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For Release: Monday, May 20, 2019

DEC Announces 58 Environmental Conservation Police Officer and Forest Ranger Recruits Begin Basic Training

Forest Ranger and ECO Recruits Start 29-Week Training Academy in Cleveland and Pulaski

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has opened the 22nd Basic School for Uniformed Officers, the 29-week training academy in Pulaski to prepare the newest class of recruits for careers as Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) and Forest Rangers, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today.

"The men and women choosing to become Forest Rangers and ECOs are continuing the proud tradition of the first environmentalists. These officers have been serving on the front lines since the late 1800s, protecting New York's environment, natural resources, and citizens," Commissioner Seggos said. "I applaud these recruits for selecting a noble career in state service and wish them well as they embark on this journey."

The academy opened Sunday, May 19, with 42 ECO and 16 Forest Ranger candidates reporting for duty. Of the 58, 10 are women - seven ECO recruits and three Forest Ranger recruits. The future officers hail from 31 counties across New York State, with three recruits from New Jersey, and one each from Maine and North Carolina. The recruits range in age from 22 to 48 years old.

The academy runs from Sunday evenings to Friday afternoons, during which time recruits will log 1,538 hours of training. While the first few weeks focus primarily on basic police skills such as physical training, drill and ceremony, and computer skills, recruits will delve into intensive instruction including firearms training, swiftwater rescues, wildland fire suppression, and emergency vehicle operation. Graduation is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 6.

ECO job duties are centered on the 71 chapters of New York State Environmental Conservation Law and range from investigating deer poaching, conducting surveillance on a company suspected of dumping chemical waste, or checking fishing licenses on a local waterway. In 2018, ECOs responded to more than 21,668 calls and issued more than 20,665 tickets.

"These next six months of training will prepare our recruits to face a diverse workload of cases in both general law enforcement and environmental law," said DEC Division of Law Enforcement Director Bernard Rivers. "ECOs are the Thin Green Line protecting New Yorkers from environmental pollution and exploitation, whether enforcing clean air and water regulations, supporting fish and wildlife laws, or investigating large scale environmental crimes."

Forest Ranger duties focus on the public's use of DEC-administered state lands and forests and can span from patrolling state properties to conducting search and rescue operations to fighting forest fires. In 2018, DEC Forest Rangers conducted 346 search-and-rescue missions that helped protect the public, extinguished 105 wildfires that burned a total of 845 acres, participated in 24 prescribed fires that burned and rejuvenated 610 acres, and worked on cases that resulted in 2,354 tickets or arrests.

"Once trained, these men and women will be entrusted to protect New York State's natural resources and nearly five million acres of state and public lands," said Division of Forest Protection Director Eric Lahr. "They will develop the necessary skills to enforce various state and environmental conservation laws, conduct wilderness search and rescues for lost or injured persons, and manage wildfire incidents across the state and beyond."

ECOs and Forest Rangers are full-fledged New York State Police officers and are often called upon to assist in some of New York's most important police work. They were among the first responders on the scene to help in the aftermath of Sept. 11, assisted in the response to Superstorm Sandy, helped in the 2015 search for two escaped felons from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, and have traveled to battle wildfires in western states.

ECOs, originally called Game Protectors, were first appointed for service in 1880.

The first Forest Rangers, originally known as Fire Wardens, were put into service in 1885 when the New York State Legislature established the Forest Preserve of New York State.

The recruits in this newest class were selected from an eligible list of qualifications and passing scores generated from the most recent Civil Service exam, which became active in March of 2017. To view job qualifications for ECOs, visit the Environmental Conservation Officer job description web page and for Forest Rangers, visit the Forest Ranger job description web page. For an inside look into what it takes to be an ECO or a Forest Ranger, watch a 4-minute clip from 2017's Basic School for Uniformed Officers available on YouTube.

Upon graduation, recruits will be assigned patrol areas, typically consisting of one or two counties. They will join the ranks of 284 ECOs and 131 Forest Rangers currently serving across the state.

Throughout the Basic School, DEC will be hosting media availability dates. For media inquiries, contact Benning DeLaMater, public information officer, at (518) 402-8000 or benning.delamater@dec.ny.gov.

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