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DEC will hold academies for new rangers, ECOs

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)

ALBANY — State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos has announced that DEC will hold academies for its newest classes of environmental conservation police officers and forest rangers beginning in May 2022.

The six-month training academies will prepare up to 60 of DEC’s newest recruits for careers protecting New York’s natural resources in the Forest Protection and Law Enforcement divisions.

“Since 2015, I’ve worked hard to bolster ECO and forest ranger staffing levels, holding back-to-back academies in 2016 and 2017, and graduating our most recent class of recruits in 2019,” Seggos said in a press release.

In 2022, ECO training will be held at the Pulaski Academy, which has served as the home for these trainings for the last several academies. For the first time, the forest ranger training will be held at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s Ranger School campus in the tiny Adirondack hamlet of Wanakena.

ECO job duties are centered on the 71 chapters of state Environmental Conservation Law and range from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, illegal mining, the black market pet trade and emissions violations. In 2020, ECOs and Investigators across the state responded to 29,673 calls and worked on cases that resulted in 11,952 tickets or arrests.

“ECOs are what we like to call the ‘Thin Green Line’ in charge of protecting New Yorkers from both pollution and exploitation,” DEC Division of Law Enforcement Director Bernard Rivers said. “These officers enforce clean air and water regulations, while at the same time supporting fish and wildlife laws. And when you hear about an environmental crime, you can rest assured it was our ECOs putting an end to it.”

Forest ranger duties focus on the public’s use of DEC-administered state lands and easements, and can span from patrolling state properties to conducting search-and-rescue operations to fighting wildfires. In 2020, forest rangers conducted 492 search-and-rescue missions, extinguished 192 wildfires, participated in eight prescribed fires that served to rejuvenate more than 203 acres, and worked on cases that resulted in 3,131 tickets or arrests.

This summer, to help address an increase in visitors to state lands and an uptick in search-and-rescue missions, DEC says it is strategically deploying additional rangers among key regions like the Adirondacks and Catskills.

“Rangers are working across New York each and every day making sure the public can safely enjoy our great outdoors while also protecting the state’s natural resources,” said DEC Division of Forest Protection Director John Solan. “And when other states need assistance to fight wildland fires, New York’s forest rangers are always ready to respond.”

ECOs and forest rangers are full-fledged state police officers, often called upon to support police deployments. Forest rangers and ECOs were among the first responders on the scene to help in the aftermath of Sept. 11, assisted in the response to Superstorm Sandy, helped in the 2015 search for two escaped felons from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, supported New York’s statewide response to COVID-19 at testing and vaccination sites, and have traveled to battle wildfires in western states.

ECOs, originally called game protectors, were first appointed for service in 1880. The first forest rangers, originally known as fire wardens, were put into service in 1885 when the state Legislature established the Forest Preserve of New York.

The recruits in this new class will be chosen from a list of qualifications and passing scores generated from the most recent Civil Service Exam, which became active in April 2020. To view job qualifications for ECOs, visit the environmental conservation police officer job description web page; for forest rangers, visit the forest ranger job description web page.

Upon graduation, recruits will be assigned patrol areas and join the ranks of hundreds of ECOs and forest rangers currently serving across the state.

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