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For Release: Wednesday, March 13, 2019

DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Late February and Early March

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York.

In 2018, the 288 ECOs across the state responded to 21,668 calls and worked on cases that resulted in 20,665 tickets or arrests for crimes ranging from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.

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).

"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 DEC 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:

Illegal Dumping Complaints Lead to Two Individuals - Franklin County
On Feb. 27, ECO Jennifer Okonuk received a complaint from the New York State Police regarding solid waste dumping in the town of Malone. The next day, she received a call about more piles of garbage dumped just outside the village limits. ECO Okonuk investigated the piles and found evidence that led her to a specific building in town. The owner of the building said that she had paid two men to bring the garbage to the dump. The woman provided ECO Okonuk with the text message conversation and name and phone number of one of the individuals. ECO Okonuk interviewed the suspect who, at first, denied being involved, but eventually admitted to dumping the garbage with another individual. Both subjects were issued tickets for the unlawful disposal of solid waste returnable to the Malone Town Court on March 4. ECO Okonuk instructed the individuals to have the garbage cleaned up and to provide documentation that the materials were properly disposed.

ECO vehicle on side of road next to garbage bags in woods
ECO Okonuk at illegal dump site

World Fishing & Outdoor Expo - Rockland County
Rockland County Community College hosted the Annual World Fishing and Outdoor Exposition Feb. 28 through March 3, and several ECOs and DEC Fish and Wildlife experts staffed booths to speak with the public. The ECOs fielded hundreds of questions concerning hunting and fishing laws, many related to updated fishing regulations and the upcoming spring turkey season. The most common inquiry the officers received was, "How do I become an EnCon Officer?" The ECOs spoke about the educational requirements for an ECO, the rigors of the Training Academy, and the diversity and excitement of the job. This event gives the public the opportunity to meet local ECOs in person and allows the officers to build strong relationships within their communities.

Bank Robbery - St. Lawrence County
On Feb. 28, ECOs Bret Canary and John Ryan responded to a bank robbery at the Community Bank in the town of Hermon. ECO Canary secured a portion of the perimeter that had been established around the scene. ECO Ryan arrived on scene shortly after the initial response and assisted the St. Lawrence County Sherriff's Department and State Police with evidence preservation and scene security. The DEC Division of Law Enforcement (DLE) worked with multiple agencies during the investigation, which resulted in the arrest of Timothy A. Shippee on March 2, by the St. Lawrence County Sheriff on charges of robbery in the 2nd Degree.

Ice is Not an Excuse - Onondaga County
On March 1, ECO Don Damrath was busy checking ice fisherman on Otisco Lake in the town of Spafford when he observed an excavator in the distance working along the shoreline. A closer inspection revealed contractors repairing and replacing an existing limestone rock wall. The problem was that they were extending the wall a few feet out and placing fill into the lake, all without a permit. The contractors claimed "someone" advised them that if the lake was frozen and that the work did not require a permit or erosion mitigation measures. The subjects could not provide a name or documentation. ECO Damrath advised the workers to remove the unlawful fill by hand, install silt fencing to protect water quality, and await further inspection by Region 7 habitat biologist Tiffany Toukatly. Otisco Lake is the most easterly of the 11 Finger Lakes and supports populations of panfish, bass, and tiger muskellunge. As a result of the unauthorized work, the contractor was charged for violating ECL Article 15 and is facing $1,500 in penalties.

Large ditch that has been dug up by large construction machinery
Unpermitted work on shoreline of Otisco Lake

Looking for a Way Out - Madison County
On March 3, ECO Harry Chase responded to a call from the Colgate University Campus Safety regarding a deer trapped in a courtyard. The wayward deer had jumped a railing and ended up 20 feet below ground in a small courtyard. ECO Chase and Campus Safety personnel decided the safest course of action was to open the doors to the courtyard and carefully herd the deer into the adjoining academic building, down a hallway, and out the exit doors at ground level. After blocking the hallways leading into the building, they successfully pushed the deer out a door. The deer slipped and skated along the hallway's slick floors but exited the building and ran off in good health to the delight of about 75 students gathered to watch.

small deer on school campus
Colgate deer looking for a way out

Handling Nuisance and Injured Wildlife Training - Albany County
On March 4, Lt. Liza Bobseine and ECO Wes Leubner trained law enforcement, animal control officers, and District Attorneys' offices in the handling of nuisance and sick/injured wildlife calls. The training was held at the Mohawk-Hudson Humane Society in Menands. DEC Biologist Kevin Hynes also contributed to the presentation with a discussion about how to identify common wildlife diseases and prevent exposure. DEC biologists Stacy Preusser and Erin Losito were also on hand to answer questions from the class about wildlife and the various permits issued by DEC.

Funeral Detail for Retired DLE Director Donald W. Brewer - Seneca County
On March 8, family, friends, and more than 30 members from DEC's Division of Law Enforcement gathered to pay their respects at funeral services for retired DLE Director Donald "Wayne" Brewer. Director Brewer died unexpectedly but peacefully on Feb. 12 at the age of 69. Brewer began his career with DLE in 1973 and rose through the ranks to be appointed Director in 1997 at 47. Upon retirement, Brewer returned to his beloved Seneca County, fulfilling a promise he made to come home and serve his community. He was a prolific freelance outdoor writer with countless articles published in local and regional newspapers, national environmental magazines, and trade journals. Harboring a deep love for the environment and wildlife, Brewer spent his retirement years encouraging young men and women to revere and protect nature by entering environmental professions. DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "Wayne will be greatly missed, but we will honor his legacy by continuing the conservation and preservation efforts he fought for his entire life."

ECOs lined up behind a 1988 DLE patrol car during funeral service
DLE members stand guard at Director Wayne Brewer's
funeral beside a restored 1988 DLE patrol car

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