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DEC Forest Rangers – week in review

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 2021, DEC Forest Rangers conducted 426 search and rescue missions, extinguished wildfires, participated in prescribed fires that served to rejuvenate hundreds of acres of land, and worked on cases that resulted in thousands of tickets or arrests. Some of these incidents featured each week result in injuries, property damage, or even death, and starting this year, the “DEC Statewide Forest Ranger Highlights” is transitioning to a new title, “Forest Rangers – Week In Review.”

“Over the last decade, as well as during the COVID-19 pandemic, DEC saw an uptick in people visiting State lands to experience New York’s abundant opportunities for outdoor recreation,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “DEC’s Forest Rangers are on the front lines to help visitors get outside responsibly and get home safely, as well as to protect our state’s irreplaceable natural resources. Rangers’ knowledge of first aid, land navigation, and technical rescue techniques are critical to the success of their missions, which for more than a century have taken them from remote wilderness areas with rugged mountain peaks, to white water rivers, and throughout our vast forests statewide.”

Warren County

Town of Johnsburg

State Land Use Enforcement: After months of investigation, Forest Ranger Perryman issued tickets to a Saratoga County man on charges of damaging trees on State land, storing personal property on State land, and erecting a structure on State land. Ranger Perryman began the investigation in November 2021, after noticing a group in Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area packing out heavy packs and rifles. The following weekend, the Ranger continued investigating and discovered an illegal structure with equipment hidden and buried around a camp. In early February 2022, Ranger Perryman interviewed multiple subjects and issued several tickets.

Chenango County
Town of Coventry
State Land Timber Theft: On Feb. 2, while on snowmobile patrol in Coventry State Forest, Forest Ranger Oldroyd observed the stumps of three trees that had been removed. Ranger Oldroyd returned to investigate further and located a total of seven trees that had been cut down. A 42-year-old Chenango County resident admitted he had cut down the trees for firewood. On Feb. 16, the Ranger charged the individual with cutting and removing trees from State land, an Environmental Conservation Law misdemeanor.

Hamilton County
Town of Hope
Flood Response: On Feb. 18 at 2:30 p.m., Hamilton County requested Forest Ranger assistance with welfare checks after severe flooding in the town of Hope. Ranger Lt. Kerr and Rangers Scott, Perryman, and Nally responded with swiftwater gear. An ice jam blocking the Sacandaga River had broken, causing an increase in water downstream, flooding multiple homes. Rangers also responded to an incident involving a passenger vehicle in the river. A town employee had already helped remove the driver. At 6:11 p.m., Rangers assisted the tow company removing the vehicle from the river. By 9:40 p.m., and with no cell or landline service, and the County declared a State of Emergency. Rangers were able to communicate with the County via radio. Rangers continued conducting welfare checks along with New York State Police, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department, the Department of Transportation, and the Town of Hope Highway Department until approximately midnight. Ranger Nally returned the next morning to conduct additional welfare checks and found one subject with a heart condition. Ranger Nally delivered the subject to family members.

Suffolk County
Town of Bellport
Wildland Fire: On Feb. 19 at 11:30 a.m., Forest Ranger Hicks overheard a radio call for a wildland fire on the westbound side of Sunrise Highway in the town of Bellport. Ranger Hicks responded and assisted the Hagerman and Bellport Fire Departments. The fire burned approximately .20 acres of land and was extinguished by 1 p.m.

Greene County
Town of Hunter
Wildland Rescue: On Feb. 20 at 12:10 p.m., Forest Ranger Fox responded to a report of a subject on the ice approximately seven feet from the edge of Kaaterskill Falls. Environmental Conservation Police Officer (ECO) Lt. Glorioso and ECO Palmateer also responded. ECO Palmateer located the subject, anchored his throw bag to a tree, and threw a rope to the subject to prevent him from sliding over the edge. Ranger Fox set up a static line, tied an improvised seat harness to the 56-year-old from New York City, and secured him to the line. Ranger Fox then helped the subject work his way back to safety. After providing traction devices, Ranger Fox, Lt. Glorioso, ECO Palmateer, and the Greene County Sheriff’s Department helped the subject back to his vehicle at the trailhead. Resources were clear at 2 p.m.

Suffolk County
Town of Riverhead
ATV Enforcement: On Feb. 20, Forest Rangers Gallagher, Gagne, and Hicks participated in a multi-agency Pine Barrens Law Enforcement Council ATV Detail. Rangers worked with Suffolk County Park Rangers, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, and Suffolk County Police. During the detail, Rangers Hicks and Gagne were notified by Suffolk County Parks of individuals operating on town of Riverhead land near Enterprise Park at Calverton (EPCAL). The Rangers responded and apprehended three teeangers. Two subjects were charged with illegally operating an ATV on town property. The third subject’s parent was charged with allowing a juvenile to operate an ATV in violation of local law. All vehicles were impounded.

Ulster County
Town of Shandaken
Wilderness Search: On Feb. 21 at 11:02 a.m., Forest Ranger Franceschina received a call from DEC Dispatch about a 21-year-old hiker from Connecticut who was lost on Balsam Cap. Rangers Franceschina and Martin made cell phone contact with the subject who was in good health but had been hiking in circles for a while. Rangers suggested the subject build a fire and wait for their arrival. When Rangers got close to the summit, they tried to make voice contact with the subject, but didn’t get a response. At 2 p.m., Rangers were at the path junction for Balsam Cap and Friday Mountain and successfully made voice contact with the subject. Another hiker had passed the lost hiker and offered to help him down the path to Moon Haw Road. Rangers met the two hikers and assisted both. Resources were clear at 3:30 p.m.

Suffolk County
Town of Brookhaven
ATV Enforcement: On Feb. 21, Forest Ranger Hicks received a complaint of ATVs riding illegally on Brookhaven National Lab. Ranger Hicks responded via ATV, while Capt. Byrnes, and Rangers Gallagher and Gagne also responded. Rangers found two teenagers illegally operating ATVs. One summons was issued for illegally operating an ATV on public land and another was issued to one subject’s parent for allowing a juvenile to operate an ATV in violation of local law.

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: https://www.dec.ny.gov/about/667.html