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About the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) was formed in 1970. On April 22, 1970—the first Earth Day—legislation was signed creating a single agency to oversee all environmental concerns in the state. The legislation melded the old Conservation Department with programs from the Department of Health and several state commissions into the DEC, and created several new areas of regulation.

The formation of the DEC represented the outgrowth of almost a century of increasing awareness of environmental issues in the state. In 1880, the state appointed the first officers to enforce its game laws. These "game protectors," who would later be called "conservation officers," were New York's first statewide law enforcement professionals, preceding the formation of the Division of State Police by 27 years.

Then, in 1885, the State Legislature established the Forest Preserve of New York State, setting aside land in the Adirondacks and Catskills to be protected as "forever wild" and establishing regulations and guidelines governing the use of these lands. The year 1885 also marked the beginning of the forest ranger service in New York State.

In 1895, the Fisheries, Game and Forest Commission was formed to take on functions related to fish and game regulations, hunting seasons, and poaching. The Commission became the Conservation Department in 1911. The Conservation Department became one of the forerunners of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation when it was formed in 1970.

The mission of the DEC is: "To conserve, improve and protect New York's natural resources and environment and to prevent, abate and control water, land and air pollution, in order to enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state and their overall economic and social well-being."

The DEC is headed by a Commissioner, who is appointed by the Governor. The department has 24 divisions and offices and is further organized into bureaus to fulfill the functions and regulations established by Title 6 of New York Codes, Rules and Regulations (6 NYCRR). Some of the Department's programs are also governed by federal law.

Among the DEC's offices and divisions are the:

Division of Air Resources
Office of General Counsel
Division of Environmental Permits
Division of Environmental Remediation
Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources
Division of Forest Protection
Division of Lands and Forests
Division of Materials Management
Division of Mineral Resources
Division of Operations
Division of Public Affairs and Education
Office of Legislative Affairs
Division of Law Enforcement
Division of Water
Office of Climate Change
Office of Environmental Justice
Office of Hearings and Mediation Services
Office of Invasive Species Coordination

For administrative purposes, the DEC divides New York State into nine regions:

Region 1: (Long Island) Nassau and Suffolk counties

Region 2: (New York City) Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island

Region 3: (Lower Hudson Valley) Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester counties

Region 4: (Capital Region/Northern Catskills) Albany, Columbia, Delaware, Greene, Montgomery, Otsego, Rensselaer, Schenectady and Schoharie counties

Region 5: (Eastern Adirondacks/Lake Champlain) Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Saratoga, Warren and Washington counties

Region 6: (Western Adirondacks/Eastern Lake Ontario) Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida and St. Lawrence counties

Region 7: (Central New York) Broome, Cayuga, Chenango, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga, Oswego, Tioga and Tompkins counties

Region 8: (Western Finger Lakes) Chemung, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne and Yates counties

Region 9: (Western New York) Allegany, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Erie, Niagara and Wyoming counties

Additional Information

DEC Website

History of DEC

DEC Timeline


Posted by Rachel Treichler. Most recent update 01/14/12



Copyright 2013, Rachel Treichler



About NY Water Law

New York Water Law covers legal developments relating to water in New York and in jurisdictions that may be influential in New York. The author, Rachel Treichler, practices law in the Finger Lakes region.
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