Department of Environmental Conservation

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History of DEC- 2000s

As the new century begins, Rangers and Environmental Conservation Officers assume expanded roles in protecting both the public and the environment with the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Major environmental law enforcement investigations yield record-setting arrests for illegal wildlife trafficking and hunting violations. Important programs, including those aimed at redeveloping brownfields and greatly reducing air pollution, come to the forefront. A renewed emphasis is placed on protecting and preserving land throughout the state. Fighting the spread of wildlife diseases and invasive species spawn new laws and programs. Milestones include:


  • The Deer Management Assistance Program is created to help landowners control deer populations.
  • To foster greater protection of rare native plants, New York State adopts a revised rare plant list.
  • New York State enacts the Pesticide Neighbor Notification Law.
  • DEC destroys 175,000 rainbow trout infected with whirling disease.
  • For the first time, a state forest ranger is assigned to patrol the New York City metropolitan area.
  • Public meetings are held to explore the feasibility of establishing swimming beaches along the Hudson River.
  • DEC releases a revised management plan for historic Camp Santanoni in the Adirondacks.
  • DEC coordinates an extensive survey of breeding birds in New York.


  • DEC moves into its new headquarters building in Albany-the first government building in New York State to earn a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver rating by the U.S. Green Building Council.
  • Governor George Pataki issues Executive Order 111 directing state agencies to improve energy efficiency and promote energy conservation in their own facilities. DEC a hires its first energy manager.
  • DEC staff participate in cleanup and environmental assessment efforts after the September 11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center in Manhattan.


  • The urban fishing program "I Fish NY" begins. DEC hires its first fisheries biologist for New York City.
  • DEC creates Clean Sweep NY, a program to provide schools with economical and environmentally safe collection and disposal of unwanted pesticides, chemicals and mercury-containing devices, as well as recycling of pesticide containers.
  • DEC and the Land Trust Alliance create the New York State Conservation Partnership Program (NYSCPP), a public-private partnership that invests in New York land trusts. Through grants from the Environmental Protection Fund to land trusts, this pioneering initiative leverages conservation funding and helps communities conserve environmentally significant land across New York.


  • Passage and signing of the State Superfund/Brownfields Act helps DEC establish a new Brownfields Cleanup Program, making $120 million available annually to help clean up unused or abandoned former industrial areas, returning them to productive use.
  • The State Waste Tire Management and Recycling Act is passed. By 2009, 26.5 million waste tires are removed from tire dumps across New York.
  • DEC's wildlife pathology facility is modernized, enabling the new laboratory to assist in efforts to study wildlife mortality and chronic wasting disease, as well as protecting public health from the threats of rabies, west Nile virus and botulism.


  • The gasoline additive MTBE is banned in New York State due to concerns over pollution of ground water sources.
  • The Registry of Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Sites becomes available online as a searchable database.
  • The Environmental Excellence Awards (EEA) program begins, recognizing businesses, organizations, local governments and individuals that excel in innovative and sustainable environmental practices and partnerships.
  • All but one New York State sewage treatment plant achieves the secondary treatment requirements of the Clean Water Act.
  • DEC adopts regulations to help carry out the goals of the governor's Acid Deposition Reduction Program (ADRP), requiring selected electric power generators to reduce sulfur dioxide levels to 50 percent below federal standards by 2007, and extending controls on nitrogen oxides.
  • New York State adopts a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) with the goal of increasing the amount of electricity from renewable sources delivered to New York consumers to 25 percent by 2013.
  • The Mercury-Added Consumer Products Law is enacted, restricting the sale and disposal of certain mercury-containing products, especially in relationship to schools. Later revisions to the law in 2005 and 2011 strengthen these restrictions and prohibit the sale of many additional mercury-containing products.


  • Two cases of chronic wasting disease (CWD), fatal to deer, elk and moose, are discovered in a captive deer herd in Oneida County. DEC immediately imposes emergency regulations and begins taking samples to determine if the disease has spread to wild deer.
  • John Dillon Park, the first wilderness park designed for people with disabilities, opens in the Adirondacks, highlighting DEC's ongoing efforts to make outdoor recreation accessible to all.
  • DEC succeeds in reducing energy usage in its own buildings by more than 30 percent from 1990 levels.
  • Legislation is passed to promote pollution prevention as a means for achieving broad environmental objectives.
  • New York and six other northeastern states join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to create the nation's first market-based, cap-and-trade system for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning power plants.


  • DEC and EPA reach agreement with Honeywell International, Inc. to conduct the cleanup of contaminated sediments in Onondaga Lake.
  • DEC's CleanSweepNY program receives an EPA Environmental Quality Award after having collected an estimated 964,000 pounds of pesticides and other hazardous chemicals for safe disposal.
  • The Law Enforcement Dispatch Center in Ray Brook expands to a 24/7 operation, with statewide coverage after regular business hours. In the first year, calls to DEC's Turn In Poachers and Polluters (TIPP) hotline increase 265 percent.
  • Viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS), a fatal fish disease, is confirmed as the cause of a fish die-off in the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. After studying the extent of the threat, DEC issues emergency regulations in November to stop the spread of the disease.
  • Floods ravage many communities in New York State. In the Upper Susquehanna River Basin, cooperative maintenance of the levee system by DEC and the Army Corps of Engineers prevent an estimated $360 million in damage.
  • Water quality in the lower Oswego River and harbor at the Lake Ontario outlet improves. It is the first of 43 places in the Great Lakes watershed delisted as an "area of concern" for meeting the water-quality improvement goals established by the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and federal Clean Water Act.
  • DEC and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation adopt a snowmobile plan for the Adirondack Park that minimizes environmental impacts to Forest Preserve lands.


  • DEC creates an Office of Climate Change to respond to growing concerns about the effects on the environment of increasing amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from human-caused sources.
  • New York State reaches and surpasses the goal, established in 1995 by then-Governor George Pataki, of preserving more than one million acres of environmentally significant land throughout the state.
  • White-nose syndrome, a fungal disease lethal to many species of bats, is found in the United States for the first time in Hailes Cave in the John Boyd Thacher State Park. DEC acts to keep people from unintentionally spreading the disease, working with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other states to study the problem, which kills up to 90 percent of the bats in caves where it is found.


  • The Pollution Prevention Institute is launched.
  • Belleayre Mountain Ski Center hosts a record 182,000 skiers during the 2007-2008 season.
  • DEC becomes a founding member of the Climate Registry, a nonprofit group that sets consistent and transparent standards for calculating, verifying and publicly reporting greenhouse-gas emissions.
  • DEC's use of renewable energy at its facilities exceeds 35 percent.
  • The Great Lakes Compact is signed, placing a ban on the export of water from the Great Lakes watershed.
  • The Office of Invasive Species is established to coordinate public outreach, legislation and research on the growing environmental and economic problems caused by invasive species.
  • State Forests managed by DEC are audited and found to meet the highest standards for protection and sustainability, earning them "green certification" from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the Forest Stewardship Council.
  • Regulations restricting the movement of firewood are issued to prevent the spread of invasive forest pests such as the emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle.
  • Governor David Paterson signs the Junior Hunter Mentoring Program law, providing 14- and 15-year-olds the opportunity to hunt big game with firearms as long as they are accompanied and supervised by an experienced adult hunter; the previous minimum age was 16.
  • DEC's Office of Public Protection (OPP) Training Academy moves to a facility in Pulaski, NY, finally finding a permanent home after more than a century.
  • A record 573 bald eagles are counted in New York State, attesting to the success of restoration efforts that began more 30 years ago in 1979.
  • Governor David Paterson issues an executive order requiring agencies and authorities to reduce energy consumption and solid waste generation; prevent air and water pollution; and make buying decisions that minimize impacts to the environment. The order also requires agencies to implement programs to reduce the health and environmental impacts of state operations.


  • One of the biggest environmental dredging projects ever undertaken in the United States, removal of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from the Hudson River, begins.
  • The ban on open burning of trash and debris is expanded to all areas of the state to improve air quality and reduce one of the major causes of wildfires in New York.
  • The inaugural members of the New York Environmental Leaders (NYEL) program are named to recognize and provide incentives to organizations that demonstrate leadership in the use of pollution prevention practices.
  • Operation Shell Shock, the largest undercover illegal wildlife trade investigation in the state's history results in 27 arrests for wildlife crimes and nearly $200,000 in fines relating to illegal trade in reptiles and amphibians.
  • Emerald ash borer (EAB), a destructive invasive beetle that kills North American ash trees, is discovered in Randolph, Cattaraugus County. DEC and the Department of Agriculture and Markets impose a quarantine restricting the movement of ash trees, ash products and firewood of all tree species to reduce the likelihood of spreading the pest.
  • Governor David Paterson issues Executive Order No. 24, setting a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in New York State by 80 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050. The order also creates the Climate Action Council.
  • More stringent dam safety regulations take effect, resulting from concerns about proper maintenance of aging privately owned dams.
  • The Bottle Bill is amended to include a deposit on water bottles, as bottled waters are now a significant share of the beverage market.
  • Twelve brownfield sites are returned to productive use after DEC completes cleanups, increasing the number of cleaned-up sites to 68 since the Brownfield Cleanup Program began in 2003.
  • A record 72 territorial pairs of endangered peregrine falcons are reported in New York State, attesting to the success of restoration efforts that began in the mid-1970s.

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