Department of Environmental Conservation

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The ECO's Proud History

A photo of Game Protectors, Glens Falls 1928

The Environmental Conservation Officer force has a long tradition. Chapter 591 of the Laws of 1880 authorized the Governor of the State of New York to appoint eight persons to be known as game and fish protectors whose duty it was to enforce the state statutes for the preservation of moose, wild deer, birds and fish, or any other game laws. They were also authorized to bring actions and proceedings in the name of the people of the State to recover penalties to punish any parties for the violation of these statutes and laws.

On July 1, 1880, then Governor Alonzo B. Cornell appointed the first eight New York State Game Protectors. The force grew from a budget of $6,000 in 1880 to a 1990 level of 305 sworn police officers and a budget of over 12 million dollars. In 1964, the title Game Protector was changed to Conservation Officer, in 1970 it was changed to Environmental Conservation Officer.

The Department of Environmental Conservation was created in 1970 by expanding the jurisdiction of the former Conservation Department to encompass the environmental aspects of the Public Heath Law, the Agriculture and Markets Law, the Executive Law and certain unconsolidated laws. The creation of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) was the result of the reaction by the State of the critical quality of its natural resources and environment as well as of its fundamental responsibility as guardian of the land, water and air for present and future generations.

The creation of the Department of Environmental Conservation began many dramatic changes for the Environmental Conservation Officers. The traditional role of the Environmental Conservation Officer of enforcing the Fish and Game laws (checking hunting and fishing licenses) was greatly expanded. On September 1, 1971 Environmental Conservation Officers were named "police officers" in the State's Criminal Procedure Law. This then gave them statewide jurisdiction to enforce all laws of the state. On September 25, 1971, the Division of Legal Affairs and Law Enforcement was created by administrative action combining the Department's legal staff and the former Bureau of Law Enforcement in the Division of Fish and Wildlife. On September 1, 1976 the Division of Law Enforcement was created as a separate unit. The Division of Law Enforcement is a staff function providing services to all other divisions.

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