Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Park Rangers and Technology

Technology has improved our world bringing information to our fingertips and communications within the blink of an eye. When I started with the National Park Service in 1975 a lot of the technology that we take for granted today did not exist. There were no cell phones, fax machines, computers, CD’s, DVD’s, and radios were large suitcase size units in the trunks of cars and handheld radios were larger than and as heavy as a brick.

One of the side effects of technology is the taking of Park Rangers from the field in order to spend time meeting the requirements of our technological world. As a District Ranger I once counted approximately twenty different software programs that I needed to be conversant with to do my job. These programs were used to manage budgets, order supplies and equipment, produce work schedules, email communications, write and review incident reports, maintain inventories, track training needs and accomplishments, file personnel actions, payroll, and more. No two programs were alike, used different passwords, and would not cross communicate or share information.

Today’s Park Ranger can spend several hours a day in the office writing reports, tracking duties, completing required on line training in equal opportunity and cyber security, training nominations, keeping up with email, etc. etc.

With the advent of the computer age there has been a decline in patience from administrators for reports and forms that do not directly apply to a field ranger’s job to preserve and protect the park.

Today’s Park Rangers need to be well versed in computers and their applications. Gone are the days of supervisors as I had that would become angry if they caught you in the office. A Park Ranger’s place was in the field. Today supervisors can be under more pressure from higher level managers to ensure their staff members get online administrative training done than protecting our parks and visitors.

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