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Forest Rangers

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DEC Dispatch

If you have an emergency where a forest ranger is needed, call 911 and ask for DEC Forest Ranger assistance or call the DEC Dispatch at 1-833-NYS-RANGERS (1-833-697-7264).

The mission of the Division of Forest Protection is to provide public safety and state land protection through expertise in wildland search, rescue, fire, law enforcement, and incident management throughout the State of New York. The Division protects five million acres of state-owned, department-managed lands and easements, as well as the people who use these lands. Forest Rangers promote an understanding of New York's wild lands and the proper use of its natural resources. They teach both adults and children how to avoid life threatening situations, while promoting natural resource protection.

Forest Ranger with Smokey who is high-fiving a young child being held in parents arms

For more than 100 years, New York State Forest Rangers have extinguished wildfires, found and rescued the lost and injured, and enforced state land use and wildfire prevention laws. Over three million acres of lands and easements managed by DEC are in the Adirondack Park, but every region has substantial state land resources that support public recreational use, habitat protection, and open space.

The New York State Forest Ranger force is composed of 134 forest rangers, lieutenants, captains, and directors stationed at locations across the state, with the greatest numbers located in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks. Each ranger has a geographic territory in which they live and is responsible for the preservation, protection, enhancement of the state's forest resources as well as the safety and well-being of the public using these resources.

Watch a special On The Frontlines to learn what a typical day is for a DEC Forest Ranger.

Check out a video on becoming a DEC Forest Ranger.

Forest Ranger Video Testimonials

The following links go to DEC's YouTube channel


Ranger holding a radar to track speed of snowmobiliers

Forest Rangers are sworn Police Officers authorized to enforce all state laws, with special emphasis on Environmental Conservation Law, the protection of state lands, and the public using state lands. Every Forest Ranger must successfully complete a rigorous 26-week Basic Training School before being assigned to a geographic area.

The NYS Environmental Conservation Law gives authority to the DEC Forest Rangers to direct search and rescue missions as well as provide training and support to other agencies that do the same.

Each day, regardless of weather, a ranger may patrol their assigned areas by vehicle, boat, ATV, snowmobile, aircraft, bicycle, foot, skis, or snowshoes.

Search and Rescue

Multiple forest rangers performing a rescue of a hiker

Forest Rangers organize and conduct wildland search and rescue operations. These missions consist of searching for lost persons, downed civilian aircraft, and rescue operations for persons injured or in serious danger of injury in wild and remote areas. Search and rescue operations often lead Rangers into remote wilderness areas, from the rugged mountainous peaks of the Adirondacks to low lying river valleys. Their knowledge of advanced first aid, land navigation, and rope rescue techniques are often critical to the success of a mission.

Coordination of Forces

Critical to the success of these missions is the support of state and local organizations. NY State Police Aviation helicopters provide an aerial search platform, crew insertion and patient medivac. Local volunteer fire departments and search and rescue groups provide ground searching and logistical resources while the local sheriff's offices provide local government liaison. All of these resources working together are critical to the success of any mission.

Fire Management

Two rangers at a control fire

Wildland fire management, including prevention and suppression, has been a traditional role of the Forest Rangers job. Today's Ranger is responsible for planning forest fire suppression activities and supervising wildland firefighting forces. Rangers provide training to volunteers and local fire departments in wildland firefighting techniques. Each Ranger is trained and equipped for immediate response to outbreaks of wildfires.

For more information on wildfires, visit DEC's Wildfires webpage.

Continuous Training

Forest Rangers have developed training courses to teach volunteers who assist with searches. They are trained in search management, national incident command system (ICS), map and compass, search techniques, and the use of global positioning system (GPS) units. Rangers are represented on an ASTM National Standards subcommittee for search and rescue and are continually looking for ways to advance and improve the ability of state and local agencies to successfully respond to search and rescue incidents.


New York State Forest Rangers endorse the hikeSafe program (leave's DEC's website) as a means of preparing hikers and campers for their outdoor adventure.


Interested in becoming a Forest Ranger? Find out if you qualify. There are also civilian employment opportunities available with the Division of Forest Protection.

Day in the Life of a Forest Ranger

Ranger Lt. David Pachan

A Look at Lieutenant Pachan's Love for His Forest Ranger Career

"It is very common for a complete stranger to walk up to me and say, 'I always wanted to be a forest ranger. I wish I had your job.' And every time someone says that, it makes me feel incredibly lucky to have this job," Lieutenant David Pachan said.

Pachan knew early on that he wanted to be a forest ranger. He always enjoyed hiking, fishing and camping, so a career involving activities he likes to do while recreating seemed a clear choice for him.

What does a forest ranger do exactly?

"Forest rangers are police officers. We enforce all New York State laws with an emphasis on Environmental Conservation Law," Pachan said.

Though the job is seldom routine and you never know what the next day will bring, forest rangers have a few key duties.

They conduct search and rescue missions for lost or injured persons across New York State. They also protect wildlands from fire which includes both fire prevention as well as firefighting.

Public outreach and education are crucial aspects of a ranger's job. "We often visit schools to talk to students about the job of a forest ranger. We also teach search and rescue and wildland fire suppression courses," he said.

Forest rangers focus their law enforcement duties on state lands, protecting them from abuse and ensuring that everyone follows "Leave no Trace" (leaves DEC website) outdoor recreation practices.

Being a Forest Ranger Not for Everyone

"You need to be self-motivated. We work with very limited supervision, "Pachan said, adding, "Good land navigation skills are a must. You have to be comfortable by yourself since you are often navigating in the back country wilderness alone."

But you also have to be good with people. Rangers deal with people all the time. "Nothing is better than when you can help someone who needs it the most, whether they are lost or injured in the woods, or helping someone out because they have a complaint," he said. An extremely rewarding aspect of the job for Pachan is when he tells people about the work and finds out they may be interested but never knew it was a career option.

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