Department of Environmental Conservation

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For Release: Wednesday, May 3, 2017

DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Mid-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:

Case of the Gotham Gator - Bronx County

On April 11, ECO Jason Smith received a tip that a juvenile American alligator was listed for sale on the Internet in Bronx County. ECO Smith responded to the posting, called the seller, and confirmed the price and a time and location to purchase the alligator. On April 18, ECOs Zach Brown and Smith met the seller at his residence, with ECOs Charles Eyler III and Adam Johnson a short distance away in uniform. Once the presence of the live alligator was confirmed, the ECOs announced themselves as conservation police officers and secured the animal for transport to a permitted educational facility. The seller was issued a summons for possession of the alligator returnable to Bronx Criminal Court.

ECOs Brown, Eyler III, Smith and Johnson.
juvenile alligator
ECOs Brown, Eyler III, Smith and Johnson with
the juvenile alligator.

Read the Sign ... More Closely - Saratoga County

On the evening of April 14, ECO Rob Higgins was off duty, driving along the Kayaderosseras Creek in the city of Saratoga, when he noticed a vehicle parked on the side of the road. The lower section of the creek is closed to fishing at this time of the year to protect spawning walleye. ECO Higgins walked down the creek a short distance and found two men fishing. ECO Higgins asked them if the walleye were running yet and one of the men replied that he wasn't sure, but he "hooked into something big." The man then pointed to the sign right next to him, which read that fishing was prohibited during the closed season for walleye. He believed the sign meant that only walleye fishing was prohibited, not all fishing. ECO Higgins contacted ECO Mark Klein, who was on duty at the time. ECO Klein arrived and advised the two men that they were in violation for fishing the closed section of the Kayaderosseras Creek. One man was issued a violation for fishing without a license and another violation for fishing in the closed section of the Kayaderosseras Creek. The other man was also issued a violation for fishing in the closed section of the creek.

Kayaderosseras Creek sign
Kayaderosseras Creek sign

Right Place, Right Time - Chautauqua County

On April 16, ECOs Darci Dougherty and Jerry Kinney were on patrol in the town of Charlotte when they noticed a pick-up truck with a trailer attached parked near a large pile of construction and demolition debris that did not appear to come from the property. The officers spoke with the property owner who stated the waste had come from another property he owned in North Collins and that he intended to burn the waste. The ECOs found painted wood, plywood, plastic, and floor molding in the pile. The property owner was ticketed for the illegal disposal of solid waste, returnable to the Town of Charlotte Court on May 2.

Pile of construction debris
Pile of construction debris located by ECOs Kinney and Dougherty.

Illegal Fishing for Herring - Rensselaer County

On April 16, ECO Jason Curinga received a call that someone was netting herring in the Poestenkill River in Troy. ECO Curinga responded and observed a fisherman in the river throwing a case net into the water. The fisherman was found to have taken 22 herring,12 fish over the limit, and did not have a marine registry license. ECO Curinga issued the fisherman tickets for the illegal use of a net, taking over the limit of herring, and taking herring without a marine registry license. A second fisherman nearby was found to have 15 herring and was issued a ticket for taking over the limit for herring, as well.

Way Over the Limit - Erie County

On April 17, ECO Jamie Powers assisted with trout stocking in the town of Sardinia at five locations along Cattaraugus Creek. After the stocking was complete, ECO Powers observed three individuals catching and keeping fish. Two of the fishermen were observed taking fish up to their car, while the third continued to catch fish. ECO Powers approached the fishermen. Initially, the fishermen denied catching more than a few fish but quickly admitted to keeping more than was allowed. One of the individuals caught 11 brown trout and the other two had caught seven trout each. All three individuals were issued summonses for taking more than the daily limit of trout, returnable to the Sardinia Town Court.

Over the limit of freshly stocked Brown Trout.
Over the limit of freshly stocked Brown Trout.

Construction and Demolition Fire - Niagara County

While on patrol on April 17 in the town of Hartland, ECO Josh Wolgast observed a house that appeared to be under renovation and a large fire burning with several black plastic construction bags in it. ECO Wolgast stopped and interviewed two individuals on site. One admitted to starting the fire to burn lath from the renovation. However, the fire contained construction debris and trash of all kinds including insulation, particle board, plastics, paint cans, and used motor oil. Several mattresses and a couch meant to go into the fire were piled nearby. ECO Wolgast issued two tickets for unlawful disposal of solid waste and the open burning of garbage, both returnable to the Town of Hartland Court.

Construction debris being burned illegally.
Construction debris being burned illegally.

Tire Fire - Washington County

Early in the morning on April 19, ECO Matt Krug was notified of a large tire fire in the town of Salem. He responded to the Black Creek Valley Farm, where Salem, Shushan, and Hebron volunteer fire departments were battling the blaze. A quick response from the fire departments kept the fire from spreading to the woods or any nearby barns. The fire was started when the owner burned garbage, which spread to the large pile of tires. The owner was issued appearance tickets returnable to the Salem Town Court for unlawful open burning and unlawful disposal of solid waste, returnable on May 15.

Firefighters battling a tire fire in Salem.
Firefighters battling a tire fire in Salem.

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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