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For Release: Friday, June 1, 2012

DEC Partners with Student Conservation Association to Patrol State Lands & Waterways

SCA's Backcountry Steward Internship Program Will Team with DEC's Assistant Forest Rangers to Protect Remote State Lands and Waterways

A renewed partnership between the Student Conservation Association (SCA) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will provide increased protection for the state's natural resources and the people who explore them, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens announced today.

"The warm weather brings more visitors to the state's incredible natural resources from the mountains of the Adirondacks to the shores of Lake Ontario," Commissioner Martens said. "By bolstering our seasonal workforce with staff who are knowledgeable about the outdoors, DEC can enhance the experience of outdoor enthusiasts. These backcountry stewards will help ensure the safe and responsible use of the state's natural resources."

The Backcountry Stewardship Program is part of a long-running partnership between SCA and DEC that began more than a decade ago in the Hudson River Valley and the Adirondacks. With support from the Environmental Protection Fund, approximately 25 SCA interns will join 19 newly hired Assistant Forest Rangers to traverse Adirondack and Catskill Parks, the shores of Lake Ontario and numerous State Forests, Conservation Easement lands and New York State Forest Preserve lands. These individuals will hike and paddle through New York's backcountry, protecting resources, monitoring usage and providing visitor services.

"The conservation work performed by the interns, combined with the public outreach and education provided by all of these individuals, will go a long way toward ensuring the preservation of these natural treasures for many years to come," says SCA Northeast Regional Director Jonah Keane.

Working with DEC Foresters and Forest Rangers, the Backcountry Stewards and Assistant Forest Rangers will also educate the public about the appropriate use of state lands, including "Leave No Trace" principles for camping and hiking, and DEC rules and regulations. In addition, they will provide a direct communication link with local forest rangers and DEC Emergency Dispatch if greater assistance is needed, and assist in search and rescue missions and wildfire suppression.

Senator Mark Grisanti said: "This is a great partnership between the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Student Conservation Association. I applaud the efforts of the DEC and Commissioner Martens for continuing this opportunity for students. I am confident this will be a worth-while educational experience for everyone."

Senator Catharine Young said: "It's great to see student conservationists teaming up with the DEC to help preserve our state's natural resources and maintain our trails and waterways so they are safe for public use. Parks and wild lands are among this nation's most invaluable treasures, and this initiative offers the necessary training and guidance to protect our environment."

Assemblyman Robert K. Sweeney said: "Backcountry Stewardships provide an excellent opportunity for students to have an un-paralleled hands-on learning experience in some of the most beautiful natural places in the world. At the same time the students provide important services for New York State. This is truly a win-win situation."

Backcountry Stewards and Assistant Forest Rangers began in the field Memorial Day weekend. Most will serve through Labor Day, though some will patrol the more popular areas through Columbus Day.

For more information on backcountry outdoor recreation resources, visit the DEC website. For more information on National Trails Day, including a listing of activities hosted in New York, visit the American Hiking Association's website (link in the right column.)

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