ALBANY, NY — New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York. In 2019, the 288 ECOs across the state responded to 25,704 calls and worked on cases that resulted in 16,855 tickets or arrests for crimes ranging from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.
Two-thousand-and-twenty marks 50 years for DEC and 140 Years for New York’s Conservation Police Officers. In 1880, the first eight Game Protectors proudly began serving to protect the natural resources and people of New York State.
“From Montauk Point and Brooklyn to Buffalo, the ECOs patrolling our state are the first line of defense in protecting New York’s environment and our natural resources, ensuring that they exist for future generations of New Yorkers,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Our ECOs have worked arduous hours, both deep in our remote wildernesses and in the tight confines of our urban landscapes, for far longer than the 50 years since DEC was created. These officers are critical to achieving DEC’s mission to protect and enhance our environment and I am confident they will continue this important mission for the next 50 years and beyond.”
If you witness an environmental crime or believe a violation of environmental law occurred, please call the DEC Division of Law Enforcement hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS(1-844-332-3267).
Too Many Bucks – Jefferson/ Onondaga Counties
On Sept. 8, ECO Noyes concluded a five-month investigation stemming from violations committed during the 2019 deer hunting season. ECO Noyes learned in April that an individual had shot two bucks on the same morning in the town of Ellisburg, and illegally used his friend’s tag on the second buck. After locating and interviewing Jason Burns of Cicero, the suspected poacher, ECO Noyes discovered several more instances of ECL violations—a total of 18 violations in Jefferson and Onondaga counties, including three bucks and one doe shot illegally. ECO Tabor worked with an Onondaga County ECO to file charges in the Town of Cicero Court and Town of Ellisburg Court against Burns. He agreed to a civil compromise and paid a penalty of $500.
“Cold Drinks! Get Your Cold Drinks Here!” – Jefferson County
This summer, ECOs Kochanowski and Jarecki were on patrol checking fishing access sites when the Officers came across two budding entrepreneurs taking advantage of the summer heat by luring in thirsty customers to a cold drink stand. It didn’t take long for the ECOs to approach the salesmen, 10-year-old Sackets Harbor residents Carter Cook and Jacob Weaver. The kids lined up beverages including ice-cold water, lemonade, and cranberry and apple juice. After selling the ECOs drinks, the duo explained how excited they were to meet Environmental Conservation Police Officers. Jacob even expressed that it was his dream to become an ECO because of his love of hunting and fishing. The Officers explained the hard work that goes into being an ECO and encouraged Jacob to chase his dream. Carter noted with a smile that will stick with the ECOs forever, “It’s true, one person can really make another person’s day.”
Great Egret, Great Recovery – Columbia County
On Aug. 24, ECO Davey received a report of an injured Great Egret on Ooms Pond in the town of Chatham. The egret reportedly had a severely broken leg tangled in discarded fishing line. ECO Davey formulated a plan with the help of concerned local citizens, which led to him piloting a boat toward the injured bird. After several attempts, ECO Davey managed to get a hand on the wading bird while avoiding its sharp yellow bill and returned to shore. The Officer turned the egret over to Friends of the Feathered and Furry Wildlife Center where staff placed a brace on the bird’s leg to stabilize the fracture. The bird will undergo rehabilitation and be released back into the wild at a future date.
Snap of the Day – Kings County
On Aug. 26, ECOs Veloski and Dodge received a call from a concerned homeowner regarding a large snapping turtle that had wandered into their front yard and got its carapace (shell) stuck in their fence. The ECOs successfully freed the two-foot common snapping turtle from the concrete fence without harming it. The turtle was strong and healthy and may have come from a nearby pond on a golf course. The ECOs released the turtle to a nearby freshwater pond without further incident.
Flood Incident Support Team Training – Warren County
During the last week of August and first week of September, New York State’s multi-agency Flood Incident Support Team (FIST), led by the State’s Office of Fire Prevention and Control and consisting of DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officers, DEC Forest Rangers, State Police, Parks Police, State Fire, and the State’s Task Force members participated in four, one-day training exercises on the Hudson and Sacandaga rivers in the town of Lake Luzerne. Each agency brought different equipment to train with throughout the day, allowing participants to familiarize themselves with each agency’s assets and equipment. ECOs attended with their specialized 21-foot SJX Jet Boat deployed during flooding and search and rescue events in swift- and low-water conditions. Additional trainings are scheduled across the state over the next several weeks.
Chemical Spill – Albany County
ECOs responded recently to a hazardous materials release at the SABIC Plastic Fabrication Company in Selkirk. DEC’s Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigators (BECI) and lieutenants assisted with response operations, air sampling, and staffed the incident command post along with DEC Spill and Emergency responders. Their knowledge and experience proved valuable to the effort and ensuring public safety. DEC has launched a comprehensive investigation of the incident and continues to closely oversee all required cleanup activities at the facility to ensure public health and the environment are protected. The investigation is ongoing.
Whipping Winds Strand Boaters – Herkimer County
On Sept. 7, ECO Tabor, four hours into an early morning shift checking goose hunters, noticed winds increase dramatically. At approximately 9 a.m., DEC Dispatch called him requesting assistance for stranded boaters on Stillwater Reservoir. The boat started taking in water from the waves as it attempted to return to the launch. At the same time, another party heading to the launch in paddle craft became overpowered by wind and waves, taking refuge on a small gravel bar. ECO Tabor called Forest Ranger Savarie, working nearby, who met the ECO at the Stillwater launch. The Officers then traveled to the stranded boaters’ locations in separate boats. At the island, the ECO/Forest Ranger team transferred the gear and people to the larger DEC vessel. With the load lightened, ECO Tabor operated the small boat closely behind the larger boat, allowing a safe crossing. With the first group safely back to the launch, the Officers picked up the second group and assisted them back to shore. In all, eight people, one motorboat, and four paddle craft were returned safely to the launch.
Wildlife Shooting Spree – Delaware County
On Sept. 13, ECO Osborne received a complaint from a farmer who witnessed a man shoot from his vehicle in the town of Deposit the previous evening. The complainant obtained the shooter’s license plate and ECO Osborne ran the plate and responded to interview different subjects. After separating the parties involved, ECO Osborne compiled a Sept. 12 timeline of events for the four subjects. The subjects admitted to driving around the town of Deposit in search of small game, shooting various critters from both a public highway and a motor vehicle. The subjects ended up shooting at beavers and fish, and killed an assortment of wildlife ranging from squirrels, chipmunks, songbirds, and hawks. As the day went on, the subjects shot at three different deer from a motor vehicle on a public highway with bird shot. ECO Osborne issued the subjects tickets for a total of 35 different charges ranging from hunting with the aid of a motor vehicle, hunting from a public roadway, killing protected birds, hunting without a license, trespassing, attempting to take big game illegally, hunting out of season, and allowing a junior hunter to hunt both big and small game without an adult mentor. The subjects, all under the age of 18, were arraigned in the Town of Deposit Court on Sept. 14 and paid a civil penalty of $1,300.