Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Should Visitors Take Action When They Observe Violations In National Parks?

The National Park Traveler Blog posed the question as to whether park visitors should confront people they see committing violations of regulations in our National Parks.  You can see the full story at:

Here is my opinion on this question:

Making the decision as to whether or not to intercede when one observes violations in National Parks is a personal decision that should be made after fully assessing your situation.  Ask yourself some of these questions;

·         Is correcting the person worth placing yourself in possible danger?
·         Do you have communications to call for help?
·         Do you have an escape route so you can get out of the area in case the situation goes sour?
·         How many people are with the person committing the offense?
·         What is the demeanor of the offender and any companions – are they acting aggressive?
        Do the offenders appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs?

More than thirty two years as a National Park Ranger taught me that people are one of the most unpredictable of creatures in our parks.  You may be confident in yourself and abilities, but you know nothing about the person you are about to confront.  In the course of my career I found that people are increasingly becoming more volatile when their actions are questioned.
As soon as the person you have chosen to say something to presents any signs of defiance or aggressiveness, I would highly recommend leaving the area immediately.

Another alternative to taking action would be to make detailed observations of the offenders such as:

§  Complete and accurate description of what you observed
§  Physical descriptions of offenders
§  Clothing and outdoor gear that they have
§  Number and descriptions of companions
§  Specific location of where the offense occurred
§  Time of the offense
§  Descriptions including tag numbers of vehicle if involved
§  Direction of travel of the offenders if they left the area

As soon as possible report this information to a Park Ranger or other authorized person.

Park Rangers are few and far between and they always appreciate the assistance of additional eyes to protect our resources and your fellow visitors.  Most Park Rangers would also agree that they never want a park visitor to endanger themselves in this process.

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