New York State has begun the process of opening up COVID-19 vaccination centers over many parts of the state. ECOs, Forest Rangers, and other DEC experts are on the front lines assisting federal, state, local and non-government entities build and support vaccination sites at multiple locations, filling various key positions in the incident command structure up to the highest level of incident commander and working closely with other DEC staff and partners in this important mission.
New York State COVID-19 Vaccination Center: On Jan. 9, two Forest Rangers were deployed to assist the State’s efforts to stand up a mass vaccination site at the SUNY Albany Campus. Forest Rangers fill critical roles in the Incident Command System (ICS) structure that are crucial in the success of the mission, including serving as Operation and Planning Section Chiefs. On Jan. 15, the mass vaccination site was established, capable of handling more than 1,000 patients a day. At this site and others across the state, Rangers are joined by other DEC staff from more than a dozen divisions, as well as representatives from multiple state agencies.
Operation Back Road – Statewide
DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement released the results of “Operation Back Road,” a recent statewide detail targeting illegal hunting from roads. During the 2020 hunting season, ECOs used technology, local intelligence, and 147 robotic decoy deer over 300 hours to catch poachers hunting from vehicles or along roadways, putting communities in danger. During the detail, ECOs apprehended 19 suspects for shooting at the decoys from roadways and issued tickets for 37 misdemeanors, 29 additional violations of the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), and seven charges outside the ECL. Officers conducted the Operation Back Road detail during the last two weeks of the Northern Zone and last three weeks of the Southern Zone hunting seasons. During the 2020 fall hunting season, ECOs statewide issued more than 244 tickets for road hunting-related offenses.
Forest Ranger Gullen at the SUNY Albany Mass Vaccination Site/DEC photo
I understand there were no DEC Officers on duty the past big game weekends, due to budget restrain. Staffing in New Paltz office has been depleted and not replaced.