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For Release: Wednesday, April 19, 2017

DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Early April

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:

Pesticide Enforcement - Queens County

While passing through Queens County recently, ECO William Chomicki observed a pest management truck traveling on Astoria Boulevard without the required NYS pesticide decals on two sides of the vehicle. ECO Chomicki stopped the vehicle and contacted ECO Jonathon Walraven, a Queens County ECO, to assist with the stop. Upon further investigation, the officers found several unlabeled bottles of pesticides, a bottle of restricted-use pesticide, and unlabeled spray applicators in the cab of the truck. The ECOs also discovered the driver is the business owner's cousin, does not work for the company, and does not have a proper pesticide applicator's license. The ECOs issued tickets for violating the Environmental Conservation Law by failing to display pesticide decals on equipment and for possession of unlabeled pesticides. The ECOs also used the stop as a "teachable moment" and issued the driver a written warning for possession of restricted-use pesticides.

ECO Chomicki checking pesticide equipment.
ECO Chomicki checking pesticide equipment.

Injured Gray Seal AKA "Bathing Beauty" - Suffolk County

On April 2, ECO Justanna Bohling was contacted by a concerned Suffolk County citizen stating there was an injured seal stuck on Sore Thumb Beach. In Suffolk County, residents are able to obtain a parking permit that allows them to drive 4X4 vehicles on certain State Park beaches. The ECO obtained a pinpoint location and was advised that a crowd was forming around the seal. She contacted ECO Kyle Bevis to assist. When the ECOs arrived they located the seal and moved the crowd back to give it space. The officers contacted the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation. Riverhead staff arrived within the hour to assess the seal and determined the two-to-three-month old gray seal pup was just sunning itself on the beach. ECO Bohling and Bevis advised the beachgoers to let the seal be.

Gray Seal sunning itself on the beach.
Gray Seal sunning itself on the beach.

Trespassing Leads to Drug Arrest - Chemung County

On April 4, Capt. John Burke observed a suspicious vehicle parked on Greatsinger Road in the town of Elmira. The posted property where the vehicle was parked has previously been used for illegal dumping and drug activity. Upon questioning the occupants of the vehicle, Capt. Burke suspected that the subjects were engaged in illegal drug activity in addition to trespassing. Capt. Burke contacted the Chemung County Communication Center and requested assistance. State Troopers from the Horseheads barracks responded with an investigator from the NYS Community Narcotics Enforcement Team. As a result of the investigation, police seized three ounces of methamphetamine oil, two glass stems, and a vial containing methamphetamine residue. Police charged the two suspects with third-degree unlawful manufacturing of methamphetamine, a felony offense. The suspects were arraigned in Elmira Court and remanded to the Chemung County Jail in lieu of $15,000 cash bail or $30,000 property bond. All hazardous items were removed from the scene by the Contaminated Crime Scene Emergency Response Team.

Path to Trouble - Nassau County

On April 7, ECO Timothy Brown received a complaint regarding an individual undertaking a construction project on tidal wetlands. The complainant sent pictures of the alleged offense, which appeared to show work being done in a tidal wetlands area. ECO Brown contacted staff from DEC Wetlands and went to the scene. Upon arrival, it was apparent that fill was brought in to the area to help place stones for a walking path into the wetlands. In addition, vegetation was cut down surrounding the path and a bridge was being prepared to be put in place as well. The owner of the property was issued a Notice of Violation for violations of Article 25, Tidal Wetlands Act, will be ordered to remediate the entire area, and may face up to $10,000 in fines per violation.

Pathway to the wetlands.
Pathway to the wetlands.

"License for What?" - Westchester County

On April 8, ECOs Wes Leubner and Tony Drahms were checking fishermen in Croton-on-Hudson when they came upon four men leaving a popular fishing hole with rods and bags in hand. The officers stopped to ask the men if they had their fishing licenses. One man responded, "License for what?" The men admitted that they had been fishing and were not aware that a license is required. When the officers asked if they had caught any fish, the men said they had not. However, one man's bag started to flop around, indicating that they had at least one fish in their possession. After a quick search, the officers seized 11 striped bass. In addition to fishing without licenses and possessing well over the daily limit of one fish per person, none of the Striped Bass were the required minimum length of 18 inches. All four men received tickets for Fishing without a Marine Registry, Possessing over-the-limit Striped Bass, and Possessing Undersize Striped Bass. The tickets are returnable to Croton-on-Hudson Village Court.

Eleven illegal fish all measured less than 18 inches.
Eleven illegal fish all measured less than 18 inches.

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).

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