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For Release: Thursday, March 29, 2018

DEC Announces Forest Ranger Awards for Distinguished Service

Forest Rangers Recognized for Outstanding Service in Protecting the Environment, State Lands, and Recreating Public

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the awards for the distinguished actions of 40 DEC Forest Rangers from across the state.

"DEC Forest Rangers are the state's first line of defense in protecting the environment and safeguarding our natural resources, and I am honored to present these distinguished awards to recognize the incredible efforts of our law enforcement personnel," said DEC Commissioner Seggos. "Their knowledge of land navigation, wildfire firefighting, first aid, and technical rescue techniques are critical to the success of their missions, which take them from remote wilderness areas and rugged mountainous peaks, to white-water rivers and vast forested areas ravaged by fires."

DEC's Division of Forest Protection awards are presented every three years and recognize the courageous acts and outstanding service of this state law enforcement branch tasked with wilderness search and rescue missions, forest fire suppression, state land patrols, and backcountry public education efforts.

In 2017, DEC's 140 Forest Rangers conducted 346 search and rescue missions, extinguished 55 wildfires that burned a total of 191 acres, participated in 29 prescribed fires that burned and rejuvenated 564 acres, and worked on cases that resulted in 2,100 tickets or arrests.

In 2017, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo sent three teams of DEC Forest Rangers, staff, and volunteers to help battle and contain wildfires in Montana, Oregon, and California. Five Forest Rangers were also dispatched to Texas to help in the rescue and recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

In addition to helping contain the national wildfires and minimize damage, these crews also gain valuable experience that can be utilized fighting wildfires and managing natural disaster incidents in New York.

This year's awards were presented to 40 Forest Rangers for actions that include:

  • Rescuing a couple stranded in blizzard conditions on Algonquin Mountain for three days
  • Saving the life of a man caught in a brush fire;
  • Saving the life of a man severely injured in a motorcycle accident;
  • Saving a woman stranded in a kayak in dangerous rapids; and
  • Saving two unresponsive, capsized canoeists from frigid water.

A New York State Trooper was also honored at the event for his efforts working with Forest Rangers in the Adirondacks.

Director of Forest Protection Eric Lahr said, Director of Forest Protection Eric Lahr said, "Today, we recognize the outstanding service of our Forest Rangers who have demonstrated bravery and leadership in the performance of their duties. In the finest Ranger tradition, each of these honorees has risen above expectations in the protection of our natural resources and the public."

In 1885, the New York State legislature established the Forest Preserve of New York State, setting aside land in the Adirondacks and Catskills to be protected as "forever wild," thus marking the establishment of what were then called Fire Wardens. In 1911, the Conservation Department was formed and the new title Forest Ranger was born.

Please see the Forest Ranger Awards document (PDF) (336 KB) to view a detailed list of award winners and citations.

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