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For Release: Wednesday, August 22, 2018

DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Early to Mid-August

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 DEC 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:

Blood Clams - Queens County
On Aug. 3, ECO Jeff Johnston was contacted by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents concerning four packages of blood clams shipped into JFK Airport from China. It is illegal to ship or transport shellfish into New York State that have been taken from uncertified waters because of the risk of the clams carrying diseases such as hepatitis A. ECO Johnston met with the customs agents at JFK to take possession of the estimated 12 pounds of blood clams and gather evidence pertaining to who had imported the clams. ECO Johnston tracked down the passenger who shipped the clams and interviewed her. The subject admitted to bringing the blood clams into the country and was issued a summons for the illegal transport of uncertified shellfish into New York State, returnable to Queens County Court. The four packages of blood clams were incinerated.

Blood clams seized at JFK
Blood clams seized at JFK

The Lion King of Queens - Queens County
On Aug. 3, ECO Joshua Harvey found an online advertisement offering a male lion skin rug for $3,000. After communicating with the seller about the authenticity of the piece, the two agreed to meet to complete the sale. On Aug. 6, ECO Harvey met the seller in plain clothes with ECO Matt Thibodeau waiting down the street in uniform. After inspecting the rug and confirming its authenticity, ECO Harvey offered to purchase the lion skin. The officer told the seller he needed to go to his vehicle to get the money to purchase the piece, but would return shortly. ECO Harvey met with ECO Thibodeau to explain the terms of the sale and then returned to the seller. ECO Thibodeau arrived in uniform, confiscated the lion skin, and issued two summonses for illegal commercialization of wildlife and illegal sale of endangered species. A Notice of Violation was also issued, giving the seller the opportunity to settle the case administratively with the DEC instead of facing criminal penalties.

ECOs Thibodeau and Harvey with confiscated lion skin rug
ECOs Thibodeau and Harvey
with confiscated lion skin rug

Country Club Can't Give a Mulligan for This One - Westchester County
In February 2018, ECO Dustin Dainack responded to a call from SUNY Purchase Police about the destruction of approximately 12 mature hardwoods on campus property. The land where the trees were cut borders Old Oaks Country Club, a private golf course. Old Oaks had approached SUNY Purchase about leasing the property to expand two of their tee boxes. No deal was ever agreed to and Old Oaks staff allegedly began to clear the trees without permission. In August, SUNY Purchase decided to pursue criminal charges against Old Oaks for the timber theft. On Aug. 8, ECO Dainack issued a summons to Old Oaks Country Club for removing trees from the lands of another without permission. ECO Dainack is continuing to work with DEC's Division of Lands and Forest staff to determine an approximate value of the lost timber.

Two of the illegally cut trees
Two of the illegally cut trees

On the Wrong Bearing - Ulster County
On Aug. 12, ECO Jason Smith received a call about a black bear that had entered a fenced-in yard in the town of Olive. The bear was unable to find a way out. ECO Smith responded with ECO Jeannette Bastedo to find a young black bear feeding on bird seed remnants even though the feeders had been removed. The ECOs created several openings in the fence and coaxed the young bear out of the yard. During their dealings with the bear, the officers noted its two yellow ear tags and documented the tag numbers. The tag numbers were given to DEC's Bureau of Wildlife and the landowner was advised to clean up any remaining bird seed and other attractants around the yard.

Black bear stuck in fenced-in yard in town of Olive
Black bear stuck in fenced-in yard in town of Olive

Bay Full of Mussels - Queens County
On Aug. 13, while on patrol in Queens County, ECO Adam Muchow observed two subjects digging in uncertified water in Jamaica Bay and placing what appeared to be shellfish into a bucket. One of the two subjects was using a net to catch crabs while the other took mussels off a rock at low tide. ECO Muchow approached the subjects and found one small bucket full of mussels and a larger bucket containing several crabs, an eel, and more mussels. The men claimed that they didn't know they were in uncertified waters. The 219 mussels were counted, photographed, and returned to the waters. Two summonses were issued for taking shellfish from uncertified waters.

Mussels illegally taken from Jamaica Bay
Mussels illegally taken from Jamaica Bay

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