2019-01-09 / Front Page

ECO and Rangers Could Potentially Face “Reclassification”

Contention Rises From Both Wings
By Rosie Cunningham

NEW YORK - Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) and forest rangers may potentially be consolidated this spring.

The proposal, which was made by the State Department of Civil Services in November, deals primarily with the names of the two divisions and is not a merger - rather, it is a “reclassification.”

“New York State Forest Rangers have been seeking a title upgrade for several years and DEC has been working with the New York State Department of Civil Service to support an upgrade of the Ranger title,” said Ben DeLa- Mater, DEC public information officer, in an email Tuesday. “Because civil service encourages consolidation of title series when appropriate, it was proposed that ECOs and Forest Rangers utilize the same title while maintaining separate divisions and responsibilities. Forest rangers and ECOs receive similar training and perform similar duties and functions, but were not in similar civil service title series.”

DeLaMater clarified that the proposed transition is not a merger of the two divisions, but rather a move to ensure both divisions are treated equally in the civil service system.

“Much like other shared titles in the civil service system. For example, DEC engineers and biologists share similar titles but can work in a number of different divisions,” he said.

DeLaMater said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos’ commitment to bolstering the ranks of its Division of Law Enforcement and

Forest Rangers is reflected in the fact that the agency held back-to-back training academies in 2016 and 2017 for the first time since 2007-2008.

There are currently 288

ECOs, command staff, and investigators across the state and there are currently 134

Forest Rangers and command staff across the state.

This could also increase salaries for rangers: right now, rangers are hired at

$59,448 while ECOs are hired at $62,228, according to the

DEC website.

If approved, the title consolidation would go into ef fect April 1.

What is not being discussed is that there is contention from both sides - the rangers and the ECOs. It’s possible that the disagreement boils down to a pay raise and upgrade in rank.

According to a source that does not want to be named, the cost of the “reclassification” could be exponential and added that Governor Andrew Cuomo establishes search and rescue - “it is state fire’s job not the DEC.”

The same source believes there is no need for tax payers to pay state fire and DEC rangers for the same duties.

However, DeLaMater said, “While it is premature to comment on any potential legislation or budget language prior to the submission of the executive budget, DEC continually reviews staffing and operational needs to ensure all of its divisions, including New York’s Environmental Conservation Police Officers and Forest Rangers, have the resources they need to continue to protect our natural resources and wildlife and ensure the safety of the public.”

Both groups are law enforcement. To name a few of each divisions’ responsibilities: rangers are fire wardens while ECOs are game wardens. Rangers focus on search and rescues, fighting wildfires and protecting natural resources while providing education on how to not damage the environment. They manage, protect and patrol state land and are in the field more often than in the office. ECOs mainly enforce state environmental conservation law regarding pollution, hunting and fishing. They check for hunting licenses and proper safety equipment on boats, focus on air and environmental quality and are law enforcement based. They work on private lands and are dominantly complaint and research driven.

The proposal states the two groups are similar and often carry out the same duties. The rangers would take on additional coursework such as hunter-related shooting incidents, waterfowl identification and wildlife forensics.

Although the divisions are similar in nature in many ways, they are on opposite sides of the spectrum in other aspects of their titles and opinions seem to vary about one another.

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