Department of Environmental Conservation

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For Release: Wednesday, May 9, 2018

DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Late April

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law, protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York.

In 2017, the 301 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, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.

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).

"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:

Striped Bass Enforcement across Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island
ECOs have been busy across DEC Regions 1, 2, and 3 with enforcement actions targeting illegal striped bass fishing. Anglers have been ticketed for taking undersized fish, over the limit fish, and failing to possess a free Recreational Marine Fishing Registry. Striped bass enter the Hudson River from the Atlantic Ocean in the spring to spawn and are a popular trophy fish for anglers, as fish as large as 50 to 60 pounds have been hooked over the years. Limits are set to protect the species and the spawning females, with anglers north of the George Washington Bridge allowed to take one fish per day between 18 and 28 inches in total length, or one fish larger than 40 inches. South of the George Washington Bridge and off New York shores, anglers can keep one fish per day 28 inches or longer. DEC reminds anglers to obey the fishing laws of the state, and for more information on striped bass fishing visit DEC's website.

ECO Sarah Barrett with nine illegal striped bass seized in Jamaica Bay
ECO Sarah Barrett with nine illegal striped bass seized in Jamaica Bay

ECO Matt Rutherford with 60 seized striped bass in the Bronx
ECO Matt Rutherford with 60 seized striped bass in the Bronx

29 illegal striped bass seized at Jones Beach State Park
29 illegal striped bass seized at Jones Beach State Park

Merlin in the Rafters - Niagara County
On April 17, ECO Kevin Holzle received a call from a concerned homeowner reporting a small bird trapped inside a garage. ECO Holzle arrived to find a Merlin, a small species of falcon, flying in the rafters. While balancing on the beams, the officer safely captured the bird in a net and transferred it to a permitted wildlife rehabilitator. The Merlin was released back into the area after the rehabilitator determined it to be in good health.

Merlin captured by ECO Holzle
Merlin captured by ECO Holzle

Shots Fired, Feathers in a Pond, and a Duck in the Road - Jefferson County
On April 20 at around 10:30 p.m., ECO Pete Jackson received a complaint that someone had shot and killed a duck in the town of Rodman. ECO Jackson responded to the scene and found duck feathers floating on the surface of the pond, boot prints in the snow, and tire tracks. The officer interviewed the complainant, who reported hearing a truck with a loud exhaust stop at the pond followed by two rifle shots. ECO Jackson collected feathers and photographed the boot prints and tire tracks. The ECO then came across a dead mallard duck in the middle of the roadway a few miles from where the shooting occurred. The following morning, ECO Jackson located the truck and its owner. The truck matched the complainant's description and the tire treads matched the tracks found at the scene. A collection of dead animals was spotted in the bed of the pickup, including a Canada Goose, a Wood Duck, a Merganser, a Cottontail rabbit, and a Red Fox-all protected species. ECO Jackson confiscated the animals and the rifle used to kill the fox, and issued tickets for the taking of fox out of season, unlawfully using a semiauto rifle with capacity greater than six rounds to hunt, taking a duck out of season, taking a duck with an illegal implement, and the unlawful taking of wildlife. The case is currently pending in Rodman and Watertown courts.

Following the Stockings - Washington and Clinton Counties
ECOs often receive complaints of unethical fishermen taking more than their share of trout at fishing areas shortly after DEC stocking trucks have left. ECOs routinely check recently stocked areas to address this issue. On April 23, ECOs Steve Gonyeau and Marcia Goodrich were assisting with the fish stocking on the Mettawee River in the town of Granville. As the stocking progressed, one of the volunteers realized that his cell phone was missing. Thinking that he must have dropped it at one of the previous sites, he began backtracking the stocked route. At one of the sites, he saw two men fishing who ducked out of sight as he approached. Finding this odd, the volunteer contacted the ECOs and the officers returned to the area. The ECOs interviewed the individuals, who stated that the fish were not biting. However, a consent search of one of the men's backpacks revealed 22 brown trout ranging in size from eight to 12 inches. The subject admitted to catching the fish and was issued a ticket for 17 trout over the allowed daily limit of five. The other subject was issued a ticket for fishing without a license. The tickets are returnable in the Granville Town Court. The cell phone was later found in the volunteer's truck.

On May 1, ECO Chris Lagree and Lt. Mike Phelps received information concerning illegal activity at the Plattsburgh City Marina on Lake Champlain. The lake had just been stocked with brown trout the previous day and the ECOs spotted two men fishing. As the fishermen were leaving, ECO Lagree approached them and the pair admitted to catching over their limit of trout, which is three fish per person with a 12-inch minimum length on Lake Champlain and its tributaries. The officers found the men to be in possession of a combined total of 42 brown trout, none longer than 10 inches. The two men were each issued tickets for possessing over their limit of fish and possessing under sized fish returnable to Plattsburgh City Court.

ECO Lagree with trout seized in Plattsburgh
ECO Lagree with trout seized in Plattsburgh

Open Burning Enforcement - Orange and Ulster Counties
On April 24, ECO Will Chomicki responded to a call in the town of Greenville about a brush fire that had gotten out of control. When ECO Chomicki arrived, New York State Police and the Greenville Fire Department were also on the scene. The property owner admitted to starting a fire in a burn barrel and that the embers had blown into nearby leaves, causing the fire to spread. Fortunately, the property is surrounded by a rock wall, which firefighters said slowed the fire just long enough to prevent it from spreading into the forest. ECO Chomicki explained that there was a burn ban throughout the state through May 14, and issued the property owner a ticket for illegal burning during the burn ban.
On April 26, ECOs Jason Smith and Jeannette Bastedo responded to a large brush fire in the town of Saugerties. Local fire department personnel extinguished the huge pile of trees that was burning, and ECOs interviewed the man who started the fire. The man stated that he had been clearing the property for future construction and was issued a ticket for illegal burning during the burn ban.

Brush and grass fire in Greenville
Brush and grass fire in Greenville

Saugerties firefighters extinguishing pile of burning trees
Saugerties firefighters extinguishing pile of burning trees

The First Rule of Fish Club - Cayuga County
On April 24, ECO Mark Colesante was on patrol in Fair Haven State Park when he came across a pair of fishermen behind one of the State Park cabins. The two fishermen were properly licensed, and had no fish. However, ECO Colesante noticed two buckets behind the cabin that contained several crappies, three of which were clearly under the legal size of nine inches. The two fishermen said the fish belonged to men staying at the camp and gave the officer the names of two men. ECO Colesante asked if there were any other fish inside the cabin and the pair agreed to let him look inside. When the officer entered the cabin, he found the rules of "Fish Club" prominently displayed on the refrigerator. The first rule of Fish Club is "Do not talk about Fish Club." ECO Colesante left his business card and asked for a call when the other members returned to the cabin. Having no luck finding the missing fishermen in the park, ECO Colesante returned later in the day and found all the club members back at the camp. One of the other Fish Club members admitted to catching the three short crappies and was issued a ticket for possessing the undersized fish, returnable to the Town of Sterling Court.

“Fish Club” rules, Fair Haven State Park
"Fish Club" rules, Fair Haven State Park

Busted with Bass - Orange County
On April 25, ECO Jon Walraven was contacted by a concerned citizen reporting he had observed two individuals on Lake Washington taking "buckets and buckets" of fish, including largemouth bass, which are out of season until June. The caller also provided the ECO with a detailed description of the suspects' vehicle and license plate. ECO Walraven was joined by ECOs Melissa Burgess and Will Chomicki, who located the vehicle and observed a bucket inside containing several fish. The officers began searching for the fishermen and soon located two individuals matching the description provided. As the ECOs watched, one of the individuals received a cell phone call and the two men proceeded to nervously pack up their equipment. The fishermen hid a bright orange bucket behind a bush. The ECOs confronted the subjects. The men were interviewed and the orange bucket was recovered and found to contain a sizable number of legal crappies. However, the ECOs also found a stringer nearby with five largemouth bass on it. The fishermen admitted to having six more largemouth bass in the back of their vehicle. The 11 illegal bass were seized and the fishermen were issued several tickets for possessing largemouth bass out of season and fishing without a freshwater fishing license, returnable to the Town of Newburgh Court.

ECO Walraven with illegally caught largemouth bass
ECO Walraven with illegally caught largemouth bass

Illegal Disposal of Regulated Waste - Albany County
On April 27, ECO Kimberly Garnsey responded to a Coeymans Police Department request to investigate the dumping of what appeared to be hazardous materials in a dumpster behind the local NAPA Auto Parts store. ECO Garnsey arrived to find five boxes, each with 12 one-liter glass bottles with small amounts of clear liquid on the bottom. Labels on the bottles identified the contents as fuel oil with hydrogen sulfide additive. Another case of bottles sat on the ground beside the dumpster. In addition to the bottles, the ECO found a live raccoon in the dumpster that had likely climbed in looking for a meal. ECO Garnsey placed a long board into the dumpster and encouraged the raccoon to climb out. Once the raccoon had left the dumpster, ECO Garnsey inspected the bottles. She later interviewed the man suspected of dumping the materials. He admitted to disposing them there. The DEC Spills Unit arranged for a professional cleanup service to properly collect and dispose of the bottles, and ECO Garnsey issued the man three tickets for the illegal transport and disposal of regulated waste returnable to Coeymans Town Court on May 17.

Bottles of hazardous waste in the dumpster
Bottles of hazardous waste in the dumpster

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