For Release: Wednesday, March 15, 2017
DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights
ECO Actions for Late February to Early March
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law, protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York.
In 2016, the 286 ECOs across the state responded to 26,400 calls and issued 22,150 tickets for crimes ranging from deer poaching to corporate toxic dumping and illegal mining, black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.
"From Montauk Point to Mount Marcy, from Brooklyn to Buffalo, the ECOs patrolling our state are the first line of defense in protecting New York's environment and our natural resources, ensuring that they exist for future generations of New Yorkers," said Commissioner Basil Seggos. "They work long and arduous hours, both deep in our remote wildernesses and in the tight confines of our urban landscapes. Although they don't receive much public fanfare, the work of our ECOs is critical to achieving DEC's mission to protect and enhance our environment."
Recent missions carried out by ECOs include:
Posted and Enforced - Ulster County
On Feb. 25, ECOs Josh Sulkey and Jeannette Bastedo responded to a trespassing complaint in the town of Saugerties. The ECOs are familiar with the property because of frequent trespassers on the posted land, which borders state land. Hikers frequently trespass and use private land against the property owners' wishes. A short time after the ECOs responded, they observed a group exit the private property onto the roadway within feet of multiple posted signs. The ECOs confronted the group regarding their route in and out of the property. The group admitted to walking directly between two "posted" signs, but were shocked to receive a ticket because they "didn't think it was actually enforced." The tickets for Trespassing on Posted Land is returnable to the Town of Saugerties Court on March 15.
Posted signs passed by trespassers while
entering and exiting private property
Illegal Burning - Ulster County
On Feb. 28, ECO Tom Koepf was contacted by DEC dispatchers to respond to an illegal burn in the town of Wawarsing. Upon his arrival, the officer observed a large burn in progress in the backyard of the residence. After interviewing the homeowner, who admitted to starting the fire, Koepf inspected the materials. The fire included a mattress box spring, old furniture, and several bags of household garbage. The subject was issued a ticket for Illegal Burning of Prohibited Material. The ECO then extinguished the fire with a nearby garden hose and educated the man about burning regulations in New York State. The ticket is returnable to the Town of Wawarsing Court.
Illegal material being burned in an open fire in the town of Wawarsing
Too Many Lies, Too Many Crappies - Onondaga County
On Feb. 28, ECO Mark Colesante received an anonymous tip that fishermen were catching and keeping over the legal limit of black crappies on the Oneida River. Knowing that the location is private, secluded, and a fishing hot spot, ECO Colesante called ECO Don Damrath for assistance. The two officers watched the fishermen reel in a few fish and head for their truck. The ECOs met the fishermen at the truck just as they were dumping hundreds of fish from their buckets into a cooler. The men claimed half of the crappies were caught the day before, but couldn't produce any evidence. ECOs Colesante and Damrath issued summonses for possessing over-the-limit and undersized crappies, returnable to Town of Clay Court.
ECOs Colesante and Damrath with illegally caught black crappies
C&D Debris Used to Fill In Trout Stream Bank - Ulster County
On Mar. 1, ECO Myles Schillinger was patrolling in the town of Ulster when he observed a large pile of debris on the banks of the Sawkill Creek. ECO Schillinger contacted ECO Jeannette Bastedo, who responded with DLE Intern Abigail Bartholomew. The ECOs interviewed the property owner and inspected the debris, which included lumber, fiberglass materials, a tarp, plastic objects, PVC piping, carpeting, and drywall. The property owner admitted to attempting to fill in the bank of the Class A trout stream to enlarge his property. The property owner was issued tickets for Disturbing a Protected Stream and Unlawful Disposal of Solid Waste, returnable on May 2 to the Town of Ulster Court. The property owner agreed to clean up the materials and properly dispose of them.
ECO Bastedo with a portion of the C&D debris used
to fill in the Sawkill Creek bank
C&D debris on the bank of the Sawkill Creek
Air and Ground Pollution - Nassau County
On Mar. 2, ECOs Rob Howe and Mike Unger responded to a location in Freeport at the request of the Nassau County Fire Marshal. The site is home to several businesses, including an auto body shop and an auto repair business. The ECOs found multiple containers of waste oil leaking into the ground and open buckets of waste oil that had the potential to be released into the environment. The waste oil was not properly contained on concrete slabs and was leaking directly into the soil, potentially contaminating ground water. The ECOs also found that the auto body business had been painting cars without proper ventilation and without the required DEC air quality permit. Painting cars without proper ventilation and filtering allows hazardous paint fumes to be released directly into the environment. The individuals responsible for the violations were charged with the improper disposal of waste oil, polluting state waters in contravention of standards, depositing a noisome or unwholesome substance on or near a highway, and operating an air contaminate source without a permit. The case is pending in the First District Nassau County Court.
Shark Fins At Fulton Fish Market - Bronx County
On Mar. 2 at 1:30 a.m., Lt. Jesse Paluch, Investigator Sara Komonchak, and ECOs Chris Macropoulos and Waldemar Auguscinski arrived at Fulton Fish Market in response to an earlier inspection of the facility that uncovered illegal commercialization of shark fins. Working undercover, Paluch and Komonchak identified a fish market offering a thresher shark tail fin for sale. Once a price was established, ECO Macropoulos and Auguscinski arrived in uniform and seized the shark tail fin. Under the Environmental Conservation Law, detached shark fins, including tail fins, cannot be legally possessed, sold, or offered for sale. The company was issued a notice of violation.
ECO Macropoulos and Lt. Paluch with the seized thresher shark tail fin
Illegal Shooting - Ulster County
On Mar. 4, ECOs Joshua Sulkey and Jeannette Bastedo checked several different groups of goose hunters in a natural area in Ulster County. Most of the groups were in compliance, but several groups complained about how close another group was shooting near a house. ECO Sulkey spoke with the homeowner, who advised the ECO that they did not want anybody shooting so close to their home. The ECOs determined where each of the three hunters had shot from after finding fresh wad cups and spent shell casings. All three of the hunters were within 500 feet of the residence. One of the hunters stated that he usually shoots closer to the house and believed that he was allowed to shoot within 250 feet of a home if using a shotgun. The ECOs explained the waterfowl and firearms regulations to the three hunters. All three were ticketed for Discharging a Firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling and for the Illegal taking of Canada geese, returnable to Town of Marbletown Court.
ECO Sulkey with Illegally shot Canada Geese
If you witness an environmental crime or believe a violation of environmental law occurred please call the DEC Division of Law Enforcement hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).