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 2023, DEC Forest Rangers conducted 370 search and rescue missions, extinguished 146 wildfires covering nearly 1,400 acres, participated in 52 prescribed fires that served to rejuvenate more than 1,000 acres of land, and worked on cases that resulted in hundreds of tickets and arrests.
“DEC Forest Rangers are among the nation’s most versatile first responders, utilizing their expert training and wide-ranging knowledge to protect natural resources while encouraging responsible stewardship among those who visit State lands and sites,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Their expertise in wildland fire suppression, technical rescue techniques, and law enforcement mean that Rangers are always prepared to successfully execute critical missions, here in New York State, as well as across the continent.”
Village of Cooperstown
Wilderness Recovery: On Jan. 28, Cooperstown Police requested Forest Ranger assistance in the search for a 43-year-old last seen leaving Bassett Medical Center on Jan. 26. Two Rangers joined the search efforts. The following day, two additional Rangers helped conduct linear searches along roads in areas with reported sightings. On Feb. 2, six Rangers, New York State Police (NYSP), Cooperstown Police, the Otsego County Sheriff’s Office, and DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement continued searching. At 11:15 a.m., search crews found the subject deceased in the river. NYSP is leading the investigation.
Town of Lake Pleasant
Law Enforcement: On Jan. 30 at 4 p.m., Hamilton County’s Sheriff’s Dispatch called Forest Ranger Snye about a disabled vehicle on the Elm Lake Road snowmobile trail. The car’s operator was attempting to reach the Siamese Ponds Wilderness trailhead, which is only open for snowmobile use. Ranger Snye and a Sheriff’s Deputy responded and issued a ticket for illegal operation of a motor vehicle on posted easement roads/trails. A local tow company removed the vehicle.
Town of Lake Pleasant
Training: On Jan. 30, Forest Ranger Lieutenant Kerr and Rangers Caswell, Hamm, Nally, Snye, and Thompson conducted an interagency flat ice rescue training on Lake Pleasant with the Hamilton County Sherriff’s Office, Piseco Fire Department, and Speculator Fire Department. Rescuers responded to a mock rescue with three victims in the water. Rangers also demonstrated how the airboat can be used to support rescue efforts.
Village of Canton
St. Lawrence County
Wilderness Recovery: On Jan. 31 at 10:15 a.m., Canton Police requested Forest Ranger assistance in the search for a 24-year-old last seen on Jan. 10. Three Rangers joined Canton Police, St. Lawrence County Department of Probation and the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office in the search. At 11 a.m., search crews located the subject deceased in a ditch on County Route 27 just beyond Sykes Road. Crews turned the subject over to the County Coroner. St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office is leading the investigation.
Town of Southampton
Prescribed Fire: On Feb. 1, Forest Rangers Gallagher and Scott joined DEC Division of Lands and Forests staff and volunteers and staff from the Central Pine Barrens Commission to conduct a prescribed fire in the David A. Sarnoff Pine Barrens State Forest. Firefighters completed a successful burn of 21 burn piles. These controlled burns make the forest more resilient to the invasive pest southern pine beetle and help reduce fuel loads to better prevent fires that could impact nearby communities.
Town of Indian lake
Snowmobile Accident: On Feb. 3 at 12:31 p.m., Forest Rangers Scott and Snye responded to a call for a snowmobile crash near the entrance of Moose River Plains Complex. When the operator approached the snowmobile bridge that crosses over Cedar River Flow, he lost control, went off trail, and was thrown from the snowmobile over the embankment. The 49-year-old from Ohio landed on the frozen lake with the snowmobile on top of him. The snowmobiler’s cousin moved the subject off the unsafe ice and onto the side of the trail. Rangers and the Indian Lake Fire Chief stabilized the subject’s injuries and turned him over to Indian Lake EMS upon arrival. Rangers worked with an Indian Lake Fire Department toboggan to slide the patient to a waiting ambulance. Resources were clear at 5:20 p.m.
Town of Hunter
Wilderness Rescue: On Feb. 3 at 5:45 p.m., Forest Rangers Allwine and Seeley responded to a call for a hiker who fell 12 feet on the escarpment trail. Rangers and local fire departments and EMS reached the 51-year-old from Ulster Park less than a quarter mile from the trailhead. The hiker had mild hypothermia and pain to her back, shoulder, and hip. Rescue crews carried the patient to an ambulance. Resources were clear at 7:45 p.m.
Town of Thurman
Wilderness Recovery: On Feb. 4 at 4:30 p.m., Ray Brook Dispatch received a call for an ice climber who went into cardiac arrest while climbing Crane Mountain. When Forest Rangers reached the subject, the 63-year-old from Thurman was deceased. Rangers and the Warren County Sheriff’s Office packaged the subject, navigated the steep and technical terrain, and turned the subject over to the County Coroner. Resources were clear at 9:40 p.m.
Town of Warrensburg
Wilderness Rescue: On Feb. 5 at 2:38 p.m., Forest Ranger Donegan overheard radio traffic from Warren County about a subject who had fallen into the Schroon River. The 33-year-old from Warrensburg had been trying to cross the river but slipped on the rocks and fell. She was able to get herself out of the water to shore where someone saw her and called for help. Rangers Baker, Donegan, Morehouse, and Quinn responded to the convergence of the Hudson and Schroon rivers, warmed the subject, and brought her to Warrensburg EMS to be treated for hypothermia.
Be sure to properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC's Hike Smart NY, Adirondack Backcountry Information, and Catskill Backcountry Information webpages for more information.
If a person needs a Forest Ranger, whether it's for a search and rescue, to report a wildfire, or to report illegal activity on state lands and easements, they should call 833-NYS-RANGERS. If a person needs urgent assistance, they can call 911. To contact a Forest Ranger for information about a specific location, the DEC website has phone numbers for every Ranger listed by region.