DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

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DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Early to Mid-May

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law, protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York.

In 2016, the 286 ECOs across the state responded to 26,400 calls and issued 22,150 tickets for crimes ranging from deer poaching to corporate toxic dumping and illegal mining, black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.

"From Montauk Point to Mount Marcy, from 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 Commissioner Basil Seggos. "They work long and arduous hours, both deep in our remote wildernesses and in the tight confines of our urban landscapes. Although they don't receive much public fanfare, the work of our ECOs is critical to achieving DEC's mission to protect and enhance our environment."

Recent missions carried out by ECOs include:

One fish, two fish, blue fish, fluke - Queens County

On May 9, ECOs Waldemar Auguscinski, Zach Brown, and Evan McFee were on boat patrol in Jamaica Bay, performing fishing and boating safety checks, when they asked the occupant of one boat if he had any fish on board. He replied that he had "about six blues," or bluefish. ECO Brown boarded the vessel to inspect the catch and check for required safety equipment. The ECO discovered an out-of-season summer flounder, also known as fluke, mixed in with a half-dozen legal bluefish. The ECOs released the live fluke back to the water and the fisherman was issued a summons returnable to Queens County Court for the violation.

ECO Zach Brown with the out-of-season fluke before releasing it back to the water.
ECO Zach Brown with the out-of-season fluke before releasing it back to the water.

Illegal Turkey Taken in Broad Daylight - Seneca County

On May 13, ECO Shea Mathis responded to a shots-fired complaint near the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery in the town of Romulus. Witnesses believed someone had shot a turkey from a white pickup truck and fled the area. ECO Mathis, with the help of a State Trooper, quickly located and stopped the vehicle. One of the three hunters in the vehicle admitted to shooting the turkey on posted property without permission and failing to have his hunting license or turkey tags in his possession. In addition, the driver of the truck admitted to hunting turkeys earlier in the day without a valid turkey permit. The two were issued a total of five tickets for charges including trespass on posted property, failure to tag a turkey, failure to carry a license while hunting, and hunting turkeys without a permit. The mature tom turkey that had been shot in the original complaint was seized as evidence.

ECO Shea Mathis with the illegally killed turkey.
ECO Shea Mathis with the illegally killed turkey.

When Two Trucks Collide - Orange County

On May 14, ECOs Melissa Burgess and Kimberly Garnsey responded to a tractor trailer accident and fuel spill on I-87 southbound north of the Harriman Exit in Woodbury. State Troopers at the scene advised the ECOs that the truck's driver had fallen asleep at the wheel, hit another truck, crossed into the right lane, skimmed a concrete barrier, hit a thruway sign, and narrowly missed colliding with a large boulder before coming to rest in the bushes off the road. The driver was not seriously injured. One fuel tank had been ripped off, leaking diesel fuel onto the ground. ECOs Burgess and Garnsey assessed the small quantity of diesel fuel that had been spilled and determined that it was isolated to the truck's immediate vicinity. No fuel had entered the neighboring wetland. No ECL violations were found, although traffic violations are pending with State Police.

Crews removing the truck at the town of Woodbury accident scene.
Crews removing the truck at the town of Woodbury accident scene.

Short and Out of Season Fish - Sullivan County

During a May 14 patrol of Swinging Bridge Reservoir in Bethel, ECOs Tom Koepf and Travis McNamara encountered a variety of illegal fishing activity. During their patrol, the two officers observed three men who appeared to be cleaning fish on the banks of the reservoir. The men had been camping on the shore of the reservoir for three days and were in possession of several garbage bags full of fish. The majority of the fish were carp, but the ECOs also found four smallmouth bass and one undersized walleye. As bass season is still closed, a total of five tickets were issued to the three men for taking fish during the closed season, taking undersized fish, and fishing without a license, all returnable to the Bethel Town Court. Verbal warnings were also given for camping on posted property.

ECO McNamara with illegal fish seized on patrol on Swinging Bridge Reservoir.
ECO McNamara with illegal fish seized on patrol on Swinging Bridge Reservoir.
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).

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Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor * Basil Seggos, Commissioner

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