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For Release: Tuesday, July 21, 2020

DEC Statewide Forest Ranger highlights

Recent Forest Ranger Actions

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Forest Rangers respond to search and rescue incidents statewide. Working with other state agencies, local emergency response organizations, and volunteer search and rescue groups, Forest Rangers locate and extract lost, injured, or distressed people from across New York State.

In 2019, DEC Forest Rangers conducted 337 search and rescue missions, extinguished 74 wildfires that burned a total of 212 acres, participated in 29 prescribed fires that burned and rejuvenated 645 acres, and worked on cases that resulted in 2,507 tickets or arrests.

"DEC celebrates our 50th anniversary this year, but our Forest Rangers have been on the front lines for even longer, protecting New York's wildlife, natural resources, residents, and visitors for more than a century," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "The State's brave Forest Rangers have a vast knowledge of first aid, land navigation, and technical rescue techniques that are critical to the success of their missions in remote wilderness areas, rugged mountainous peaks, white water rivers, frozen lakes, and forested areas statewide. We are proud of the work our Forest Rangers perform and look forward to another 50 years and beyond of highly trained service."

Town of North Elba
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 15 at 4:16 p.m., Essex County 911 transferred a call to DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch from a man who got lost off the trail for Wright and Algonquin mountains and ended up on what appeared to be a steep ledge. Coordinates showed the man had followed the drainage down Macintyre Brook. Forest Ranger Megan LaPierre responded to assist and coordinated with the Algonquin Summit Steward on a search plan. At 6:04 p.m., Ranger LaPierre advised that she was with the hiker and that the summit steward could stand down. Ranger LaPierre escorted the 35-year-old hiker from Saratoga Springs back to the trail where he was reunited with his group.

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 15 at 8:23 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a radio transmission from Johns Brook Lodge (JBL) reporting a 36-year-old male hiker from Watervliet suffering from dizziness, fatigue, and struggling to walk approximately 3.5 miles up the trail at an intersection known as Shorty Shortcut. A member of the man's hiking party went down the mountain to report his illness and request assistance. He also reported that one of the two people with the man was a nurse. Forest Ranger Rob Praczkajlo responded and determined the group would likely reach JBL by midnight at the earliest. In response, the Ranger took an ATV into the Johns Brook Outpost where he met with one of the hiker's companions and the ADK Johns Brook Caretaker who told him the general location of the ill hiker on the trail. Ranger Praczkajlo proceeded in on foot and located the hiker near Bushnell Falls at 1 a.m. After resting, receiving water, food, and a headlamp, the ill hiker and his companions slowly made their way down to JBL, arriving at 2:30 a.m. Once at JBL, Ranger Praczkajlo stayed with two hikers too exhausted to continue hiking out to their vehicle and requested an ATV and Ranger to safely escort the pair back to the trailhead. Earlier that day, the hikers parked three miles away in the Hamlet of Keene Valley because the Garden lot was full. The hikers underestimated the additional effort required to hike the added distance.

Region 5 and Region 7
Whitewater Workshops
On July 16, American Canoe Association (ACA) whitewater kayak instructors Art Perryman, Bruce Lomnitzer, and Jason Scott hosted an ACA kayaking workshop for Zone D Forest Rangers on the Hudson River. On July 17, ACA canoe instructors Bruce Lomnitzer and Jason Scott hosted a similar workshop for Forest Rangers who patrol and check guides' licenses on the Salmon River in Region 7. The instructors taught swiftwater paddling skills and rescue techniques with the use of inflatable kayaks.

Forest Rangers and instructors paddling kayaks in water
ACA Instructors host kayaking workshop for DEC Forest Rangers

Town of North Elba
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 18 at 11:30 a.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a request for assistance for two hikers stuck on the Trap Dike. The hikers exited the Trap Dike too soon and became stranded on the south side. The pair was advised to stay put and not try to go back due to the steepness of the terrain. Two Forest Rangers responded to assist. The Lake Colden caretaker saw the hikers but could not establish voice contact. Forest Rangers and the New York State Police (NYSP) Aviation unit performed a hoist rescue to bring the hikers safely to the base of the Trap Dike so they could hike out. The Lake Colden caretaker then paddled the stranded hikers and Forest Ranger Robbi Mecus to the end of Avalanche Lake where they started the hike back and were out of the woods by 8:02 p.m.

Forest Ranger and hikers on rocky mountain area with ropes
DEC Forest Rangers assist in hoist rescue on Trap Dike

View from bottom of rocky mountain area looking up to Forest Rangers rescuing hikers with ropes
DEC Forest Rangers rescue hikers from Trap Dike

Town of Hunter
Greene County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 18, a 25-year-old woman from Poughkeepsie injured herself while swimming at Fawns Leap, Kaaterskill Falls, when she jumped approximately 29 feet off a cliff. The woman landed hard on the water and experienced pain in the chest and ribs and had difficulty moving. Forest Ranger Rob Dawson responded to the location, performed a medical evaluation, and stayed on scene until Hunter Ambulance arrived. The woman was transported by ambulance to a local hospital for evaluation and treatment.

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 18 at 9:05 p.m., a group of hikers in the Adirondack Mountain Reserve, near the High Peaks Wilderness Area, contacted DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch reporting a member of their party was having issues walking due to a recent hip replacement. The subject was waiting at the dam on Lower Au Sable Lake for Ranger assistance. Forest Ranger Rob Praczkajlo responded to assist and drove his patrol vehicle to the dam to locate the 22-year-old injured hiker from Potomac, Maryland. At 10:11 p.m., Ranger Praczkajlo was back at the gate with the hiker who advised she would seek medical attention on her own.

Town of Persia
Cattaraugus County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 19 at 1:30 p.m., Forest Ranger Bob Rogers responded to Zoar Valley for a reported injured hiker. The 58-year-old woman from Grand Island was part of a party of eight hikers when she fell and twisted her ankle while trying to get around fallen trees. Ranger Rogers, Assistant Forest Ranger Korah Witherell, and members of local fire departments quickly located the woman and provided basic first aid, including splinting her ankle. The injury was non-weight bearing, so the subject was carried out during a thunderstorm. The hikers and rescuers were out of the woods by 3:15 p.m.

Town of Clifton
St. Lawrence County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 20 at 8 a.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a request for assistance from a 25-year-old man from Honeoye Falls hiking the Cranberry 50 when he became fatigued about 20 miles into the woods. Forest Ranger Will Benzel responded to assist and after a brief interview determined the hiker was on the Gilbert Tract, which is located near the road heading into Cranberry Lake Campground. The Ranger picked up the hiker and provided him with a courtesy ride to his vehicle in Wanakena.

DEC Reminds Outdoor Adventurers to Play Smart * Play Safe * Play Local While Keeping Natural Areas Litter-Free

After receiving increased reports of visitors leaving trash behind after trips to State lands, waters, and facilities, particularly in the Adirondack Park and the Catskills, DEC reminds outdoor adventurers to follow the principles of Leave No Trace. Litter is both an eyesore and poses a danger to local wildlife and delicate ecosystems. DEC is encouraging visitors to the State's natural areas and facilities to keep New York's environment clean by properly disposing of waste and carrying out what you carry in. For more details visit DEC's website.

New York State COVID-19 Response:
DEC personnel from across agency divisions and regions across New York continue to support the State's response to the COVID-19 public health crisis. Personnel from more than 20 New York State agencies are working on response efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. DEC Forest Rangers' expertise in the Incident Command System (ICS) and experience in applying ICS to wide area searches and large wildland fire have made them a key part of this statewide effort.

Forest Ranger vehicles in a large parking lot with tents for COVID-19 testing in the background
Forest Rangers on duty at COVID-19 testing site in Binghamton

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