ALBANY -- State forest rangers would train more volunteers to help with search-and-rescue operations under a bill approved by the State Senate, following unsuccessful searches for two young men in the central Adirondacks.

Sen. Elizabeth Little (R-Queensbury), the bill's sponsor, said when someone disappears in a remote area, it's crucial to have "as many trained eyes and ears on the ground as possible."

"There's a real method to search for someone in the woods," she said. "Forest rangers would provide some training."

When Colin Gillis, 18, went missing last month, about 1,000 people turned out to look for him. The college student, home on spring break from Brockport State, was last seen after a party March 11 along Route 3 in Tupper Lake.

Wesley Wamsganz, 22, of Saranac Lake disappeared in 2010 after leaving his restaurant job Nov. 20 at a Lake Placid diner and heading to the nearby Adirondak Loj at the edge of the High Peaks backcountry.

Witnesses reported seeing him in the parking lot, and his jacket was found the next night. But rangers, police and three dozen volunteers had no luck finding him.

Little's bill would establish a program in which the Department of Environmental Conservation trains and credentials volunteers for searches "in the wild, remote and forested areas of the state." The bill doesn't authorize any funding. But Little said she believes rangers would be willing to conduct the training as part of their current jobs.

A similar measure is pending in the Assembly.

Rangers conduct more than 200 search-and-rescue operations each year in New York's backwoods, most ending with hikers or campers found within hours.

The agency has nine open missing-person cases in the region dating to 1971.

The DEC has 112 forest rangers, 20 fewer than a decade ago, agency spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said. It works with volunteer search-and-rescue groups in the Adirondacks and holds training sessions in areas where it has "limited continuous" searches when people have been missing for a long time.

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