Press Release- Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the graduation of 31 Environmental Conservation Officers and nine Forest Rangers from the State Department of Environmental Conservation's 21st Basic School for Uniformed Officers.
The 40 new officers received their diplomas in a formal ceremony at the Kallet Theater in Pulaski yesterday, Friday, August 25.
"These officers and Forest Rangers are the first line of protection for New York's environment, and with the addition of this graduate class, our natural resources and wildlife will continue to be a top priority as we protect the health and safety of New Yorkers and visitors alike," Governor Cuomo said. "I congratulate this new class of officers who will serve this state by upholding New York's rich tradition of environmental stewardship, and safeguarding our citizens and our natural resources for generations to come."
The Basic School was held at the Office of Public Protection's Training Academy in Pulaski, Oswego County, which runs along the Salmon River.
The Academy began February 12 and ran for 28 weeks. Training and coursework include environmental conservation law, criminal procedure, vehicle and traffic laws, physical conditioning, firearms, wildlife identification, emergency vehicle operations, search and rescue, land navigation, boating, and wildfire suppression.
"New York's environment and natural resources are better served and protected thanks to these dedicated men and women," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "Our new ECO's will safeguard the health of our air, land, water and wildlife. Our new Forest Rangers will protect more than five million acres of state lands from forest fires and execute search and rescue missions throughout the state. These graduates are a great addition to the proud history and dedicated ranks of Forest Rangers and ECOs across New York."
21st Basic School Graduates:
Environmental Conservation Officers
ECO Sara G. Barrett, Phelps, NY
ECO Aaron J. Bonilla, North Syracuse, NY
ECO Taylor M. Della Rocco, Berne, NY
ECO Brendan P. Dickson, East Quogue, NY
ECO Shane T. Dobies, Canandaigua, NY
ECO Connor A. Dodge, North Tonawanda, NY
ECO Jeremy M. Fadden, Lake Placid, NY
ECO Ryan T. Grogan, Herkimer, NY
ECO Joshua P. Harvey, Wanakena, NY
ECO Corey J. Hornicek, Hortonville, NY
ECO Jacob A. Jankowski, Dunkirk, NY
ECO Joshua T. Jarecki, Clayville, NY
ECO Jeffrey P. Johnston, Warminster, PA
ECO Robert M. Kaufherr, Centereach, NY
ECO Ryan W. Kelley, Paul Smiths, NY
ECO Zachary M. Kochanowski, Waterville, NY
ECO Amanda M. Lerch, Dix Hills, NY
ECO Robert J. McCabe, Wading River, NY
ECO Adam L. Muchow, Clarence, NY
ECO Nicholas G. Nicholas, Johnstown, NY
ECO Dustin T. Osborne, South New Berlin, NY
ECO Daniel R. Plows, Brookfield, NY
ECO Zachary T. Prentice, Auburn, NY
ECO Sean W. Rockefeller, Olean, NY
ECO Matthew S. Rutherford, Averill Park, NY
ECO Chloe S. Swansen, Putnam Valley, NY
ECO Matthew T. Thibodeau, Fort Edward, NY
ECO Kevin N. Wamsley, Pine Plains, NY
ECO Ryan W. Wing, Mt. Vision, NY
ECO Max D. Woyton, Naples, NY
ECO Michael Wozniak, Lancaster, NY
FR Calee C. Baker, Warrensburg, NY
FR Mark A. Brand, Buffalo, NY
FR Richard D. Franke, Jr., Liberty, NY
FR John T. Gagne, Round Top, NY
FR Lincoln N. Hanno, Castorland, NY
FR Matthew S. Hettenbaugh, Cherry Creek, NY
FR Patrick L. Lee, Lowville, NY
FR John J. Rusher, IV, Toms River, NJ
FR Ryan A. Wickens, Geneva, NY
ECOs, originally called Game Protectors, were first appointed in 1880 and undertake actions ranging from investigating deer and checking fishing licenses on local waterways to conducting surveillance on corporate chemical dumping. Across the state in 2016, ECOs responded to 26,400 calls and issued 22,150 tickets for crimes ranging from deer poaching to corporate toxic dumping and illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.
"Since 1880, but now more than ever, the mission of the Division of Law Enforcement is vital to the protection of New York's abundant natural resources," said Joseph Schneider, Director of DEC's Division of Law Enforcement. "From Montauk Point and the City of Buffalo to deep in the Adirondack wilderness, ECOs protect New Yorkers from environmental damage and exploitation, whether enforcing clean air and water regulations, supporting fish and wildlife laws, investigating large scale environmental crimes, and ensuring solid waste is properly managed."
Originally known as Fire Wardens, the Forest Rangers were established in 1885 with the creation of the Forest Preserve. Their duties focus on protecting state lands and forests and include search and rescue missions, wildfire suppression and educating the public on the safe use of state lands. In 2016, DEC Forest Rangers conducted 356 search and rescue missions, extinguished 185 wildfires that burned a total of 4,191 acres, and worked on cases that resulted in nearly 3,000 tickets or arrests.
"These men and women are entrusted to protect New York State's vast natural resources and millions of acres of state and public lands," said Eric Lahr, Director of DEC's Division of Forest Protection. "No matter the weather, terrain or hour of the day, our Forest Rangers safeguard against illegal public land use, search for lost or missing persons in the wilderness, rescue outdoor recreationists and visitors injured in the backcountry, and protect our forest lands from wildfire."
The graduating class will join the ranks of 275 ECOs and 131 Forest Rangers currently serving across the state. Recruits in this newest class were selected from an eligible list of qualifications and passing scores generated from the most recent Civil Service exam, which was given in 2013.
To view job qualifications for State ECOs, visit the Environmental Conservation Officer job description webpage on DEC's website at www.dec.ny.gov/about/746.html; for Forest Rangers, visit the Forest Ranger job description webpage at www.dec.ny.gov/about/732.html.