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For Release: Tuesday, April 25, 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."

Towns of Cameron, Groveland, Lysander, and Riverhead
Livingston, Onondaga, Steuben and Suffolk Counties
Prescribed Fires:
On April 12, Forest Rangers and other DEC personnel completed an interagency prescribed burn of approximately 75 acres in the town of Groveland. The burn at Sonyea State Forest included short grasses and brush. Because the targeted land is positioned between Groveland Correctional Facility and Interstate 390, smoke management was a focus of the successful efforts.

On April 14, Forest Rangers and DEC personnel completed an interagency prescribed burn of approximately 45 acres in the town of Cameron. The burn at Helmer Creek Wildlife Management Area included short grasses as part of the effort to protect the timber rattlesnake habitat.

On April 20, Forest Rangers and DEC personnel completed an interagency prescribed burn with Central Pine Barrens and Brookhaven National Laboratory of approximately 27.5 acres of land in the town of Riverhead.

On April 21, Forest Rangers and DEC wildlife staff completed a prescribed burn of approximately 26 acres of land in the town of Lysander.

Prescribed fires help prevent the spread of invasive species and reduce the risk of uncontrolled wildfires. More information and video about prescribed fires is available at DEC's Facebook page (leaves DEC website).

Ranger monitors edge of prescribed fire in the woods
Controlled fire at Albany Pine Bush

Aerial view of large blackened area from prescribed fire
Controlled fire at Helmer Creek

large orange flames and dark smoke rise from prescribed fire area
Controlled fire at Helmer Creek

smoke and fire surround a large pine tree during prescribed fire
Controlled fire in Riverhead

Ranger uses a tool to light a prescribed fire beween a parking lot and grassy field
Ranger Russo at controlled fire in Shawangunk

Rangers perform prescribed fire in a grassy habitat
Controlled fire in Lysander

City of Rochester
Monroe County
Public Outreach:
On April 16, Forest Ranger Raffaldi, Environmental Conservation Police Officer Snowdon, and Environmental Educator Ukeritis participated in Youth Fishing Day at Cobbs Hill Park in Rochester. Coordinated with the city of Rochester's Department of Recreation, the event attracted more than 250 participants of various ages and abilities. Ranger Raffaldi helped the youth bait hooks, cast, and unhook their quarry. The event also included indoor science activities, yard games, and an introduction to fly tying.

Ranger, ECO, and DEC Staffer stand at table with fishing gear during event
Ranger Raffaldi, ECO Snowdon, and Environmental Educator Ukeritis at Cobbs Hill Park

Kids fishing on the edge of a pond
Youth Fishing Day at Cobbs Hill Park

Village of Oriskany
Oneida County
On April 18 and 19, Forest Rangers Kennedy, Martin, and Virkler attended a two-day Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) training in Oriskany. The training was held in conjunction with the Flood Incident Strike Team "FIST," a multi-agency team equipped and trained to respond to a variety of swift water and flood events. UAS pilots refreshed swift water skills and terminology before being embedded with FIST teams for a full-day exercise on the Moose and Black rivers. UAS pilots provided FIST teams with assistance locating subjects, scouting river conditions, and monitoring deployed resources. UAS pilots from New York State Police, New York State Fire, New York State Park Police, and DEC's Division of Law Enforcement all participated.

Aerial view of Rangers in the water during training
Unmanned Aerial Systems training

Aerial view of Rangers near waterfall
Unmanned Aerial Systems training

Essex County
High Peaks Utility Flights:
On April 18 and 20, Forest Rangers worked with New York State Police (NYSP) Aviation on their annual High Peaks utility flights. NYSP pilots Kotronis, Sgt. Kneer, and Sgt. Haberneck conducted 29 sling loads over a two-day period, delivering building material and supplies to three interior outposts in the High Peaks region. In addition, materials prepared by Lean2Rescue to rebuild four lean-tos in the Lake Colden area were delivered to remote sites. With the materials on site, Lean2Rescue can begin working on the structures.

view from the ground as a helicopter flies overhead
High Peaks utility flight

Rangers standby as helicopter hovers in field
High Peaks utility flight

Three people kneel in the snow as a helicopter hovers nearby
High Peaks utility flight

Town of Cherry Creek
Chautauqua County
Public Outreach:
On April 21, Forest Ranger Richer and Forester Draves met with trail volunteers to review a trail improvement project on Boutwell Hill State Forest. These trails are part of the Eastside Overland Trail system. Proposed improvements would enhance the sustainability of the existing system. Friends of Chautauqua County Greenways will undertake the work, helping DEC manage trails in Chautauqua County.

Ranger and Volunteers on a hiking trail in the woods
Trail improvement project

Town of Newcomb
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue
: On April 22 at 6:50 p.m., Ray Brook dispatch received a call from two subjects in their 20s near the summit of Mount Marshall. The hikers were concerned they couldn't make it back down. Forest Ranger Mecus spoke to the pair on the phone and learned they were planning a day hike using an app for navigation, but couldn't access the app due to poor service. The hikers continued anyway, but had trouble following the path due to fog and the low cloud ceiling. Ranger Mecus instructed them to start walking down. The hikers had a tough time because they only had one headlamp, but reached the Calamity lean-to, where they spent the night. At 9:19 a.m., Rangers Corey and Sabo met the hikers below the highwater crossing. Rangers provided food and warmth, and helped them back to their vehicle. Resources were clear at 10:37 a.m.

DEC reminds New Yorkers that the annual statewide ban prohibiting residential brush burning began March 16 and runs through May 14. The largest cause of spring brushfires in New York is residential burning. More information is available on the DEC website.

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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