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For Release: Tuesday, March 28, 2023

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 2022, DEC Forest Rangers conducted 359 search and rescue missions, extinguished 162 wildfires covering more than 1,300 acres, participated in 53 prescribed fires that served to rejuvenate nearly 900 acres of land, and worked on cases that resulted in hundreds of tickets and arrests.

"With more people visiting State lands and enjoying New York's myriad, world-class outdoor recreational opportunities, DEC's Forest Rangers are on the front lines to help visitors get outside responsibly and get home safely," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "Each day, these highly trained first responders are protecting irreplaceable natural resources and utilizing their expert knowledge of wildland fire suppression, wilderness first aid, land navigation, law enforcement, and technical rescue techniques to successfully execute critical missions, for DEC and our countless local, state, and national partners."

Town of Chesterfield
Essex County
Evidence Search and Recovery:
On March 20 at 9:45 a.m., New York State Police (NYSP) requested Forest Ranger assistance in an evidence search connected to a homicide investigation at Ausable Chasm. When Rangers arrived, they were asked to recover the body of a homicide victim thrown more than 100 feet down the chasm. Rangers rappelled down, found the victim, packaged the body, and used a technical rope system to return the victim back above the cliff. NYSP identified the victim as 37-year-old Kenneth Darrah from Keeseville. NYSP arrested two individuals in connection with the homicide. Rangers spent hours scaling the cliff looking for evidence in the case. Anything found was turned over NYSP. Resources were clear at 6:15 p.m.

Rangers scaling a large roadside cliff
Ausable Chasm evidence search

view from cliffside, looking down at rangers while scaling the rockface
Ausable Chasm evidence search

Town of Webb
Herkimer County
Helicopter Long Line Operation:
On March 21, Forest Rangers assisted DEC staff from the Divisions of Lands and Forests, Operations, and the Bureau of Fisheries with helicopter sling load operations in the Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness. Approximately 17,000 pounds of bridge materials were flown from the Old Forge airport to the vicinity of the East Pond-Lost Creek trail by NYSP Aviation. Rangers assisted with rigging the bundles of materials, communications support, and facilitating ground operations at the drop zone. For recent Academy graduates Rangers Dixon and Waligory, the operation provided valuable experience coordinating with DEC's frequent partners at NYSP Aviation. A short video of the operation is available at DEC's website.

Rangers looking up at helicopter during sling load operations
Helicopter sling load operation

Towns of Brookhaven and Southampton
Suffolk County
Prescribed Burns:
On March 21, Forest Rangers, DEC Wildlife staff, the Central Pine Barrens Commission, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Albany Pine Bush, and other DEC volunteers conducted a prescribed fire at Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest. The grassland fire helps reduce wildfire risks to nearby communities and supports DEC's ongoing efforts to stem southern pine beetle infestations. A total of 32 acres were burned.

On March 23, Forest Rangers, DEC Lands and Forest staff, and the Central Pine Barrens Commission conducted a prescribed fire in woodland burn piles in the Pine Barrens Preserve in Southampton. One acre of land was burned.

Rangers monitor large prescribed fire in a field
Prescribed fire in Brookhaven

smoke and flames in a field during prescribed fire
Prescribed fire in Brookhaven

flames burn in a field during prescribed fire
Prescribed fire in Brookhaven

burning pile of large branches and stumps during prescirbed fire
Prescribed fire in Southampton

Town of Mount Morris
Livingston County
Public Outreach:
On March 22, Forest Ranger Lieutenant Wickens and Ranger Cordell attended a career fair at Genesee Valley BOCES, Mount Morris campus. The event showcased more than 100 different careers and summer job opportunities for students to explore. The Genesee Valley BOCES offers a conservation program where students learn about tree identification, forest management, and heavy equipment operation associated with the care and control of forest resources. Ranger Cordell and Lieutenant Wickens discussed a Forest Ranger's day-to-day job responsibilities and education requirements.

Ranger speaks with person at informational table during career fair
Ranger Cordell at Genesee Valley BOCES Career Fair

Town of Huron
Wayne County
Law Enforcement:
After observing the harvest of a large amount of cattails from the Lakeshore Marshes Wildlife Management Area, Forest Ranger Raffaldi spent a significant amount of time patrolling the area. For centuries, the leaves of cattails have been harvested and utilized for wooden barrel caulking and can be sold for monetary gain. On March 22, while on patrol, Ranger Raffaldi saw two individuals walking through a cattail marsh. From a distance, Ranger Raffaldi observed the subjects collect and bundle cattails. If done with a permit, this is a legal activity. However, Ranger Raffaldi determined the 63-year-old from Sodus and 32-year-old from Lyons did not have the required permits. The pair were issued tickets for illegal cattail harvest.

a backpack and bundles of harvested cattails
Confiscated cattails

Town of Olive
Ulster County
Wilderness Search:
On March 22 at 5:30 p.m., Forest Ranger Franceschina responded to a call from a hiker on Ashokan High Point who was worried she would not return before dark. The 50-year-old from New York City didn't realize how deep the snow would be and was exhausted from post-holing on the trial. The hiker was three miles from the trailhead in thigh deep snow and did not have a light source. Ranger Franceschina reached the hiker and helped her back to the trailhead by 8:30 p.m.

While it is Spring, the weather conditions in the mountains are still more like winter. Hikers are encouraged to check local forecasts, dress appropriately for the weather, and consider that temperatures will be lower, winds will be stronger, and the snow will be deeper on mountain summits.

Town of Fishkill
Dutchess County
Public Outreach:
On March 25, Forest Ranger Russo joined Smokey Bear at the Fresh Air Fund's annual maple celebration. Ranger Russo helped spread the word about wildfire prevention. The event at the Sharpe Reservation brought out hundreds of visitors who learned about maple syrup and experienced nature, arts and crafts, and a planetarium show.

Ranger and Smokey Bear pose for a photo
Ranger Russo and Smokey Bear at maple celebration

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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