Record number of women graduate academy
By Gwendolyn Craig
More forest rangers will be patrolling the Adirondack Park and its outskirts than ever before, following the graduation of 38 new recruits on Friday in Lake Placid.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation has assigned 22 new forest rangers to regions covering the Adirondack Park bringing the grand total to 68 rangers. Rosters on DEC’s website show 46 rangers patrolling the same area currently, not including captains and lieutenants.
Statewide, 159 rangers will be patrolling and protecting state lands, the largest number in the department’s history, a spokesperson for the DEC said. There were four ranger retirements since Jan. 1 and no pending additional retirements as of Dec. 6, DEC said. This is the first academy DEC has held since before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the largest class to graduate.
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Arthur Perryman, DEC forest ranger and union representative with the Police Benevolent Association of New York, said the record number of graduates prior to this class was 17.
“We’re pretty happy right now,” Perryman said. “That’s kind of unprecedented to have so many people come right to Region 5.”
In the northern area of the Adirondacks and its outskirts, six new graduates will join the force for a total of 23, led by a captain and two lieutenants. The area covers Clinton, Essex, Franklin and Hamilton counties.
In the southern area of the park, seven new graduates will join the force there, making a total of 24. They will be led by a captain and three lieutenants and cover Essex, Fulton, Saratoga, Warren and Washington counties.
In the western part of the park and its outskirts, nine new graduates will join for a total of 21 rangers, one captain and three lieutenants. The region covered includes Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida and St. Lawrence counties.
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A spokesperson said the station assignments are subject to adjustment and DEC will “adaptively manage” ranger personnel.
Perryman said some of the field ranger numbers could be drawn down over time since the department added new overhead positions. Forest rangers and environmental conservation officers are also waiting to see if a bill passes setting their retirement eligibility on par with other state law enforcement, Perryman said. It would make benefits available after 20 years of service instead of the current 25.
“I don’t think anybody would be too anxious to go for that reason,” Perryman said. “That could change the dynamic if it does pass.”
Perryman wants to see an academy of graduates every two years to keep up with attrition.
The state graduated an historic number of women with this latest class–10–compared to 2019 when 3 women graduated out of 14 students. Women make up about one-fifth of the state ranger force, an historically high number, the DEC said.
There was one person of color graduating from the 2022 academy, DEC said. There are at least three rangers currently serving the state, who identify as a minority, DEC said.
Gov. Kathy Hochul praised the recruits in a news release.
“From rescuing lost or injured hikers to fighting wildfires here in New York and across the nation, our dedicated Forest Rangers regularly put themselves in harm’s way to protect our communities,” Hochul said. “I applaud this new class of Rangers for their hard work in completing an extremely difficult training regimen as they now join the ranks of hundreds of other officers who continue to protect New Yorkers and our treasured natural resources every day.”
The ranger class trained for six months at two State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry locations, Wanakena and Huntington Wildlife Forest in Newcomb. This is the first group to take classes in Newcomb. They learned how to conduct rescues, suppress wildfires, prescribe burns and protect wildlife.
Basil Seggos, commissioner of the DEC, wished the new recruits success in their next journey.
“I am extremely proud of the individuals who chose to undertake the rigorous training and hard work to become Forest Rangers and continue the proud tradition first started in the late 1800s to protect New York’s environment and the public,” Seggos said in a news release.
The new rangers will be riding along with a training officer over the next few months, Perryman said. By the summer they will be in the field on their own.
“This will be interesting,” Perryman said. “It’s going to be pretty wild to see all these new people hit the field this summer.”
Here is the 23rd Basic School for Forest Rangers graduating class:
- Matthew P. Adams, Lake Clear
- Gregory M. Bowler, Saranac Lake
- Ashly M. Carabetta, New Rochelle
- Nicholas K. Caswell, Warrensburg
- Kaitlyn E. Clute, Saratoga Springs
- Alexander M. Cooley, Oswego
- David P. Corey, Tupper Lake
- Peter J. Dempf, Bethlehem
- Sean P. Dixon, Watertown
- Audrey P. Emerson, Greig
- Charles R. Foutch, Syracuse
- Aaron D. France, Schoharie
- Chelsea L. Geyer, Northville
- Mary E. Greagan, Bethlehem
- Robert G. Hamm, Pittstown
- Michael E. Holdridge, Peru
- Erich F. Horn Jr., Kingston
- Jacob C. Jansen, Tupper Lake
- Nathaniel S. Laymon, Ilion
- Jacob R. Maxwell, Chittenango
- Michael D. Miller, Branchport
- Evan R. Nahor, Long Lake
- Allison M. O’Connell, Lake Pleasant
- Patrick J. Odell, Keene Valley
- Joseph G. Ordway, Canisteo
- Christopher J. Pelrah, Constantia
- Seamus K. Peterson, Hicksville
- Paul D. Quinones, Saratoga Springs
- Jane C. Raffaldi-Smith, West Hurley
- Ryan E. Richer, Horseheads
- Allison M. Rooney, Keene
- Aubrey M. Russo, Patchogue
- Timothy J. Schweider, Lindenhurst
- Neilson J. Snye, Tupper Lake
- Tanner D. Stone, Schroon Lake
- Nicholas D. Streczywilk, Cheektowaga
- Dustin T. Vaile, Camden
- Jacqueline K. Waligory, King Ferry
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