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High Peaks will get two more rangers

Forest rangers help carry an injured man out of the woods. (Provided photo — DEC)

RAY BROOK — The state Department of Environmental Conservation will add two more forest rangers to the High Peaks Ranger District, according to a Twitter post from union delegate and ranger Scott van Laer.

In a post Saturday, van Laer, of Ray Brook, thanked the DEC and its commissioner, Basil Seggos, for the additional rangers.

“Following the academy graduation we will have 8 Rangers and a supervisor. A very positive development,” van Laer wrote.

This district currently has six rangers and a supervisor, covering approximately 275,460 acres of Forest Preserve.

More staffing for forest rangers has been a hot topic for the past few years. The union, environmental groups and others would like more rangers, but the governor and legislators have not increased the DEC’s budget for this staff in recent years. In January, van Laer provided testimony to the state Legislature in Albany, saying, “During my father’s era in the 1970s and ’80s, there were only 150 searches a year on average. There were more rangers then. There were 10 more rangers patrolling DEC’s Region 5 (which covers most of the Adirondack Park, including the High Peaks area) than there are today, where the bulk of those searches occur.

State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos shakes hands with forest ranger and environmental conservation officer recruits at DEC’s training facility in Pulaski in early 2017. (Photo from DEC Flickr page)

“Further compounding this predicament is that forest rangers patrol significantly more land than they did during my father’s era. In the 1970s, the average acreage a forest ranger was responsible for patrolling was 28,516 (acres). Today that number (is) 53,752. And there is the question of use; there are substantially more people recreating on state land than ever before.”

The DEC’s staff was cut about a decade ago due to the recession. Since then it has been increased somewhat, but not to the level it had been. Also the state has bought land to add to the Adirondack Forest Preserve, which now makes up 48% of the park’s roughly 6 million acres, according to the state Adirondack Park Agency.