Environmental Conservation Police on Patrol

Environmental Conservation Police on Patrol

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Division of Law Enforcement enforces the 71 chapters of New York State’s Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York. In 1880, the first eight Game Protectors proudly began serving to protect the natural resources and people of New York State. In 2021, 282 Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) and Investigators across the state responded to 26,207 calls and worked on cases that resulted in 11,562 tickets or arrests for violations ranging from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.

“DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officers and Investigators are on the front lines each and every day protecting our natural resources by upholding New York’s environmental laws and regulations and safeguarding public health,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “From ensuring hunters and anglers follow rules and regulations afield and on the water, to sustaining partnerships with local law enforcement agencies investigating crimes that include solid waste dumping and air emissions violations, ECOs and Investigators are on patrol, ready to serve their communities. Each year brings new challenges, and fortunately, these Officers and Investigators are expertly trained to perform their duties with persistence, integrity, and good judgment, as they’ve done for over a century.”

Dirty Dirt Plea – Ulster County
On May 23, an Ulster County man pleaded guilty to unlawful disposal of solid waste in excess of 70 cubic yards, a Class A misdemeanor. The case started in 2017, when DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement coordinated a Solid Waste Task Force with the agency’s Division of Materials Management to target large amounts of illegal construction and demolition (C&D) debris being dumped across the Southern District. Supporting the investigations stemming from the Task Force activity, DEC’s Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation and uniformed ECOs executed a search warrant with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office in July 2018 at Woodstock Landscaping in Hurley. During the warrant, business records showed that Woodstock Landscaping was illegally taking payment for the disposal of C&D debris from multiple trucking companies in New York City and Long Island. On Aug. 15, 2019, David Gutierrez, the owner of Woodstock Landscaping, was arrested for operating an unpermitted solid waste facility and releasing in excess of 70 cubic yards of solid waste to the environment. With the recent guilty plea, Gutierrez agreed to pay a fine of $7,500; he and Woodstock Landscaping cannot act as a solid waste facility unless properly permitted by DEC to do so.

area where landscaping debris was dumped
Landscaper pleads guilty to solid waste violations

Outdoor Days – Cattaraugus County
On May 25 and 26, ECOs Mead and Powers attended the “Outdoor Days” Field Trip for fourth and fifth grade students at Allegany State Park in Cattaraugus County. The event was held by Allegany State Park educators to provide students from four nearby schools with the opportunity to enjoy a variety of outdoor stations focused on learning about the environment.

Sacandaga Training – Fulton County
On May 26, ECOs participated in a multi-agency training exercise on the Great Sacandaga Lake in Fulton County. Training participants included more than 90 first responders staged at the Hudson River Black River Regulating District. New York State Police and law enforcement from Fulton, Saratoga, Montgomery, and Hamilton counties participated in the training, including dive teams, fire, EMS, emergency management, district attorneys, and the Fulton County Coroner. The annual training focuses on marine patrols responding to boaters in distress, which evolves into criminal investigations with missing “victims.” ECOs were tasked with initial scene response, scene security, and the transport of dive team personnel. In addition, ECOs on the Flood Incident Strike Team, trained for swift water conditions, utilized the DEC jet boat to transport fire and EMS to help retrieve a victim.

emergency response crew with life vests on during training
Multi-agency training exercise on the Great Sacandaga Lake

aerial view of boats on the water during training
Multi-agency training exercise on the Great Sacandaga Lake

Remembering Former ECO Robert R. McNamara – Cattaraugus County
On May 29, ECO Holzle stood guard while friends and family paid their final respects to Environmental Conservation Police Officer Robert McNamara, a 30-year veteran Officer well respected by his peers. McNamara became an ECO in 1957, and spent most, if not all, of his career in Cattaraugus County. He attended academy training in 1973, and retired in November 1991, making him one of the Division of Law Enforcement’s “top 10 most senior” retirees.

professional photo of ECO in uniform
Robert (Bob) McNamara

“Oh Snap!”-Ping Turtle – Orange County
On May 29, while assisting DEC’s Bureau of Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health and their aquatic invasive species boat stewards during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, ECOs Lovgren and Schuck encountered New York State’s official state reptile, the snapping turtle. The turtle was attempting to cross a busy highway in the town of Tuxedo, Orange County. The ECOs successfully facilitated the turtle’s crossing and returned it to the nearby Ramapo River. The snapping turtle is an omnivore and eats carrion. It often buries itself in the mud with only its nostrils and eyes showing, waiting for unsuspecting prey. Snapping turtles may seem aggressive, but often avoid confrontation and demonstrate defensive behavior, snapping at anything they find threatening. Their snap is so powerful it can easily shear fingers, so observers are urged to maintain a safe distance. Snappers spend most of their lives in the water, where they generally swim away from people when encountered. Snapping turtles live 30 to 40 years on average, and are among the largest turtles in North America.

ECO holding large turtle at the back of ECO vehicle on the road
ECO holding snapping turtle after removing from the highway

ECO holds large turtle over water while getting ready to release it
ECO releasing the Snapping Turtle to the Ramapo River

Memorial Day Jamaica Bay Illegal Clamming – Queens County
On May 30, ECOs Brussell, McCarthy, and Milliron were patrolling Jamaica Bay and observed numerous people on the beach taking hard clams. It is illegal to harvest shellfish in Jamaica Bay due to sanitary conditions. To protect public health and safety, ECOs are tasked with conducting regular patrols to make sure people are not harvesting shellfish from closed areas. The ECOs caught up to three different groups of people bringing clams back to their vehicles. In total, eight individuals were ticketed for taking shellfish from uncertified shellfish lands and 725 clams were seized and returned to the water.

Several large bags of clams next to ECO vehicle with Wildlife Refuge sign in the background
Confiscated shellfish at Jamaica Bay

Kitten Cup Caper – Chautauqua County
On May 31, after responding to a call at the end of a late-night shift, ECO Dougherty observed an object in the middle of the road in the town of Ellery. Upon closer inspection, ECO Dougherty realized the object was a small animal with its head stuck inside a plastic fast food drink cup. Preparing for all possibilities, ECO Dougherty carefully approached the cup and discovered the kitten. The tiny animal was unable to lift its head off the ground nor pull its head out of the lid. The Officer quickly moved the kitten and cup out of harm’s and away from oncoming traffic. ECO Dougherty removed the cup, but needed to cut the lid from the kitten’s head. This ordeal could easily have been deadly for the kitten, but easily prevented if the responsible party had properly disposed of the cup. The kitten was later adopted.

small orange kitten with a domed drink lid stuck on its head
Kitten stuck in plastic drink cup

Caring High Schoolers Learn to “Leave it There”- Oneida County
On June 1, ECO Noyes responded to a call of an abandoned fawn in a courtyard area of Adirondack High School in Boonville. The fawn curled up in an exterior corner of the school was in healthy condition. With assistance from students in the school’s agriculture class, ECO Noyes successfully relocated the fawn to a wooded area nearby, where the animal’s mother had been spotted earlier. It was also a good teaching moment for the students to observe how to safely leave wildlife where it is found, even if it looks “abandoned or injured.” For more information about caring for young wildlife and “If you care, leave them there,” go to DEC’s website.

ECO holds small deer in a red blanket
ECO Noyes with fawn

Down a Hole – Sullivan County
On June 3, ECOs Doroski and Walraven responded to a call for a deer caught in a sinkhole in Phillipsport. The deer appeared to fall through the top of an abandoned septic tank and was unable to get free. The ECOs procured tools from the property owner and removed soil from perimeter of the tank, reducing the angle and creating a pathway to aid the deer. ECO Walraven secured a rope around the deer and the ECOs pulled the animal out onto the ground. Exhausted but otherwise unharmed, the deer ran out of sight a short time later. The property owner was advised to fill in the tank as soon as possible.

Deer at the bottom of a muddy pit
Deer caught in abandoned septic tank

Baby Rabbits – Oneida County
On June 3, ECO Howe responded to the town of Floyd in Oneida County to assist a man who reported he had accidentally mowed over a nest of baby rabbits three days prior. With advice from a wildlife rehabilitator, the man placed grass over the nest to help determine whether the mother would return. It was determined the mother was not returning to the nest and the rabbits had a better chance of survival if taken to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. ECO Howe carefully captured the five baby rabbits and transported them to the rehabilitator where they will be cared for until they can be released back into the wild. Video of the baby rabbits is available on DEC’ website.

small baby rabbit in the palm of an ECO officer
Baby rabbits rescued

Law Enforcement Day – Clinton County
On June 3, ECOs Fadden and LaCroix with K9 Web attended Law Enforcement Day at Rouses Point Elementary School. ECO Fadden spoke with students about the role of an ECO. ECO LaCroix spoke with the nearly 270 students in attendance about being a K9 Officer and introduced participants to K9 Web. Also participating in the career day was the New York State Police (NYSP) Underwater Recovery Team, NYSP Bomb Disposal Unit, NYSP K9, and U.S. Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection.

aerial view of kids gathered around ECO asking questions in the parking lot
ECO LaCroix with K9 Web at Law Enforcement Day

Author: Harlem Valley News