Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Number of Law Enforcement Officers Killed In The Line Of Duty Up 38% In 2010

According to statistics kept by the FBI the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty is up 38% over 2009.  160 Officers were killed in 2010 as apposed to 117 in 2009.

During this same time period violent crime rates went down.

59 law enforcement officers were killed in shootouts during 2010.

The reason for the increase in officer deaths is theorized to be due to three factors:

    1.  Decreases in budgets have resulted in less officers trying to do more

     2.  An increasing violent number of criminals who are not afraid to kill law enforcement officers rather      than go to jail

    3.  A sharp increase in distracted drivers making traffic enforcement more dangerous

Think about number 3 next time when you are driving down the road talking on the cell phone or texting.

During the coming New Year let's not forget these men and women who gave their lives keeping us safe and the families they left behind.

You can learn more at:

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Present For Us All -Utah State Park Ranger Brody Young Improving

Utah State Park Ranger Brody Young who was shot over a month ago is improving to the point where he can talk and give investigators some basic information.  For more on the story go to:

Friday, December 17, 2010

Government Shutdown Looming – An Old Story

A big story in the media today is that pending government shutdown is looming if a budget is not passed by Sunday.  The coverage I am seeing makes it sound like this is the first time this has ever happened.  Realistically, not passing a Federal budget in time has become more a standard operating procedure for Congress. It is usually the result of the two political parties refusing to support any budgetary proposals put forward by the other. 

What normally happens is a Continuing Resolution is passed authorizing Federal Agencies to spend a percentage of what they did the year before.  One of the complications to this system is that Federal agencies may not know what their budget is for the year until half way through the fiscal year.  This does not allow for proper planning, scheduling, or efficient and affective spending of funds once they are approved.

Back in the early 1990s we faced a true shut down when Congress had still not approved a budget and could not even agree on an additional Continuing Resolution.  October is one of the busiest months of the year in the Eastern parks and the start of the Federal Fiscal year.  In mid October all Government Agencies were ordered to shut down all non essential services.  On the Blue Ridge Parkway the Superintendent determined that only supervisors were to be considered essential personnel and all others were to be sent home and all public facilities closed.  As the James River District Ranger I was the only supervisor in our division and had to send home all of my staff immediately and then proceed to clear all the visitors out and close two major picnic areas and a campground that happened to be near capacity of occupation.  The fact that these areas were separated over a distance of 70 miles also made this task more challenging.  I believe that I was cursed and verbally abused more on that one day then in the rest of my 32 year career.  No one told the public not to come to the most visited National Park Service area during the fall color season.  What they found were no campsites, no visitor centers, no park ranger programs, and most importantly no restrooms.

This continued for about ten days.  At first I was the only park ranger in the District that could work and respond to emergencies.  After several days the decision was made that one non supervisory park ranger per district could work per day.  No one knew if they would be paid for this time or not.  All other employees stayed home. 

Eventually a budget bill was passed and all employees were paid their regular pay for the time they were off.  So while park rangers worked others had a paid vacation.  But the largest impact was on the visitors whose National Park experiences were disrupted.

Today all Law Enforcement Commissioned National Park Rangers are considered essential personnel.  So should another government closure happen, public safety and protection of sensitive resources can still be assured.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Seasonal Park Ranger Application Tips

I have had several people write to me and ask questions at book events about applications for seasonal park ranger positions.  As I have noted before, most of the applications for this coming spring and summer seasons in National Parks are due in January.  Many job announcements for such positions are starting to show up at:

I would recommend visiting this site regularly to find any jobs you may be interested in.  Each announcement will have specific instructions on how to file your application.
Here are a few tips I have been passing around;

Consider that the first reading of your application that determines whether it gets passed on to a hiring supervisor or not will be done by someone who thinks they know everything but in truth know very little about being a park ranger.  That should be the initial audience that you are writing for.  That may sound a bit negative, but I ran into the situation of Human Resources clerks putting people that I knew were good individuals and highly qualified below others on scored lists.  The reason generally was the result of an application that did not include key words or phrases that evaluators are looking for.

Toot your own horn because no one else will.  Experienced seasonal park rangers tend to be overly modest in applying for jobs. I believe this is the result of their experience giving them a better insight of what the job requires than an inexperienced person possess.  They then tend to measure themselves to a higher standard and thus demean their level of know-how and ability in writing.  Do not fall into this trap.

Apply to multiple parks.  It is always a mistake to put all your eggs in one basket.  Do not overlook the lesser known, smaller, and urban areas and parks.  These locations in some cases hire more seasonals or have more turn over from past staff from the summer before.  The urban parks in many cases offer more opportunities for eventual permanent status since they also have more turn over in those types of positions. 

Are you a member of the Association of National Park Rangers?  At their annual Rendezvous they generally have Human Resources folks from Washington available to sit down and review applications with seasonal employees.  ANPR also provides mentoring programs, networking opportunities and training in leadership that is open to all members not just those nominated by supervisors.  Check out their website at:

Go to the search window to your right on this site and type in “jobs.” To read past posts on this topic.

Good luck pursuing a career as a National Park Ranger.

Utah State Park Ranger Brody Young's Condition Is Improving

One month after being shot multiple times during a vehicle stop Utah State Park Ranger Brody Young is still hospitalized but showing improvement.  Brody is now listed in fair condition in St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado.

For more information check out:

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Gathering of Authors In Lexington, Virginia

Book Signing Event
Books and Company
Nelson Street, Lexington Virginia
Sunday December 19, 2010
2 pm

Twelve local authors will be present to sign and personalize their books.  Included will be:

Bruce W. Bytnar “A Park Ranger’s Life”

Jim Bresnahan  “Friday Night Reunion”

Kate Buford  “Native American Son”

Patricia Foreman  “City Chicks”

Chris Gavaler  “School for Tricksters”

Keith Gibson  “Campus History of VMI”

John Leland  “Learning the Valley”

Dougie Morris  “Whilhelmina Under the Stairs”

Dabney Stuart  “Open the Gates”

Ann Sullivan  “Simply Sullystone”

Lisa Tracy  “Objects of Our Affection”

Reader Review of "A Park Ranger's Life"

Here is another reader's review of A Park Ranger's Life: Thirty Two Years Protecting Our National Parks.

December 10, 2010

Bruce Bytnar's book is packed with fascinating episodes that he experienced as a U.S. Park Ranger. Throughout its pages, he describes his career with the Park Service, as well as the various challenges he faced later on. The everyday problems that he dealt with ranged from wildlife poachers to inept supervisors and bureacracies. Despite all of this, his tone remains positive and inspiring. 

"A Park Ranger's Life" was published during my Seasonal Law Enforcement Academy, and I found it to be a helpful read. Overall, the author's stories provided extremely valuable insight into my desired career field, and I was glad I had read it after working as a NPS ranger this summer. Not only does Bytnar describe the ups and downs of the work, but he also provides a detailed look into other assignments, such as working on a forest fireline. 

I also enjoyed how the author described how his personal life was affected during his career. Park housing and family relationships are discussed, which are an extremely important part of working as a ranger. Few, if any, books take pause to examine this lesser-known component of how rangers live. 

"A Park Ranger's Life" makes an excellent read for anyone considering working as a Protection (LE) ranger. I also enjoyed the book, since I lived near the Blue Ridge Parkway in Western North Carolina and frequented it for hiking and camping. 

I am looking forward to reading it again soon.

You can still order copies of A Park Ranger's Life from on line sources in time for Christmas gifts.  The book is also available on Amazon Kindle for those digital readers out there.

Wheatmark Publishing

Barnes and's+life

If you are in Virginia you can find signed copies at the book stores listed in the right hand column of this blog.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Web Site For Utah State Park Ranger Brody Young

Here is a web site for Utah State Park Ranger Brody Young who was shot in the line of duty on November 19.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Update On Utah State Park Ranger Brody Young

Here is an update on Utah State Park Ranger Brody Young who remains in critical condition after being shot two weeks ago.  This is taken from The Desseret News.

MOAB — A Utah State park ranger remains in critical condition, and the man alleged to have shot him remains at large two weeks after the shootout occurred at the Poison Spider Mesa trailhead outside of Moab. Meanwhile, friends and acquaintances are planning a local fundraiser to help the family any way they can.
"I started calling people, and it was, by the next morning, our whole community, this sort of river community, knew what had happened to Brody," said Brian Merrill, one of Young's friends who helped organize the event. "It spread like wildfire, and everybody was concerned and praying."

"You can see that person's face, and you know that person's family, it's like, oh my gosh," Broyles said.Merrill and Chip Broyles, who are also helping organize the fundraiser — set for Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. at Eastmont Middle School, 10100 S. 1300 East, Sandy — said a lot of people in the river-rafting community in Utah know Young and his wife, Wendy, so when they heard about the shooting, they thought they should help.
The fundraiser will include live music, food, and auctions for river trips, outdoor gear, gift certificates to restaurants and "a bunch of other things people will probably be interested in," said Broyles.
There is also an account set up at any Wells Fargo branch in Brody Young's name.
A family member said Brody Young has been through several surgeries and continues to have complications with infections while recovering at a Grand Junction, Colo., hospital from multiple gunshot wounds.
Young, 34, was shot during a Nov. 19 confrontation with a man who evaded police in a weeklong search of the canyons in the Caveman Ranch area, off Potash Road, just outside of Moab. It is believed that Young was conducting a routine parking-lot check at the Poison Spider Mesa trailhead when the exchange of shots was fired. Young was able to radio for help, but the man had escaped before anyone arrived.
Before having a chance to interview Young and after blood was found inside the vehicle driven by the gunman, officials had reason to believe the man had been shot in the leg.
Lance Leeroy Arellano, 40, was charged Nov. 23 with attempted aggravated murder, a first-degree felony.
Contributing: Wendy Leonard

Questions On Suicides In National Parks

I had several interesting comments posted on my Facebook Fan page in reference to the story below about suicides in National Parks.

 Do you think they were all definitely suicides? Unless there was a note left, I would wonder that maybe they missed their footing or maybe had vision problems.

Response: A human death is not classified or declared a suicide until a full and thorough investigation is conducted. Initially any suspicious death is looked at from every angle including a possible murder. In today's world of technology many suicidal persons do not leave notes. They at times leave text and voice mail messages or call a family member or friend to threaten suicide. Family members, counselors, doctors, and co workers are often interviewed as part of the investigation to determine and verify the mind set of the victim. Forensic evidence is also collected from the victim and scene for examination. The medical examiner also has to make the final determination as to cause of death. It was also my experience that for most of the suicides I investigated it was not the person's first attempt. So there are many levels of determination and decision made before a death is declared a suicide.

Come on there has to be some better news for Facebook. How many fall in love in the parks?

Response: There are always positive experiences to be had in our National Parks. Many people do not realize that there are also tragic incidents such as these that not only affect the victims and their families, but the park employees that are involved in the response, rescue efforts, and investigations.

Andy Lankford (Author of Ranger Confidential)  Interesting story Bruce. Regarding the author's suggestions at the end...1. Don't think barricading either of those parks is an option 2. Rangers already do a good job of stopping suicides but more training in this area would not hurt. During my younger days, I think I stopped a suicide once when I arrested a man with a gun along the roadside but I did not comprehend that was what I had done until years later.

Response: Andy is right, park rangers are often unable to fully evaluate the impact that they have on peoples' lives. I believe the vast majority of them are positive some times saving and at other times altering a life.

Unfortunately, investigating suicides is just another part of A Park Ranger's Life.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Quirk of Firearms Law Changes in National Parks

Since last February due to an Act of Congress people can now carry firearms in National Parks if it is permitted by states and counties adjoining the parks.  As an example, loaded firearms are now permitted on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  This includes while persons are in a vehicle.  Hunting on the Blue Ridge Parkway is still prohibited.

On bordering lands managed by the US Forest Service in Virginia, where hunting is permitted, loaded firearms in vehicles are prohibited year round.  This prohibition is the result of Virginia State Law that outlaws carrying loaded firearms in vehicles on all state regulated game lands and National Forests.

The firearms prohibition that existed in National Park areas since before the creation of the National Park Service in 1916 was intended for the protection of wildlife.  Now firearms are more strictly regulated on public lands that permit hunting then in National Parks where hunting is prohibited. 

The Blue Ridge Parkway Tops List For Suicides in National Parks

A sad record for the Blue Ridge Parkway has been noted in a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  During my career I had to investigate and deal with the aftermath of numerous suicides within the park.  I was even called upon to assist investigations in other jurisdictions and parks due to my less than desirable experience.

You can read more about this issue in my book A Park Ranger's Life: Thirty Two Years Protecting Our National Parks.

The following is taken from

A new report has placed the Blue Ridge Parkway and Grand Canyon National Park at the top of America's national parks in a grim statistic: suicide attempts.
The research, published today (Dec. 2) in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, found that between 2003 and 2009, there were 286 suicide attempts on national park property. Of those, 194 succeeded in ending their lives.
According to the report, more than three-quarters of suicides occur at home, but suicides in public places like national parks can be traumatic to both park staff and witnesses. They can also be expensive. In one case, the report found, the search for a missing suicide victim cost almost $200,000.

In keeping with national trends, the most common suicide method in national parks was by firearm. Men made up 83 percent of park suicides.National park suicides are more likely than average to involve a jump or a car crash: In 19 percent of attempts, the person fell from a cliff or a bridge, and in 6 percent of cases, people attempted suicide by vehicle, sometimes driving off a cliff. In comparison, 2 percent of suicides nationally involve a jump, and less than 1 percent are transportation-related, the report noted.
The highest number of suicides occurred in June, August and January, the report found, with 22, 21 and 21, respectively. 
The Blue Ridge Parkway, a 469-mile (755 km) stretch of scenic road in North Carolina and Virginia, tied with Arizona's Grand Canyon National Park as the site of the most suicide events between 2003 and 2007. Both had a total of 21 attempted suicides. At the Blue Ridge Parkway, 15 committed suicide, while 11 did so at the Grand Canyon.
Natchez Trace Parkway in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee came in third with six attempts and 11 completed suicides. Colorado National Monument saw three attempts and 12 suicides, and Golden Gate National Recreation Area in California rounded out the top five with three attempts and 11 suicides.
The only other park with double-digit rates was New River Gorge National River. That park had a total of 10 attempts, nine of which were fatal. [See this table for suicides in other national parks]
The research found no long-term trends in the prevalence of suicide in the national park system, but the report's authors recommend training park rangers to recognize suicidal behavior. They also recommend that parks consider physical suicide barriers, such as pedestrian barriers on bridges. Research indicates that discouraging access to easy methodsreduces suicide, the authors wrote, because people do not usually seek out an immediate alternative method.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Danger Of Protecting Natural Resources

The link below will take you to the Officer Down Memorial Page.  There you will learn about Wildlife Conservation Officer David Grove who was shot down outside Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.  Officer Grove was murdered while on a vehicle stop of a suspected wildlife poacher.  The poacher turned out to be a convicted felon who had sworn not to go back to jail.

The image that many have of wildlife poachers is that of some local individual just trying to make ends meet and feed his family.  During more than thirty two years as a National Park Ranger I never met that individual.  The poachers that I dealt with were most likely involved in a variety of criminal pursuits and had already developed an impressive list of arrests or charges.  Attempted murder, assault and battery, dealing in controlled substances, burglary, bad checks, identity theft, larceny, auto theft, dealing in stolen property, and marijuana cultivation are among the litany of crimes that were also the business of poachers.

What motivated these individuals to illegally kill wildlife in National Parks was profit.  They either profited monetarily or in status and bragging rights among their peers.  One group of poachers who were also breaking into homes, dealing in drugs, and included one who had been in prison for attempted murder were killing as much wildlife as possible in Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway on a bet.  They documented their kills with Polaroid photos and the one that illegally killed the most game animals by the end of the year would win a case of beer.  Many of their kills were slaughtered and the meat sold on the illegal market for money to cover their gas and bullet costs.  An interagency investigation between the National Park Service and the State of Virginia eventually put these individuals in jail.  The total number of deer, bear, and bobcats they killed was never determined.

All these factors contribute to the dangers faced by park rangers, forest service law enforcement officers, and wildlife officers nationwide.