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New class of rangers, conservation officers

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday the graduation of 30 Environmental Conservation Police Officers and 14 Forest Rangers from the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s 22nd Basic School for Uniformed Officers. The 44 new officers received their diplomas in a formal ceremony at the Expo Center at the state Fairgrounds in Syracuse.

“Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation Police Officers work in communities across the state to protect and preserve New York’s abundant natural resources,” Governor Cuomo said. “I congratulate the men and women who graduated today and am confident these officers will carry on New York’s rich tradition of environmental stewardship as they protect the health and safety of New Yorkers and visitors alike.”

The school began May 19 and ran for 29 weeks at the DEC Office of Public Protection’s Training Academy in Pulaski, Oswego County, located along the Salmon River. Training and coursework included Environmental Conservation Law, criminal procedure, vehicle and traffic laws, physical conditioning, firearms, wildlife identification, emergency vehicle operations, search and rescue, land navigation, boating and wildfire suppression.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “New York’s Environmental Conservation Police Officers and Forest Rangers have been serving on the front lines since the late 1800s, protecting New York’s environment, natural resources, and communities.”

In 2020, the DEC will mark a critical milestone for the future of Ranger and ECO training, recognizing the legacy of these two public protection forces. Following DEC’s acquisition of the former Cleveland Elementary School in Oswego County earlier this year, the facility will serve as the future home of the basic training academy for ECOs and Forest Rangers. In addition, ECOs will be celebrating the 140th anniversary since the establishment of New York’s first Fish and Game Protectors in 1880. Forest Rangers will be commemorating 135 years since their predecessors, Fire Wardens, first began patrolling New York’s Adirondack and Catskill forest preserves.

ECOs, originally called Game Protectors, were first appointed in 1880 and undertake actions ranging from investigating deer poaching and checking fishing licenses on local waterways to conducting surveillance on corporate chemical dumping. Across the state in 2018, ECOs responded to more than 21,668 calls and issued more than 20,665 tickets.

DEC Division of Law Enforcement Director Bernard Rivers said, “This extensive and rigorous 29-week training course prepares our recruits to face a diverse workload of cases in both general law enforcement and environmental law.”

Originally known as Fire Wardens, Forest Rangers were established in 1885 with the creation of the Forest Preserve. Their duties focus on protecting state lands and forests and include search and rescue missions, wildfire suppression and educating the public on the safe use of state lands.

DEC Division of Forest Protection Director Eric Lahr said, “DEC’s Forest Rangers are entrusted to protect New York’s vast natural resources and the people who come from near and far to enjoy them. The men and women we celebrate today have learned the essential skills necessary to provide public safety and enforce state environmental laws both in the mountainous backcountry and in communities across the state.”

To view job qualifications for ECOs, visit DEC’s website at www.dec.ny.gov/about/746.html; for Forest Rangers, visit www.dec.ny.gov/about/732.html.