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Saving Lives and Seeing Lives Lost is Part of the territory for NYS Forest Rangers

Monday, August 29, 2016

When someone goes missing, forest rangers are the ones who are called into New York's thickets and brambles to find them.

On a humid, buggy Memorial Day in the Adirondack Mountains, Jacob Deslauriers placed on his shoulders a pack with enough supplies to comfort the lost. In his almost 10 years as a forest ranger, Deslauriers has combed woods and swamps for lost hikers, children and even fugitives. For Deslauriers, there's nothing like a search, or the moments after finding someone who's been lost. Deslauriers shut the door on his green Department of Environmental Conservation truck and began hiking the trail on Mount Severance near Schroon Lake. In recent weeks, forest rangers have searched for a zebra in Greene County and saved a woman stranded on a rock ledge in Keene. This particular day was quiet in his neck of the woods. Deslauriers noticed a notch in a young sapling as he climbed the trail: Someone had taken a machete to it, which, in time, will most likely kill the tree. Forest management also is one of his duties, as is working on forest fires, and dealing with those who break the rules.

It's search and rescue that Deslauriers likes the most. Over the years, he's received training on rescuing people via mountain bike, snowmobile, airboat, kayak, raft, canoe, snowshoe, skis and ropes. Deslauriers grew up hiking in Vermont with his father. After graduating from the University of Vermont, he went to the forest ranger boot camp in Pulaski, Oswego County. He said he's someone who, given a choice, likes to take the difficult job over the easy one. Deslauriers reached the top of Mount Severance as the humidity broke. A light rain began to fall. Deslauriers looked out over the valley. He's seen a lot of dead bodies, he said, from suicide or the elements. But he's also seen the faces of hikers after he finds them. The moments after finding a lost hiker are usually noisy, Deslauriers said, as those who were once lost tend to unload, their words spilling out describing everything that happened.

It's usually easy to see what went wrong: perhaps someone didn't charge their phone battery, or didn't have a flashlight while hiking at dusk. But Deslauriers tries not to criticize the lost. He's been lost himself, he said, and he knows that extreme feeling of loneliness and desperation. He said in these moments of rescue he feels incredibly useful and needed. "It's helping your fellow human when it's the worst day of their life," Deslauriers said. He then hiked up his pack and began walking down the mountain.

You can read this article written by J.p. Lawrence in the Times Union by clicking here!