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01-28-2004, 11:24 AM
01/28/04
Rangers pan DEC emergency policy
By NED P. RAUCH, Staff Writer

LAKE PLACID ó The union representing area forest rangers says the state is jeopardizing public safety by enforcing policies that could slow their response to emergencies.

Martin Candee, a 10-year veteran of the forest rangers and president of Local 1872, said that by no longer allowing rangers to self-dispatch, the Department of Environmental Conservation is setting the stage for tragedy.

"If a woman comes to my door and says, ĎMy son fell through the ice,í I cannot go until I get a hold of a supervisor and get permission to go, unless Iím already working," Candee said, speaking in his role as union president.

Since April of last year, off-duty forest rangers have been required to report to a supervisor before responding to an emergency. That order put an end to a practice that had been in place since the mid 1990s.

Under the old system, rangers had a two-hour window to contact their supervisor, leaving them free to respond to an emergency immediately. According to Candee, the new policy can waste precious minutes as rangers make at least one phone call, sometimes more, to alert their superiors.

No deaths or serious injuries have been tied directly to the policy change, and in a prepared statement, Matt Burns, a spokesman for DEC in Albany, pointed to that record as evidence that the shift has worked.

"The current dispatch system allows rangers to respond to calls in a timely manner and ensures the protection of the public and the stateís natural resources," he said.

"The outstanding job that our rangers and ECOs (Environmental Conservation officers) have done protecting the stateís natural resources and citizens during the past year clearly shows that they are able to effectively provide their important services under the current structure."

But Candee said that in a recent survey sent to the 115 rangers the union represents, 99 percent of the 94 respondents said the current policy could lead to the death or serious injury of a member of the public or the ranger force.

"This is a no-brainer," he said. "This is a public-safety issue. (A tragedy) is going to happen. Itís just a matter of time."

It is not the unionís only concern.

DEC has also stopped allowing most rangers to park their state-issue trucks at their homes. Now, even after these rangers contact their supervisors, some have to drive miles to out of their way to get to their vehicles, which must be kept at state-approved sites.

The rangers, environmental conservation officers, SUNY police and park police are all renegotiating their contracts with the state.

Burns said the department will listen to the rangersí concerns as negotiations continue. But Candee insisted Tuesday that the unionís concerns about self-dispatch and vehicle use have little to do with the negotiations and have everything to do with public safety.

The state, he said, should revoke these policies immediately. Otherwise, the game of "Russian roulette" the state is playing will drag on and the stakes will get higher.

Hamstrung by the new policies, morale among the forest rangers is at the lowest point Candee has seen since he joined the rangers in 1994. He said rangers feel they are being micro-managed by their superiors in Albany and cannot go out into the field to do their jobs well.

True or not, Burns said, these matters should be taken up in the negotiation process.

"DEC management remains interested in addressing mutual areas of concern in the appropriate labor-management setting," he said.

"DEC will continue to work closely with forest rangers and the people in the communities we serve to further protect New York stateís environment for this and future generations."
E-mail Ned P. Rauch at: nrauch@pressrepublican.com

MountainMan
01-28-2004, 09:19 PM
being that I work for the department as a Seasonal Ranger I will say that this is very true! Even if I'm walking through the woods and come across something I need a ranger or more support for I have to try to get a hold of someone who is working or if I get a hold of someone who isn't working I may be there for quite a while while I wait for them to get approval from their supervisor to come to my aid along with the person I'm trying to help! The ranger job is really straying from its roots and turning more into "tree cops."

Even though all of this I LOVE my job being out hiking the trails and helping the environment by educating the public about how to care for the environment.

Keith Z
01-29-2004, 09:49 AM
I have a brother who was a ranger for his love of the woods and being outdoors. He finally left after the regulations tied his hands too much, and he felt that the job was becoming more like police work than anything else. The state seems to want to regulate everything. Being a teacher, our job has become less enjoyable due to the never ending state requirements and regulations we are being given. Along with the rangers, and most people who work for the state - just let us do our jobs!

Keith Z

JJwilliams
01-30-2004, 12:44 AM
all of our friends and family left being rangers when they made them start carrying guns.

Pete_Hickey
01-30-2004, 11:26 AM
When I see something like the above, I ask myself, "Why?" What is the reason the state wants to keep close tabs on the rangers? The rules such as mentioned above, are not imposed out of the blue. Someone has a reason, and I wonder what it is?

Is it a management style?

Is is a liability thing? Is the state afraid that it will be sued by one of its workers going out on a dangerous rescue? Injured in the line of duty?

Not keeping the vehicules at home... again, a liability thing, or is it to prevent mis/ab-use?

Does anyone know the 'why?' behind it all, or should I ask Pete Fish the next time I see him.