PRESS RELEASE: Forest Rangers Express Concern Over Staffing Levels
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Forest Rangers Express Concern Over Staffing Levels in Relation to High Peaks Complex Draft UMP
The Police Benevolent Association of New York State Law Enforcement (PBA of NYS), the union representing Forest Rangers, Park Police, Environmental Conversation officers and University Police on SUNY campuses, is voicing concern over the High Peaks Complex Draft Unit Management Plan (UMP) amendments regarding Ranger staffing levels.
The High Peaks Complex Draft UMP amendment proposes changes to the recreational infrastructure along State Route 73 to address safety and overuse issues currently experienced in these areas.
Forest Rangers working in the High Peaks area have been voicing their concerns regarding recreational overuse and associated problems regarding the passive use limitation strategy of keeping parking lots small has been a failure and has led to dangerous parking situations along the Rt 73 corridor.
The growth in the number of hikers has led to significant problems beyond trailhead congestion, most notably an increase in search and rescue incidents, but also trail erosion, littering, adjacent private land trespasses and other State land related violations.
The Forest Rangers working in the High Peaks Ranger District (5-4) have documented how these impacts have led to a significant decline in their ability to provide stewardship.
- In 2012 there were 62 Search and Rescue incidents in the High Peaks Ranger District. Rangers there patrolled 2,636 interior miles on foot, issued 329 tickets and gave 16 public presentations.
- In 2016 with 98 Search and Rescue incidents, rangers patrolled just 1,834 interior miles on foot, issued only 49 tickets and gave two public presentations.
Rangers are now forced to remain in the front country to handle parking issues, and maintain a state of readiness for search and rescue operations.
“The PBA of NYS fully supports the Draft amendments to the High Peaks Wilderness and the Vanderwhacker Wild Forest; however, we are concerned that while these amendments are well thought out and comprehensive, we don’t want them to become another unfunded mandate,” said Dan De Federicis, PBA of NYS Executive Director and Counsel.
Nearly one million acres of new public lands and easements have been added to Ranger patrol responsibilities, yet there are 10 fewer Forest Rangers in Region 5 then there were in 1971.
In order to fully implement these amendments, some modest staffing increase in the ranger force around these units must occur. The PBA of NYS recommends increasing the workforce in the following districts:
- Ranger District 5-4 that covers the R73 corridor, from 6 to 12;
- Newcomb Ranger District (5-14) from 2 to 4;
- District 5-7 which covers the former Frontier Town and future campground, from 3 rangers to 4; and
- District 5-9, which cover part of the Vanderwhacker Wild Forest increasing from 4 to 6 Rangers.
These Amendments require increased ranger presence over a large area and for a longer period of time each day. Rangers need to be present in the front country and the backcountry. A Forest Ranger should staff the Lake Colden and Johns Brook Outposts every weekend. Currently there is only enough staff to support one shift and late night emergency responses are initiated by call outs, requesting an off duty ranger to respond. These staffing increases will allow Forest Rangers to fully support and implement these UMP amendments and provide greater safety for the public recreating on these lands.