Albany, NY - February 13, 2017 - The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) opened the 21st Basic School for Uniformed Officers, the 28-week training academy in Pulaski that will prepare the new class of recruits for careers as Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) and Forest Rangers, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today.
"The men and women who fill our ranks as ECOs and Forest Rangers are the first line of defense in protecting New York's environment and natural resources, and I applaud our newest class of recruits for venturing into such noble service to our state and its residents," Commissioner Seggos said. "Our ECOs and Forest Rangers work long and arduous hours, often deep in our most remote wildernesses, and require specialized training to get the job done. I wish our new recruits well as they embark on this important journey."
The academy began Sunday, Feb. 12, with 34 ECO and 11 Ranger candidates reporting for duty. The recruits hail from 28 counties across New York State and range in age from 22 to 44 years old.
Graduation is tentatively scheduled for August 25.
Throughout the academy, which runs during the week from Sunday evenings to Friday afternoons, recruits will log 1288 hours of training. While the first few weeks focus primarily on basic police skills such as physical training, drill and ceremony, and computer skills, recruits will later delve into intensive instruction, like firearms training, swiftwater rescues, wildland fire suppression, and emergency vehicle operation.
An ECO's job duties are centered on the 71 chapters of New York State Environmental Conservation Law and can range from investigating deer poaching to conducting surveillance on a company suspected of dumping chemical waste to checking fishing licenses on a local waterway. In 2016, ECOs responded to more than 26,400 calls and issued more than 22,150 tickets.
"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 Division of Law Enforcement Director Joseph Schneider. "From Montauk Point to the City of Buffalo to deep in the Adirondack wilderness, ECOs are the Thin Green Line protecting New Yorkers from environmental damage and exploitation, whether enforcing clean air and water regulations, supporting fish and wildlife laws, investigating large scale environmental crimes, or ensuring solid waste management."
Forest Rangers' duties focus on the public's use of DEC-administered state lands and forests and can span from patrolling state properties to conducting search and rescue operations to fighting forest fires.
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.
"Once trained, these men and women are entrusted to protect New York State's natural resources and nearly five million acres of state and public lands," said Division of Forest Protection Director Eric Lahr. "They will develop the necessary skills to enforce various state and environmental conservation laws, conduct wilderness search and rescues for lost or injured persons, and manage wildfire incidents."
ECOs and Forest Rangers are full-fledged State Police officers and are often called upon to assist in some of New York's most important police work. These officers were among the first responders on the scene to help in the aftermath of Sept. 11, they assisted in Superstorm Sandy response, and helped in the 2015 search for two escaped felons from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora.
The first Forest Rangers, originally known as Fire Wardens, were put into service in 1885 when the New York State Legislature established the Forest Preserve of New York State.
ECOs originally called Game Protectors, were first appointed for service in 1880, when there were just eight.
"I want, as game protectors, men of courage, resolution and hardihood who can handle the rifle, axe and paddle; who can camp out in summer or winter; who can go on snowshoes, if necessary; who can go through the woods by day or by night without regard to trails." - New York Gov. Teddy Roosevelt, 1899
The 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 ECOs, visit the Environmental Conservation Officer job description web page and for Forest Rangers, visit the Forest Ranger job description web page.
For an inside look into what it takes to be an ECO or a Forest Ranger, watch a 4-minute clip from last year's Basic School for Uniformed Officers available on YouTube.
Upon graduation, recruits will be assigned patrol areas, typically consisting of one or two counties. They will join the ranks of 286 ECOs and 132 Forest Rangers currently serving across the state.
Throughout the Basic School, DEC will be hosting media availability dates for a number of events. For media inquiries, contact Benning DeLaMater, public information officer, at (518) 402-8000 or email.