Following a week of training, a group of 40 backcountry stewards and assistant forest rangers were deployed on state lands and wildlife management areas across New York last weekend to protect the state's natural resources and help visitors enjoy a safe and rewarding outdoor experience, the state Department of Environmental Conservation recently announced.
The training was conducted through the Backcountry Stewardship Program, a long running partnership between DEC and the Student Conservation Association (SCA) that began more than a decade ago. The majority of backcountry stewards and assistant forest rangers have been in the field since Memorial Day weekend and will serve through Labor Day, with some working through Columbus Day.
Under the Backcountry Stewardship Program, 22 college-aged students have been trained as backcountry stewards and, along with 18 assistant forest rangers, will work on DEC public lands, including state forests, forest preserve lands, wildlife management areas and conservation easement lands. The areas protected by stewards and assistant forest rangers include the Adirondack and Catskill parks, the shores of Lake Ontario, the Salmon River, the Sugar Hill and Hemlock-Canadice state forests and the Zoar Valley multiple use area.
The interns and assistant forest rangers work closely with DEC Foresters and forest rangers and will hike and paddle through New York's backcountry, protecting resources, monitoring usage and providing visitor services. Assistant forest rangers are seasonal DEC employees who are trained in wilderness first aid and wildland firefighting as part of their role to assist hikers and campers and ensure they have a safe and enjoyable experience on state lands.
The Backcountry Stewardship Program is funded through the state's Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) - matched by contributions from SCA.