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For Release: Wednesday, July 12, 2017

DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Late June and Early July

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, the 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:

Search For Missing Teens - Jefferson County

On June 25, ECO Pete Jackson responded to a request from Jefferson County 911 for assistance with a water rescue. Two subjects were missing in the water in the vicinity of Robert Wehle State Park in the town of Henderson. An 18-year-old male and a 14-year-old male were last seen swimming near the cliffs along the shoreline of Lake Ontario. ECO Jackson responded to the area, where high winds were creating four-foot waves. Lt. Steve Bartoszewski determined that the 31-foot Safeboat A-3 would need to be deployed based on the conditions. ECO Ron Gross joined Lt. Bartoszewski and ECO Jackson to crew the vessel, searching the shoreline of the Stony Point peninsula along with the United States Coast Guard and the New York State Police. The search continued until approximately 9:30 p.m. when it became too dark to continue in the difficult conditions. The search recommenced early the next morning in more favorable weather conditions with gentle winds and no waves. The ECOs searched the shoreline until approximately 12:15 p.m., when ECO Gross spotted one of the subjects submerged in approximately 12 feet of water. The NYSP dive team was close by and within minutes, the bodies of both subjects were recovered.

Tragically, DEC Forest Rangers and ECOs have aided in the search and recovery of several visitors to New York's rivers, streams, and other bodies of water over the past few weeks, many of whom did not have personal flotation devices (PFDs) with them. These visitors were unprepared for waterways made dangerous by recent heavy rains. DEC encourages people to use common sense when recreating in swift waters, especially after heavy rains that swell streams and rivers. Places normally safe for swimming or boating can quickly become dangerous after storms. Water is forceful, and even good swimmers have a tough time staying afloat due to turbulence and hydraulics. Visitors to rivers, streams, or any bodies of water should always wear a PFD, even in a tube or other floatation device.

U.S. Coast Guard Safeboat and Canadian helicopter searching for the missing teens on Lake Ontario
U.S. Coast Guard Safeboat and Canadian helicopter searching
for the missing teens on Lake Ontario.

Busted with Hidden Fish - Kings County

On the evening of June 28, ECO Evan McFee was patrolling the southern shores of Brooklyn for fishing activity. The arrival of schools of porgy, a popular marine district fish, had spiked an increase of fishing activity by locals in recent days. ECO McFee observed approximately 20 fishermen on one particular beach catching fish and tossing back those shorter than the 10-inch legal length. One individual caught ECO McFee's attention when he reeled in a fish and proceeded to hide it in the bushes some distance away. ECO McFee struck up a conversation with the fisherman and asked how the fishing had been that evening. The fisherman replied that he had no luck and had not caught anything. ECO McFee went to the area where he had seen the individual place a fish and found a plastic bag with ice and five porgies, all measuring well under the 10-inch mark. The fisherman admitted that they were his and received a summons returnable to Kings County Court.

Illegal Culvert Installation - Erie County

On June 29, ECO Mark Mazurkiewicz and DEC Fisheries staff inspected an improperly installed culvert on Little Buffalo Creek, a protected trout stream in the town of Holland. They found a 2,000-gallon fiberglass gasoline storage tank with the ends cut off had been used for the culvert without proper permits. The landowner will be required to have the culvert removed and replaced with a properly sized culvert installed in accordance with DEC guidelines. ECO Mazurkiewicz cited the property owner with non-permitted disturbance of a protected stream, returnable to the Town of Holland Court, where the charge could result in a criminal fine up to $10,000, and/or up to a year in jail, and a civil penalty up to $5,000.'

Illegal Culvert in Little Buffalo Creek
Illegal Culvert in Little Buffalo Creek.

Camping While Wanted - Ulster County

On June 29, ECO Josh Sulkey was checking a fishing spot and came across an unattended camp fire. The ECO noticed that the campers had a lot of personal belongings at the campsite, and that it appeared to be more than just a weekend camping trip. Based on evidence at the site, ECO Sulkey determined the campers were from Florida. He left the area and returned later with an Ulster County Sheriff's Deputy. A group was at the site this time, and checks of their identities determined that one of the campers was a fugitive from justice from Florida wanted on felony charges. The camper was arrested and arraigned in the Town of Rochester Court and sent to the Ulster County Jail pending extradition proceedings.

A Busy Evening Patrol - Queens County

On the evening of July 1, ECOs Waldemar Auguscinski, Chris Macropoulos, Will Chomicki, and Zach Brown patrolled the waters of New York City aboard vessel A-12 as part of Operation Dry Water, a national effort to curb boating while intoxicated. They were joined by members of the U.S. Coast Guard. The ECOs conducted marine fishing checks and issued four tickets for possession of undersized fluke and a Navigation Law violation for insufficient personal floatation devices (PFDs). The Coast Guard also terminated three trips for safety violations and escorted the vessels back to their home ports. The officers received a call from the U.S. Park Police during the patrol, reporting illegal clamming near the Howard Beach Channel. ECOs Brown and Chomicki joined the Park Police and located three individuals taking clams from uncertified waters.

ECOs and the U.S. Coast Guard inspecting boats during Operation Dry Water.
ECOs and the U.S. Coast Guard inspecting boats during
Operation Dry Water.

New York Air Show 2017 - Orange County

The 2017 New York Air Show took place at Stewart International Airport on July 1 and 2. ECOs Travis McNamara, Andrew Kostuk, Chris Lattimer, Melissa Burgess, John Helmeyer, and Maxwell Nicols provided security with ATV patrols along the inside perimeter of the airfield. The ECOs assisted with calls ranging from patron medical emergencies to crowd and traffic control. Thousands of spectators attended the event over the weekend, which showcases the famous U.S. Navy Blue Angels.

ECOs Helmeyer and Nicols with the USAF’s C-17 Globemaster III
ECOs Helmeyer and Nicols with the USAF's C-17 Globemaster III.
ECOs Helmeyer, Nicols and New York State Troopers with the Blue Angels
ECOs Helmeyer, Nicols and New York State Troopers with the Blue Angels.

Airshow on the Lake - Chautauqua County

On July 1 and 2, in honor of Independence Day, the city of Dunkirk held the Dunkirk Lakeshore Airshow on Lake Erie near Dunkirk Harbor. ECOs Darci Dougherty and Kevin Budniewski were part of a multiagency security detail along with the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office, New York State Police, U.S. Coast Guard, and Dunkirk Police and Fire Departments. The purpose of the detail was to maintain the security of the exclusion zone. The ECOs ensured that boat traffic from within the harbor did not enter the 1000-foot buffer zone allowing the airshow to continue without interruption. There were no major incidents during the show.

A P-51 Mustang flying low over Dunkirk Harbor
A P-51 Mustang flying low over Dunkirk Harbor.

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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