Perhaps most of all, the outdoor experience offers us a chance to explore and shape our values, attitudes, and behaviors towards the environment and ourselves. It instills a sense of ownership and personal responsibility.
The above statement, taken from the Seventh Annual Report of the NYS Forest, Fish and Game Commission is as applicable today, as it was when first published in 1906.
At that time, New York's forests and streams were just beginning to recover from an unrelenting onslaught of environmentally damaging practices, which ranged from illegal lumbering to deer poaching to squatters settling on state land.
There was even an early environmental advocacy group formed to prevent the pilfering of spruce for ornamental use in camp construction. Appropriately known as the Society for the Preservation of Adirondack Spruce, the group claimed there was, 'Barely a spruce tree to be found, larger around than the size of a man's wrist; due to the demand for architectural ornamentation."
There were similar efforts underway at the same time, which sought to protect black bears, to restore beavers and to put an end to the commercial harvest of fish and game.
In 1880, Governor Alonzo B. Cornell appointed eight Game Protectors in New York state. They were the state's first environment law enforcement force, dedicated to protecting the state's woods and waters, and the fish and game.
In 1899, Governor Theodore Roosevelt claimed, "I want as Game Protectors men of courage, who can handle the rifle, axe and paddle; who can camp out in the summer or winter; who can go on snowshoes, if necessary; who can go through the woods by day or by night without regard to trails."
In 1964, the NYS Conservation Department renamed the Game Protectors as Conservation Officers, and in 1970 the newly minted NYS Department of Environmental Conservation again updated the title to Environmental Conservation Officers, or ECO's. In 1971, they were vested with police powers.