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For Release: Wednesday, April 15, 2015

National Wild Turkey Federation Honors Region 9 Environmental Conservation Officer

ECO RJ Ward Named 2014 Officer of the Year

Region 9 New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Officer (ECO) RJ Ward was named the "2014 New York Officer of the Year" by the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), DEC Region 9 Environmental Conservation Police Captain Frank Lauricella announced today.

"ECO Ward has demonstrated true commitment to protecting our state's natural resources and is a valuable asset to DEC's Division of Law Enforcement," said Captain Lauricella. "By investigating and enforcing violations, educating our youth and serving with integrity, he and DEC's other committed ECOs perform valuable services that benefit our environment and our community every day."

Throughout his career in Region 9, ECO Ward has worked collaboratively with law enforcement agencies and officers throughout Wyoming County to handle numerous cases involving fish and wildlife resource protection and public safety. This past year, ECO Ward demonstrated his abilities in a challenging turkey poaching case that involved the shooting of two turkeys from a vehicle traveling on a highway.

ECO Ward's persistence and outstanding investigative skills are credited with law enforcement eventually locating the poacher and his passenger. Both were charged with possession of a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle, discharging a firearm from a public highway, taking wildlife from a motor vehicle, taking wildlife from a public highway, the illegal killing of a bearded turkey and killing a non-bearded turkey during the closed season. Additionally, the shooter was charged with failure to complete a carcass tag upon kill.

Charges were settled civilly, with the shooter paying a total of $1,010 in penalties and court fees, and the passenger paying $177.50. The shooter became subject to a hunting license revocation for up to five years.

NWTF is a half-million-member grassroots, non-profit organization with members in all 50 states, Canada and 11 foreign countries. It supports scientific wildlife management on public, private and corporate lands and wild turkey hunting as a traditional North American sport. NWTF annually recognizes an officer who has demonstrated outstanding service and contributed significantly to conservation law enforcement.

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