In the Spring of 2022, academies will begin for New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Division of Forest Protection Forest Rangers and Division of Law Enforcement Environmental Conservation Police Officer (ECO) candidates. Once there, candidates will be immersed in their learning environments and upon graduation join the ranks of the men and women who protect New York State’s natural resources and enforce state environmental laws.

If you receive DEC’s weekly email with ranger and ECO highlights, you will see a snapshot of what they do statewide. The highlights feature notable rescues of injured or ill hikers, wildland fire fighting and enforcement activities carried out by rangers and ECOs during the previous seven days. Both units take part in numerous outreach events throughout the year to build strong bonds with our communities.

What does it take to become an ECO or Forest Ranger? Candidates selected for the academies face a rigorous selection process. The candidates have passed either the exam for Forest Ranger 1 or Environmental Conservation Police Officer Trainee 1. They have a two- or four-year college degree with qualifying course work or military experience; and they have undergone psychological testing, a thorough background investigation, polygraph testing, physical ability tests, candidate interviews, and a medical clearance exam. After all that, they must successfully complete the physical and academic challenges of the academy.

Why would anyone go through this to enter a profession in which they will be called upon to respond to emergencies, complaints, and criminal activities at all hours regardless of the weather and terrain?

“The forest ranger position is as much a lifestyle as it is a career,” said Captain William Giraud, fire protection training officer. Recruits will gather in May of 2022 to attend Basic School for Forest Rangers at the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) Ranger School at Wanakena and at the SUNY ESF campus. The campuses are located with direct access to a working forest, forest preserve, and many different water resources.

Forest Ranger recruits receive the Department of Criminal Justice Services approved basic course for Police Officers; also training in Environmental Conservation Law; State land and natural resource protection; wildlife fire management and suppression, wildland search skills, incident management; advanced land navigation skills; backcountry preparedness and technical rescue skills training.

“DEC Forest Rangers should be well-organized and self-motivated with a high degree of integrity, leadership qualities, and the ability to work solo in both remote settings and cooperative environments as needs arise,” said Giraud.

And this is how the training, lifestyle, and personality comes into play. Over the Labor Day Weekend in Herkimer County, a father and son made a poor decision to illegally camp near the fire tower at the summit of Bald Mountain in the Fulton Chain Wild Forest. A Ranger was called to the summit and he was able to put out a small ground fire caused by an unattended campfire. The father and son were issued a ticket for camping within 150-feet of a trail and leaving their beer cans on state land.

A few days prior both Rangers and ECOs were activated to support the statewide response to Hurricane Ida. Trained in swift water rescue, they worked through the night and into the early hours of the next day in conjunction with other first responders to rescue people from the flood waters.

“EnCon Police spend a lot of time on the ground, looking for violations in various terrain and weather and responding to calls at a moment’s notice,” said Captain Aaron J. Gordon, DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement’s Training Unit.

At the DEC Police academy in Pulaski, ECO recruits will learn everything a standard New York State Police academy recruit learns, along with specialized training in ECO duties. The most recognized of these duties includes serving as New York’s protectors and enforcers of the Fish and Wildlife laws. Combined with environmental protection duties, ECOs are responsible for safeguarding the lands, water, and air of the state for the people and wildlife that call New York home. This requires a complete understanding of New York’s Environmental Conservation Law and associated regulations, and the ability to utilize boats, snowmobiles, and ATVs safely and effectively.

Complementing uniformed officers is the Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation (BECI), who investigate significant environmental crimes, as well as conduct long-term undercover investigations. Many ECO candidates have interacted with ECOs in the past, perhaps as a youth hunter during DEC-held youth turkey, waterfowl, and pheasant hunts for children ages 12 to 15.

Do you have what it takes to be a Forest Ranger or an ECO? Reach out to us and learn more about higher education and other qualifications, then start your journey to the training and experiences that will last a lifetime. Learn more about environmental law regulations and enforcement and associated careers on the DEC website: www.dec.ny.gov/65.html.

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