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For Release: Tuesday, December 27, 2022

DEC Forest Rangers - Week in Review

Recent Statewide 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 2021, DEC Forest Rangers conducted 426 search and rescue missions, extinguished wildfires, participated in prescribed fires that served to rejuvenate hundreds of acres of land, and worked on cases that resulted in thousands of tickets or arrests.

"Over the last decade, as well as during the COVID-19 pandemic, DEC saw an increase in people visiting State lands to experience New York's abundant opportunities for outdoor recreation," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "DEC's Forest Rangers continue to be on the front lines to help visitors get outside responsibly and get home safely, as well as to protect our state's irreplaceable natural resources. Rangers' knowledge of first aid, land navigation, and technical rescue techniques are critical to the success of their missions, which for more than a century have taken them from remote wilderness areas with rugged mountain peaks, to white water rivers, and throughout our vast forests statewide."

Hamlet of Deer Park
Suffolk County
Illegal Tree Cutting:
On Nov. 6, Forest Ranger Scott investigated a complaint of illegal tree cutting in the Edgewood Oak Brush Plains Preserve. The complainant stated the suspect from Lindenhurst recorded himself using different knives, axes, and machetes on the trees. The suspect had already cut a trail leading to a clearing and stored several chairs and a makeshift bench. The suspect posted videos on the internet, but the videos did not show his face so Ranger Scott set up a trail camera near the clearing and caught the suspect on Nov. 21. Ranger Scott issued tickets for cutting and damaging trees on state land and storing personal property on state land.

tree in the woods that has been chopped at
Illegal tree cutting

Tree in the woods with bark removed and a cut in it from a tool
Illegal tree cutting

tree stumps in the woods where trees were cut illegally
Illegal tree cutting

Town of Rockland
Sullivan County
ATV Through the Ice:
On Dec. 20, Retired Forest Ranger Lieutenant Morse reported an ATV broke through the ice on Waneta Lake in Willowemoc Wild Forest. Ranger Stratton responded and issued tickets to the two subjects from Pennsylvania for unauthorized motor vehicle use on state land. A tow company removed the ATV from the lake.

Rangers use ropes to pull ATV out of the ice on a lake
ATV through the ice on Waneta Lake

ATV out of the water and on the ice, with rope attached
ATV through the ice on Waneta Lake

ATV being loaded onto a tow truck
ATV through the ice on Waneta Lake

Town of Cheektowaga
Erie County
Search and Rescue Training:
On Dec. 22, Forest Ranger Staples provided SARTopo (Search and rescue mapping program) training to 10 Rangers at Reinstein Nature Preserve. A SARTopo app can be used by personnel in the field during searches and rescues to maximize efforts. The training covered frequently used techniques that can create and share search blocks, document tracks from search and rescue personnel in the field, and mark entire flight paths of drones that are used in search and rescue missions.

Forest Rangers sit at tables with laptops during training
SARTopo training

Erie, Genesee, St. Lawrence, and Sullivan Counties
Storm Response:
On Dec. 24-27, Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) assisted County emergency personnel during a massive winter storm. On Dec. 24, there were more than 100 calls to Jefferson County 911 for stranded motorists. In addition to rescuing people from their cars, Rangers helped deliver cots to a warming center at the Hammond Volunteer Fire Department. In Genesee County, Rangers checked 39 disabled vehicles, rescued nine stranded individuals, and transported three essential healthcare workers to Oishei Children's Hospital in Buffalo. On Dec. 25, Rangers checked more than 60 disabled vehicles and assisted numerous stranded motorists in Genesee County, among other actions throughout the holiday. DEC's storm response is continuing with Rangers and ECOs working with New York State Police wherever they are needed.

Ranger looks into window of snow-covered vehicle
Ranger Dixon checking vehicle in Jefferson County

Rangers and vechile outside of hospital, rangers shoveling pathway to entrance of hospital
Rangers respond to hospital for snow removal

Rangers on snowmobiles at night during winter storm
Rangers respond to storm via snowmobile

Rangers next to vechile during winter storm response
Rangers respond to Western New York storm

Be sure to properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC's Hike Smart NY, Adirondack Backcountry Information, and Catskill Backcountry Information webpages for more information.

If a person needs a Forest Ranger, whether it's for a search and rescue, to report a wildfire, or to report illegal activity on state lands and easements, they should call 833-NYS-RANGERS. If a person needs urgent assistance, they can call 911. To contact a Forest Ranger for information about a specific location, the DEC website has phone numbers for every Ranger listed by region.

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