Friday, October 28, 2011

A Park Ranger Ghostly Expereince

In my book A Park Ranger's Life  I told the story of my experience with some unexplained phenomena at Hampton House in Towson, Maryland.  A recent article in the Towson Patch references this adventure.  Check it out at:

Hampton House in Towson, Maryland

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Park Ranger To Be Executed In Iran

It is often difficult for us as Westerners to understand Muslim law and how it works.  A prime example is now unfolding in Iran.

A park ranger who was working in the remote province of Dena confronted five illegal poachers who had killed a protected wild goat.  In the ensuing confrontation the poachers shot at the park ranger attempting to escape.  Reacting to protect himself the park ranger returned fire apparently killing one of the poachers.  This incident that occurred in 2007 has now resulted in park ranger Asad Taghizadeh being convicted of manslaughter and condemned to death, a sentence that is to be carried out within two weeks.

According to the Iranian Mehr News Agency:

 Following the shooting, Taghizadeh was condemned to a retributive death sentence (Qesas), something the family of the deceased hunter have been demanding insistently
The sentence of death has now been affirmed by the Iranian Supreme Court.

In Iran more than one hundred park rangers have been killed on the job in the past thirty years.  Iranian park rangers are looked down on as lower members of society due to their poor economic compensation.  This contributes to their treatment by fellow Iranians and disregard for their mission of protecting natural and cultural resources.

For more information you can go to the following links.  The second includes an online petition should you wish to take some action.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Park Rangers Catch More Plant Thieves On The Blue Ridge Parkway

Park Rangers made another arrest of individuals steeling native plants on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.  As you read this entry from today's National Park Service Morning Report, note that this was not the first time at least one of these individuals has been caught thieving plants and that the other two share additional criminal histories.

I found the connection of criminal activity between natural resource thieves and other violations to be a common thread.  Most poachers that we charged had criminal histories ranging from attempted murder, assault, and drug trafficking, to bad checks and fraud.  In a number of instances we uncovered evidence of these other crimes while investigating individuals for resource law violations in the park.

Someone who is uninhibited enough to commit crimes against others will often look to the  presumed easy dollar to be made in the illegal wildlife and plant trade.

Blue Ridge Parkway
Three Arrested For Ginseng Poaching

On the afternoon of September 29th, rangers saw a suspicious vehicle and three individuals in an area known for ginseng poaching.  As the rangers approached, they began throwing items into the woods and into their vehicle. Upon investigation, the rangers found that the trio had collectively dug up 350 ginseng roots. All three were arrested and taken before the federal magistrate, with a pending court date in December. One of them had been arrested two years previously by one of the same rangers for the same offense. One of the others is presently on probation and also had outstanding warrants on him. The third, although not wanted, also had a criminal history. [Tim Francis, District Ranger]

Employees in our National Parks deal with these career criminals regularly.  For me it became just another part of a Park Ranger's Life.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Park Ranger's Fall Color Season Travel Tips

I posted these tips a while back, but they still apply;

If you are planning a trip to the Southern Appalachians for the fall color season and want to stay in hotel or lodge accommodations, have reservations in advance. Many times I have seen travelers on the Blue Ridge Parkway in October thinking that they would just take a leisurely drive and find a motel room at the end of the day. In many cases they would find no room at the inn. I have seen people drive seventy five miles or more away from the park to find a vacant room.

October is the peak visitation season for this region of the country and a pretty weekend can see huge crowds in the parks.

October is also college football season. Colleges also sponsor their family and alumni weekends durng the beautiful fall weather. Such events can fill hotels for miles. You can check college web sites for their schedules. Some of the key colleges that may affect hotel availability are:

The University of Virginia
Virginia Military Institute
Washington and Lee University
Virginia Tech
Appalachian State University
University of North Carolina At Asheville

Fall festivals in specific communities can be a great attraction to visit, but also fill hotels.

Traffic in prime viewing areas may also become congested which will result in slow downs and delays. So make your plans for the distances you travel are reasonable and attainable. Come the end of the day you do not want to be hundreds of miles away from your planned stop for the night.

When ever possible travel during the week. Weekends are always the peak traffic times. Hotels rooms are also more easily obtainable on weekday nights.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Park Rangers -You Should'a Been In Pictures

With the advent of compact video and audio recorders that are now part of most cellular telephones, the public has in many cases become news cameramen.  If their film footage does not reach the level of newsworthiness for the visual image hungry 24 hour media outlets, they can always self-broadcast on services such as YouTube or blogs.  Of course these video clips are like the political sound bites we see every day, they are edited and expanded on to show an often uncomplimentary or partial view.

I used to tell other Park Rangers that whenever in public you should consider yourself to be on camera and to make decisions, act, and talk as if you are.  The intent is not to be false or less efficient but as a reminder to always remain calm, professional, and to do the right thing.

Here are some examples of recent views of Park Rangers placed out in cyberspace for anyone to see.....

Be sure to listen to the audio in this filming of an arrest at Cape Hatteras.  You may note that the producers left out any information as to why the Park Rangers were contacting this suspect.

This public fascination with video recording of Park Rangers in the performance of their duty makes the use of In Car Video and Security Cameras by Rangers exceptionally relevant.  I remember when we first started to purchase car camera units for field Park Rangers on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The initial resistance to have them installed was predictable.  Once the video recordings were applied to answering frivolous complaints and to substantiate reasonable suspicion for stopping vehicles, the application of cameras became part of the everyday operations of Park Rangers.  It got to the point that when I received a letter or telephone call complaint about how a person we treated by a Ranger, all I had to do was say that I would review the video and in almost every case the plaintiff withdrew their accusation.

The use of In Car Cameras also served as a valuable tool of self-evaluation for Park Rangers to improve on their officer safety and information gathering skills.

So whether it is a by stander to an incident or their own equipment, National Park Rangers are becoming screen stars.  My advice is to keep this information in the back of your mind and use that thought to your advantage remaining professional and focused.  Get used to being filmed and do not let the presence of cameras intimidate your decision making processes.

ProRanger Program With The National Parks

In the past I wrote about the implementation of the ProRanger Program.  This partnership with Temple University was developed to meet the challenge to our National Parks of up to 55% of the present Park Rangers retiring over the next three to five years.

Check out this link to find out more about this program  and meet two students who will be starting their careers with the National Park Service this month.

OPM Job Search Site To Be Down For A Week

The Office Of Personnel Management has announced that they are revamping their Federal Job announcement site known as USA Jobs.  In order to complete this change over the site will be closed from this coming Thursday until the following Thursday.