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DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

Recent ECO Actions

 

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).

Stomping Out Illegal Commercialization of Wildlife – Queens County
On May 25, ECOs Murel Lovgren and Brendan Parmelee and Investigator Joshua Harvey conducted a buy for an illegal commercialization case in Queens involving two stools made of elephant feet. The stools, made from genuine elephant parts prohibited for sale in New York, were listed for sale online for $1,800, resulting in a Class E felony under the State Environmental Conservation Law. The items were forfeited as a result of the undercover investigation and will be used for educational purposes.

Two ECOs stand with an elephant foot stool with in front of each of them
ECOs Parmelee and Lovgren with elephant footstools

Not a Fluke – Queens County
While on patrol on July 6, ECOs Colton Garrand and Darren Milliron responded to a complaint about two people keeping a garbage bag full of summer flounder (fluke) on the North Channel Bridge of Jamaica Bay in Queens County. The ECOs discovered hidden garbage bags containing 16 fluke near the suspected poachers. The fish ranged from 10-12 inches, much smaller than the legal size of 19 inches. ECOs issued five tickets to the two individuals for violations including possession of under-sized fluke, over the limit, and failure to release without undo harm.

ECO laying out fish on a beach near the water
Undersized fluke seized in Queens County

 

Traveling Tortoise – Chenango County
On July 16, ECO Brett Armstrong responded to a Facebook Messenger complaint in the town of Plymouth regarding a tortoise that had been walking around in the complainant’s front yard for a few days. ECO Armstrong located the tortoise and identified it as a 50-pound Sulcata (African Spurred) tortoise. The Officer captured the tortoise and transported it to Country Care Veterinary Services in Afton for a health evaluation. The tortoise will be turned over to Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville. No information was available on how or where the tortoise originated.

ECO poses for a picture with a large tortise under his arm
ECO Armstrong with tortoise

 

Petroleum Spill – Onondaga County
On July 17, ECO Don Damrath received and responded to a complaint at an auto repair facility in the city of Syracuse concerning petroleum products possibly entering a stormwater drain on the property. Officer Damrath discovered leaking 55-gallon drums and other signs to suggest that the products were making it to the drain, even with heavy rains washing away some of the evidence. The owner of the property was instructed to clean up the mess, properly store used oil, and remove waste tires also on-site. ECOs charged the owner with depositing noxious, offensive, or poisonous substances into public waters via the storm drain under Environmental Conservation Law.

Photo of oil drums and old tires, some of the oil drums leaking onto the pavement
Leaking drums at auto repair shop in Syracuse

 

Eagle Takes to the Skies – Schoharie County
On July 19, a bald eagle was released in Schoharie County after months of rehabilitation. A retired New York State Police Investigator first found the eagle suffering from a broken wing and lead poisoning after being shot by an unknown perpetrator in Schoharie several months ago. The eagle was transported to Friends of the Feathered and Furry Wildlife Center where the bird began its four-month recovery under the care of wildlife rehabilitator Missy Runyan. ECO Melissa Burgess was on hand when they released the eagle near the location it was discovered. Runyan and the Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society helped secure funds for a GPS tracking monitor for the bird, making it the first eagle to participate in the rehabilitation center’s new study tracking the movements and recovery success of lead-poisoned birds. Researchers are looking to broaden the research pool and fit more birds with GPS monitors. DEC’s investigation into who shot the eagle is ongoing.

ECO Stands behind two other people with the hatch of a truck open as they get an eagle out of the back
Wildlife rehabilitator Missy Runyon and ECO Burgess
prepare to release recovered bald eagle in Schoharie County

photo of an eagle with wings spread fully as it is released from rehabilitation
Rehabilitated bald eagle in Schoharie County outfitted
with tracking monitor flies upon release

Statewide COVID‐19 Response
Over the last several months, ECOs have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 response and continue to support the mission assisting federal, state, and local agencies. During the State’s response to the virus, Officers have filled important roles in the Incident Command System (ICS) at State COVID-19 testing sites. Across the state, ECOs also continue their core functions and have seen an increased trend of recreational participation in hunting, fishing, and boating. The public is encouraged to get outside responsibly and practice social distancing while recreating. To report environmental emergencies, violations of law, or to speak to an Environmental Conservation Officer call 1-844-DEC-ECOS.

ECO and State Fire official stand and go through some paperwork in an office
ECO Stephanie Anderson, Deputy Logistics Section Chief,
working with State Fire to contact vendors for repair work
at the Aqueduct COVID-19 Test Site