of Conservation -------------------------------

1993 - The second Governor's Surf Fishing Tournament is held. Funds collected from registration fees are earmarked for developing shore restoration projects and providing access for disabled and elderly anglers. The Division launches its Trout Stocking Hotline, updated weekly with the list of waters slated for spring stocking. The first September Canada goose hunting season is held.

1994 - The NJ Landscape Project, a pro-active approach to the long-term protection of rare species and their important habitats, is launched.

1995 - The first Take A Kid Hunting Youth Pheasant Hunt is held. The Division's website goes online.

1996 - The Division conducts a colonization study that reveals New Jersey's artificial reefs, established in the 1980s, have hundreds of times more marine life than areas of bare sea floor. Analysis two years later reveals that the habitat was colonized by 39,938 marine animals.

1997 - A formal bear education program is begun and the Division and NJN receive an Emmy Award for the nationally acclaimed documentary "Bear Country, New Jersey." The entire state is opened to spring gobbler hunting and the Division, in cooperation with the NJ Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, introduces the first JAKES (Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics & Sportsmanship) Day. Fishing licenses for state residents aged 70+ are now free. The first Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day is held.

1998 - The Hook a Winner program adds a new aspect to the thrill of landing a trout. The "Adopt-A-Wreck" program allows individuals and groups to sponsor the sinking of ships, barges and army tanks on an artificial reef, providing a lasting memorial for anyone who has ever loved New Jersey's marine environment while providing much-needed habitat on the sea floor.

The Division in partnership with the NORWESCAP Food Bank, the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties and the New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, launches the Hunters Helping the Hungry program (HHH). During the first year alone more than 26,000 pounds of venison are donated.

Twelve (12) states in Atlantic Flyway, including New Jersey, are granted compensatory waterfowl hunting days for being closed by state statute on Sundays. Director Bob McDowell is instrumental in moving this regulation change through the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

1999 - The first Youth Turkey Hunting Day is held. The documentary "Deer Crossing", produced by the Division and NJN receives an Emmy Award.

2000 - In January, the Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife changes its name to the Division of Fish and Wildlife to better clarify its mission of managing ALL New Jersey wildlife. For the first time, Division biologists lead a team of their peers from the United States, Canada and Chile to Tierra del Fuego to study the Red Knot. Their progress is documented over a 10-day period via a field journal posted on the Division's website.

The Division is honored in September for its black bear management efforts with the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies' (IAFWA) prestigious Ernest Thompson Seton Award for its science-based education outreach efforts, which are considered a model for the nation.

The Winter Trout Stocked Lakes Program is launched in October, and the Division introduces the Hooked on Fishing - Not on Drugs Program.

2001 - The first "Take A Kid Hunting" Youth Deer Hunt was held. In May, the Division and Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ unveil a peregrine falcon webcam in Jersey City. Eight free e-mail lists become available.

2002 - The Division traps 11 wild turkey hens in Sussex County and releases them in the Greenwood Forest WMA to help build wild turkey populations in the Pines. A new state record lake trout (32 lbs, 8 oz) is taken from Round Valley Reservoir and remains the current record today. The Division begins offering its mandatory hunter education classes as modified home-study, video-based courses, with one-day testing and field sessions conducted at centralized teaching locations throughout the state.

2003 - A pilot-scale oyster revitalization project to enhance a seedbed in lower Delaware Bay is launched with the planting of nearly 30 million oysters. Two public forums are hosted to discuss freshwater fisheries management and recreational angling to improve communication with anglers and to solicit their input to help shape freshwater fisheries programs in the future. New Jersey's first black bear hunting season since 1970 is open to firearm hunters.

2004 - The Division launches a new E-Fishing Log Program allowing anglers a chance to provide their opinions on various freshwater fisheries programs online. The survey allows freshwater fishermen to input their fishing locations, target species and successes, as well as evaluate existing programs and assist in identifying new ones. It is a more technologically advanced variation of the traditional logbook or creel survey.

2005 - The first Youth Deer Bow Hunting Day is held as part of the Take A Kid Hunting program. The Wildlife Management Area System hits a milestone of more than 300,000 acres. The NJ Wildlife Action Plan is introduced as a blueprint for the protection of our state's species of greatest conservation need.

2006 - An electronic license- and permit-issuing system is implemented, including the creation of a unique, lifetime Conservation Identification Number (CID#)assigned to each customer. Landlocked salmon are stocked in lakes Wawayanda and Aeroflex to provide an exciting new fishery for New Jersey freshwater anglers. A state record sailfish (43 lbs, 4 oz, 64Ĺ inches with a 22Ĺ-inch girth) taken from Linden Kohl Canyon still holds the record in New Jersey.

2007 - A new boat ramp at Spicer's Creek in Cape May places boaters within easy reach of the Atlantic Ocean, Delaware Bay, Intercoastal Waterway, and many tidal creeks and rivers found along both of New Jersey's coasts. In a national competition, the Division receives first and second place, respectively, for the Hunting Digest and Freshwater Fishing Digest. All issues are now produced and printed at no cost to the Division or hunters and anglers due to an agreement with the publisher who retains ad revenues. The agreement is a national model that many states emulate.

2008 - Biologists identify a heritage strain of brook trout in 11 streams within the Passaic-Hackensack and Raritan River drainages, descendants of fish first appearing in the state 10,000 years ago. An online saltwater recreational fishing logbook is introduced.

2009 - Crossbows become legal during all bowhunting seasons, and Sunday bowhunting for deer becomes legal on WMAs and private land. The Division, in cooperation with New Jersey Audubon, conducts a pilot program establishing amphibian crossings by closing sections of road between living space and breeding areas.

2010 - The Division holds its first WILD Outdoor Expo offering an opportunity to learn about and experience a wide array of outdoor activities available within the state. For the first time in five years, a Black Bear Hunting Season is held concurrently with the Six-Day Firearm Deer Season as one of many tools used to manage an ever-increasing black bear population. Biologists document 13 new locations of ten rare dragonfly and damselfly species.

2011 - Mandatory deer check stations are replaced with the Automated Harvest Report System to register hunter-harvested deer. In a cooperative effort with the University of Delaware, biologists assess the current status of northern bobwhite quail in the region. A restoration plan was developed and approved by the Fish and Game Council, which includes closing the hunting season for wild quail and improving the quality and quantity of critical habitat.

2012 - The Hackettstown State Fish Hatchery celebrates its 100th year of operation. Biologists deploy 18 acoustic receivers in Delaware Bay to track migration patterns of Atlantic sturgeon, a state and federally endangered species. A mobile app for hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers is developed. The Connecting Habitats Across New Jersey (CHANJ) project is launched so that fish, reptiles and other wildlife can travel unimpeded as they search for food, shelter and breeding areas.

2013 - The Pequest Trout Hatchery celebrates its 30th anniversary, and the Division hosts its first Open House at the Rockport Game Farm to showcase the improvements made to the facility. The Division again receives first and second place in the Association for Conservation Information's Awards Contest for its Freshwater Fishing and Hunting & Trapping Digests, respectively. Air guns are now legal for hunting rabbit and squirrel.

2014 - There are now 156 bald eagle nests documented statewide. Quick Response (QR) Codes are now placed throughout the Hunting and Trapping Digest as well as various other printed materials. In this way, the Division can effectively supplement printed information with additional web-based data. The Division's Facebook page goes live.

2015 - The Division hosts a statewide meeting on piping plover conservation as well as the 21st annual Northern Bobwhite Technical Committee meeting in August for approximately 140 professional biologists and wildlife managers throughout the country.

2016 - In January, a trapper reports catching a fisher near the Pequest WMA in Warren County - the first time a live fisher is handled by staff. The 25th Annual Governor's Surf Fishing Tournament is held. As part of an effort to revise the State's Wildlife Action Plan, the first ever Delphi Status Review for freshwater fish in New Jersey is conducted.

2017 - Established in 1892, the Division turns 125!

POSTSCRIPT - As we move further into the 21st century, the task of managing the state's wildlife for all its citizens becomes ever more complex and challenging. Habitat continues to be lost as the human population and its associated development increases, yet most wildlife species are doing better than they have in decades. To enable wildlife populations to remain an asset instead of a liability, the Division of Fish and Wildlife must enlist the help and cooperation of the state's residents while employing scientific management techniques. We strive to do this through education, enforcement of laws and regulations, and the use of the latest available technology. It is the Division's goal and desire that our wildlife and the habitat it depends on remain healthy and provide recreation and enjoyment for generations to come.

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Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: March 13, 2017