Protecting Natural Resources: Environmental Conservation Officer Job Duties and Training

Environmental Conservation Officer Job Description

An environmental conservation officer works in a variety of environments including parks, mountains, forests and beaches. They work with other law enforcement officers to uphold laws, protect natural resources and help people in need.

ECOs often work overnight and on weekends and holidays. They patrol by car, boat, snowmobile, ATV or on foot and must be comfortable working in all types of weather.

Job Duties

Often called fish and game wardens, conservation officers are licensed law enforcement officers who enforce laws that protect natural resources like wildlife and plants. They patrol and investigate complaints in areas such as state parks, forests, nature reserves and recreational vehicle usage areas.

Whether it is ensuring hunters, fishermen and trappers have the proper licensing requirements or investigating a recreational vehicle accident involving wildlife, these officers work to solve environmental crimes by using a range of investigative tools such as DNA, ballistics, fingerprints and digital footprints. They also educate the public about the importance of protecting nature and promoting conservation.

ECOs also work to maintain recreation areas and forest preserves, so they must be resourceful and independent since much of their patrols are conducted on foot, by boat or ATV. They may work overnight or during weekends and holidays. Often, they are assisted by trained K9s. The job is highly rewarding, but can be physically challenging.

Education and Training Requirements

For those who prefer the outdoors to a desk job, becoming an environmental conservation officer (ECO) may be the perfect career choice. A degree in wildlife science, forestry, natural resource management or conservation law enforcement will help prepare you for the job. You can also specialize in fish and wildlife or conservation and law enforcement by taking specific courses.

To become an ECO, you must pass a Civil Service exam offered by the Department of Environmental Conservation. To qualify for the exam, you must have a minimum of a bachelors degree and qualifying experience.

Once you are an ECO, you must complete a 26-week residential basic training academy in Pulaski, NY. After completing training, you are assigned to patrol state parks and other natural areas. In addition to enforcing natural conservation laws, you educate people on how to safely enjoy the natural environment and promote responsible use of natural resources. You also conduct investigations on any suspicious activity.

Salary and Benefits

If you’re a nature lover, a career as an environmental conservation officer may be the right one for you. These professionals enforce state and federal laws relating to fish, wildlife and natural habitats. They also help maintain recreational areas and forests. In addition, they conduct wildlife safety courses and investigate wildlife-related incidents.

After completing the 26-week residential basic training academy, new ECOs start at a salary of $54,243. This will increase to $73,030 upon completion of a two-year traineeship. ECOs are also eligible for annual performance incentives.

Like other law enforcement officers, ECOs work in shifts including weekends and public holidays. In addition, a physically fit individual is often essential since patrols are conducted in all weather conditions. Patrols are typically conducted in a marked patrol vehicle, a four-wheel drive SUV, boat, canoe, personal watercraft or on foot. In more remote areas, assistance may be hours away. Since 1978, NYS ECOs have been assisted by uniquely trained K9s – watch a video about how they assist our ECOs on patrol!

Work Environment

Similar to a fish and game warden, an environmental conservation officer is a trained law enforcement professional who enforces laws to protect natural resources including nature parks, wildlife areas and natural landscapes. Essentially, they are Mother Nature’s bodyguards! For example, if a wild animal is in distress in the forest, they direct rescue efforts. They also patrol their jurisdictions and watch for individuals leaving litter or destroying property. They educate the public to promote compliance with nature laws. They also meet with school groups, [career_link hunter] clubs and service organizations.

They often work outdoors in all weather conditions and on weekends and public holidays, particularly in entry-level positions. This can be a demanding career, but it is also a rewarding one for those who enjoy the outdoors and want to uphold the law. Senior positions tend to involve more desk-based duties, with research and administrative tasks. They also may travel to different sites for advice on conservation work.

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