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 2019, DEC Forest Rangers conducted 337 search and rescue missions, extinguished 74 wildfires that burned a total of 212 acres, participated in 29 prescribed fires that burned and rejuvenated 645 acres, and worked on cases that resulted in 2,507 tickets or arrests.
“DEC celebrates our 50th anniversary this year, but our Forest Rangers have been on the front lines for even longer, protecting New York’s wildlife, natural resources, residents, and visitors for more than a century,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “The State’s brave Forest Rangers have a vast knowledge of first aid, land navigation, and technical rescue techniques that are critical to the success of their missions in remote wilderness areas, rugged mountainous peaks, white water rivers, frozen lakes, and forested areas statewide. We are proud of the work our Forest Rangers perform and look forward to another 50 years and beyond of highly trained service.”
Town of Ohio
Wilderness Enforcement: On Nov. 13, Forest Rangers Hanno and McCartney discovered an illegal camp near a remote pond in the West Canada Lake Wilderness Area. Upon further investigation, the Forest Rangers observed multiple state land violations. On the evening of Nov. 19, the Rangers apprehended two hunters from Forestport occupying the camp. An interview with the two hunters revealed the pair was responsible for cutting out a trail, cutting 14 trees to build their camp, using a chainsaw in a wilderness area, storing personal property on state land, camping violations, and landing a plane on a prohibited body of water in a wilderness area. Forest Rangers issued multiple appearance tickets for the various offenses.
Town of Shandaken
Wilderness Search: On Nov. 15 at 11:30 a.m., Forest Ranger Martin was flagged down by a member of the Shandaken Police Department reporting a search for an overdue hiker. At 12 p.m., Ranger Martin arrived at the parking area used to enter the Slide Mountain Wilderness Area where the hiker’s vehicle had been located. Shandaken Police reported that the 47-year-old hiker from Chichester had entered the woods on Nov. 14 for a day hike, but later notified his landlord he would be forced to spend the night. At 12:10 p.m. on Nov. 15, the missing hiker sent another set of coordinates to his landlord, plotting him within one-quarter mile from the original coordinates. Forest Rangers Martin and Rusher entered the woods at 12:15 p.m., and at 1:50 p.m., located the hiker at 2,200 feet elevation on the eastern shoulder of Cornell Mountain. The hiker indicated he attempted to bushwhack up to the Wittenberg/Cornell/Slide trail after arriving at the trailhead late and failing to meet up with a hiking group traversing Moon Haw to Woodland Valley. His bushwhack short-cut took him into the cliffs of Cornell, preventing him from reaching the designated trail. With light fading, the hiker found his headlamp batteries corroded and noticed he had lost his GPS while hiking. Utilizing a space blanket, he spent the night under a rock ledge in below-freezing temperatures. By 2 p.m., the hiker was warmed enough to continue hiking. All units were out of the woods by 3:20 p.m.
Town of Windham
Wilderness Rescue: On Nov. 16 at 9:48 a.m., Forest Ranger Fox received notification from Greene County 911 of a lost hiker with a stable lower leg injury on the Cranberry Bog Trail. Forest Rangers Dawson and Fox responded and at 11:23 a.m., Ranger Fox came across the 32-year-old hiker at the intersection of the Escarpment Trail and the Elm Ridge Trail. After Rangers administered first aid to the subject’s twisted ankle and minor scrapes, he was able to hike out to the trailhead on Rt. 23. The hiker declined additional medical treatment, choosing to seek further medical assistance on his own. The incident concluded at 12:20 p.m.
Town of Keene
Wilderness Rescue: On Nov. 21 at 2:16 p.m., Essex County 911 transferred a call to DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch reporting a 34-year-old male hiker from Niskayuna with a non-weight bearing lower right leg injury. Per Acting Forest Ranger Lt. Burns, New York State Police (NYSP) Aviation was on standby with Forest Ranger Evans while Forest Ranger Mecus hiked in to evaluate the hiker’s injury. A ground team comprised of Forest Rangers Lewis, Sabo, and Russell followed in behind Ranger Mecus. At 4:15 p.m., Ranger Mecus located the injured hiker and placed him in a harness. He was then hoisted by NYSP Aviation into the helicopter and flown to a local hospital for medical treatment.
Town of Horicon
Wilderness Rescue: On Nov. 21 at 9:44 p.m., Washington County 911 transferred a call to DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch reporting a possible overdue hiker. After interviewing the reporting party, Forest Rangers decided that her destination was most likely Pharaoh Lake. Forest Ranger Kabrehl responded to check the trailhead and located the woman’s car. Ranger Kabrehl went into the woods, along with a Warren County Sheriff’s Deputy, and located the 44-year-old hiker from Glens Falls. The responders escorted the missing hiker safely back to the trailhead.
Town of Hunter
Wilderness Rescue: On Nov. 22, Forest Rangers Dawson and Fox responded to a report of a lost hiker in the Kaaterskill Wild Forest. The 22-year-old hiker from Jackson, New Jersey, was hiking with four friends and fell behind the group as they hiked back to their vehicle on the Long Path. At a trail juncture, the subject took the wrong trail out and became lost. He stopped walking when it became dark and called 911 for help. Meanwhile, his friends called DEC’s Central Dispatch to report their friend was missing. With the assistance of GPS coordinates, Forest Rangers Dawson and Fox located the hiker approximately 1,000 feet from the trail in heavy fog and rain. The hiker was brought out to the trailhead where he was reunited with his friends and headed home.
Be sure to properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC’s Hike Smart NY and Adirondack Backcountry Information webpage for more information.