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Additional forest rangers for High Peaks seen as a ‘step in the right direction’

October 3, 2019
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer ( , Lake Placid News

RAY BROOK - The state Department of Environmental Conservation recently announced that two additional forest rangers would be detailed to the High Peaks area of the Adirondacks.

Over the last several years, there has been a concerted push by the union that represents rangers and local elected officials to add more rangers statewide. Currently, there are about 140.

Scott van Laer, a Ray Brook-based ranger and union delegate for the Police Benevolent Association, said the additional rangers are a step in the right direction.

"I'm excited about that because a lot of people are saying 'Where's the department's action on this?'" van Laer said. "While this is not - as far as I know - an increase in the statewide level of rangers or even the Adirondack level of rangers, it is targeting staffing to where it's most needed currently.

"Forty is our proposal, (but) I felt like this is a great first step. Identifying where rangers need to be (and) recognizing that it's a response to increased intensity of use. Our workload has increased here, but I have concerns about where it's coming from. Are we robbing Peter to pay Paul? But I can't deny that right now, the High Peaks has the greatest workload because of the use.

"So I commend the commissioner (Basil Seggos), and I hope this is a first step in the right direction."

The DEC is currently holding its 22nd basic training academy for both environmental conservation officers and forest rangers at its training campus in Pulaski. A recent press release from the agency said there were 30 ECOs and 14 rangers in the academy, which is slated for graduation on Dec. 6.

"We're in the process of graduating another class from the academy," DEC chief of staff Sean Mahar said in a phone interview Oct. 2. "We looked at the need to have more staff in the Adirondacks, and we have shifted around some of those positions to have more people in the Adirondacks."

The current number of rangers statewide is set at 134 and includes lieutenants, captains and directors in addition to field personnel. A resolution circulated by the PBA to all of the towns either wholly or partially within the park calls on the DEC to increase the number of rangers to 175.

Van Laer said there are currently six rangers covering the High Peaks, though there are 44 rangers, including supervisors, in DEC's Region 5, which covers much of the Adirondack Park and Champlain Valley. There are 21 rangers assigned to Region 6, which covers the western part of the Adirondacks and eastern Lake Ontario regions.

DEC spokeswoman Erica Ringewald said in an email that the two new rangers would be assigned to Region 5, Zone C (High Peaks) and will start on patrol by early 2020. One ranger will be filling a current vacancy in the High Peaks, while the second will be a position moved from somewhere else in the state. Where that transfer will come from has not yet been determined.



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