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Lawmakers look to create volunteer forest ranger program

A measure approved this week by New York's Senate could help the state Department of Environmental Conservation with search and rescue operations.

The bill, which had unanimous backing, sets up the creation of a DEC volunteer forest ranger rescue program.

State Senator Betty Little says finding missing people, especially in the Adirondack Park, requires many feet on the ground.

"And the more the better," she said.

"I'm hopeful this volunteer program will have a lot of appeal for people who not only want to help their fellow man in a time of need, but also have a love for the Adirondack wilderness," Little added.

According to numbers provided by Little's staff, the DEC conducts some 225 search and rescue operations every year inside the Blue Line.

Little says the bill lets DEC forest rangers "establish, direct, and maintain" a program that trains volunteers and provide them with credentials for participating in wild land search and rescue operations.

According to Little, such a program encourages groups to "organize and participate in search and rescue operations safely and would benefit the public."

"Education, training and a sense of expectation will help ensure

the safety of volunteers," she said.

The legislation was submitted to the Legislature at the request of the New York State Federation of Search and Rescue Teams.

The measure is expected to gain approval in the Assembly, where it's being sponsored by Bill Magee.

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