Friday, December 14, 2012

TV Producer Looking For Park Rangers

A Television production company is looking for people with Resource Protection/Park Ranger experience for a new show that is in development.

If you think you are interested in finding out more, here is the information;


Shoot Date: TBA
Shoot Location: USA

Role: Adventurer. M/F 30 yrs old & up. Fit, In-shape, Rugged, Full of confidence & swagger. MUST have some experience in the wildlife/land services world i.e. Park Ranger, Dept of Fish & Game, Bureau of Land Management, Forrest Service, Dept of Environmental Conservation, etc

Please submit asap if interested to
Thank you so much. Contact me with any questions!

Marie Malyszek
Dam Legacy Entertainment
Casting Director

Thursday, November 29, 2012

House of Representatives To Honor Slain Park Ranger

Last January National Park Ranger Margaret Anderson was shot and killed in the line of duty while attempting to protect the visitors to Mount Rainier National Park.  The US House of Representative has voted to honor her ultimate sacrifice to duty by naming the Eatonville, Washington Post Office after her.

The Visitor Center at Organ Pipe National Monument was named for Park Ranger Kris Eggle who was also shot and  killed in the line of duty in 2003.  This memorialization was also the result of an act of Congress in November of 2003.

You can learn more about both these heroes and our remembrance of them at:

Post Office to be named for Margaret Anderson

Info on Kris Eggle Visitor Center

Friday, November 16, 2012

Park Rangers Partner With Scientists

Learn about how Park Rangers are partnering with scientists in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park to help protect ginseng plants from illegal theft.

Protecting Plants In The Smokies

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Park Ranger's Fall Color Tips

This was originally published in 2010.  The advice still applies and you may find it useful in planning any "leaf peeping" expeditions to the Southern Appalachians.

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 during 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 and surrounding communities.  Many small towns and rural areas will be hosting festivals and art events that draw hundreds if not thousands of people.  

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

Competition for hotel rooms can be almost as exciting as some of the football games.
Traffic in prime viewing areas may also become congested which will result in slow downs and delays. So make sure your plans for the distances to travel are reasonable and attainable. Allow a cushion of time in your planning for heavy traffic. 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.

A Park Ranger’s Life Lessons – Think Twice About That Tattoo

Tattoos have become common in our society.  Movie stars, athletes, gang members, military personnel, and ordinary people at times cover their bodies with skin art.  At times some perhaps do not put enough time and thought in designing their body ink.

A few years ago one of the Park Rangers I worked with had a pickup truck pass him going the opposite direction at a high rate of speed.  The Ranger turned and attempted to stop the truck.  Rather slowing or stopping, as most people would do, the driver attempted to evade capture.  The closer the Park Ranger got the faster the pickup moved out.  The pursuer backed off to prevent a collision that could be caused by pushing the escape suspect to their driving skill limits.

The pickup driver then left the Parkway squealing tires off a ramp onto a winding state road.  The pursuing Ranger, then joined by another Park Ranger, continued to follow the pickup down the hair pin turn and tight switch back road losing sight of the vehicle. 
Both Rangers rounded a curve to find the pickup they had been attempting to stop in a ditch.  The driver’s door opened, the driver exited the vehicle and ran into the woods.

As required by pursuit policy, as the supervisor I received a telephone call to inform me of the incident.  I was told that the suspect was John Jones (name changed to protect the guilty).

“So you have the subject in custody?”


“The vehicle is registered to him?”  Which does not prove the registered owner was driving?


“You already know him from a previous contact and recognized him?”


“Okay, so how can you prove who he is?”

“Well he wasn’t wearing a shirt.”

“So……what does that have to do with it?”

“Well…he had his name tattooed in big letters across his back at the top of his shoulders.”

Later when John Jones was located at his girlfriend’s residence and asked to remove his shirt he did indeed have his own name tattooed in large distinctive letters across his back.  He also had a revoked driver’s license which is why he would not stop and he admitted to having a couple beers before being seen by the Park Ranger.

Lesson Learned – think through those tattoo plans.  Whatever you decide on will be with you for life.  Or at least keep your shirt on.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

More Information on Blue Ridge Parkway Plant Theft

As written earlier today, Park Rangers on the Blue Ridge Parkway charged individuals in two separate cases with the theft of plants from a National Park area.  It has come to my attention that in just one of these cases the thieves had 442 plant roots that weighed 7 lbs. and 2.4 oz.  That is before drying roots which reduces the weight significantly, but dried is how it is sold.  The thieves attempt to sell the dried ginseng roots with current  prices running $500 to $600.  Some buyers in the past have been known to even pay higher prices if the plants are from National Parks because markets consider these to be more pure.

In one day these individuals were able to steal 442 plants from you the American public.  It makes one wonder how many plants are being stolen nationwide on an annual basis from our parks.

Park Rangers were able to make this case based on their years of experience and skills in tracking not only to find suspects, but to retrace their steps to discover where they have been.  In many such crimes the perpetrators will stash or hide their take in the woods near a road and then return later, sometimes in a different vehicle, to claim their take.

Above are some photos of the ginseng that was confiscated from the thieves.  In most cases the ginseng roots are photographed and documented as evidence.  The roots are then replanted by Park Rangers.  In this case the roots were so dry and damaged from the digging that they would not re sprout resulting in each plant being lost.

Plant Theft From The Blue Ridge Parkway

As I have written before, plant theft from our National Parks is a growing problem.  Vegetative populations are being devastated for the financial gain of a few.  National Parks belong to us all and these criminals are stealing from each citizen of this country.

Recently Park Rangers on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia caught two groups of people illegally digging valuable ginseng plants within the park.

The following is taken from the October 9th National Park Service Morning Report;

Blue Ridge Parkway
Rangers Make Two Ginseng Poaching Cases
On Sunday, September 30th, protection rangers in
the Ridge District detected and apprehended two separate groups of poachers 
illegally taking ginseng from park lands.  A group of four was seen digging illegally by
rangers Jeremy Sears and Marc Cyr; three of them were cited for the illegal
removal of the plant. 
Rangers Zeph Cunningham and Miranda Cook then
contacted two people as they walked along the parkway to their vehicle.
Further investigation resulted in the rangers discovering a bag stashed in
the woods that contained a large amount of ginseng and digging tools. One
of the people they contacted admitted to digging the ginseng and was placed
under arrest. A search of their vehicle resulted in the discovery of a
second bag of ginseng. 
Wild ginseng is currently being sold for $500 to
$600 per pound. [Kurt Speers, Ridge District Ranger]

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

National Parks Impact On The Economy

I have written on this blog several times in the past about the significant positive impact National Parks have on our Country's economy.  Preservation, emotions, and ethics aside; like most tangible items and concepts in our society today it can all be boiled down to dollars.

Go to this website listed below for a graphic example of how our parks are related to our financial security.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Park Ranger's Life Blog Selected As One of Top 100 Forestry Resources

The organization Forestry has selected this blog as One of the Top 100 Forestry Resources on line today.

From the web site:

Forestry is defined as the science, art, and craft of creating, managing, using, and conserving forests and other resources to meet a variety of goals and for the benefit of humans and the world at large. This broad term covers a multitude of occupations, organizations, and causes. As such, there are a many fantastic forestry resources available online, and it can be challenging to sort through all of them. We here at have done that for you by compiling this list of 100 top forestry resources. We based selections on a variety of factors including traffic, search ranking, quality of content, and their overall success in achieving forestry’s many goals. They aren’t listed in a specific order, but are simply the best of the best. Any forestry student, professional, or anyone simply interested in the great outdoors should find something useful on this list.

You will find "A Park Ranger's Life" as one of the nine selected under the category of National and State Parks.  For more information and to see the entire list go to:

Monday, September 10, 2012

Park Ranger - A Dangerous Job

One of the most common comments I get from those that have read my book, "A Park Ranger's Life,"  is that they are surprised how dangerous a ranger's job can be.  Although I have to admit facing a few potentially hair raising adventures during my career they do not come close in comparison to the dangers faced by Park Rangers in other parts of the world.

According to the Game Rangers Association of Africa 60 Park Rangers world wide have been killed in the line of duty this past year.  Most of these deaths occurred in Africa where it is like a war zone attempting to protect large game animals.

Elephants are still killed for their ivory and rumors of rhinoceros horn being a cure for cancer is resulting in the slaughter of these animals.  There is so much money available through international markets that the impoverished people of the African Continent find that risking their lives is worth the risk for the pay day.  A result is that they have no reservations about killing others to illegally take wildlife.

You can add years of war in certain regions of the continent and the related availability of military grade small arms resulting in heavily armed poachers going up against lighter armed and in most cases outnumbered and under trained park rangers.  A poacher who is desperate is quick to make the decision to kill to escape with their prize.

You can learn more about this situation at the National Geographic Daily News website.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Author of "A Park Ranger's Life" to Speak at Roads Scholar Program

I will be one of the guest speakers at the Roads Scholar week long session on "Shenandoah National Park and Human History in the Blue Ridge."  The program will be conducted during the week of September 16th to the 21st based in Staunton, Virginia.

This Roads Scholar presentation is being coordinated through Virginia Commonwealth University.  For more information go to;

A Park Ranger Looks Back - Follow Up Questions From a Reader

A follow up to the reader questions posted earlier today;

The answer was very helpful, it's hard to find a lot of information like this online. Do you have any other advice? Will the pro's out-weigh the con's in becoming a park ranger? Are the politics worth dealing with? I'm currently working toward my B.S. in Criminal Justice and Recreation Administration and getting into the NPS is one of my goals. I realized after watching the documentary " The Law of Nature: Park Rangers in Yosemite Valley " that it really is hard to balance budget along with the battle between generalization and specialization.
I guess I have a lot of questions to ask since it's not only hard to find straight forward answers, but because I want to make sure I am looking past the romantic image of the park ranger. Especially after reading your book, and with me currently reading Ranger Confidential, what I am planning in going into has never felt so real.

As with any career there are many pros and cons.  As I used to advise people later in my career, "There is no Utopia out there."  

And at times when individuals would become overly frustrated with administrative matters, thoughts of transferring would dance in their heads.  At this point my advise would be that every job is going to have "B.S" you have to put up with.  But sometimes you just need some fresh B.S.

The other thing I learned related to this topic is that the park you work in is not as important as the people you work with.  You can be in a not so famous or well regarded park, but if you are working with people you like and work well with you may find this to be the most rewarding part of  your career.

Yes, there are some hard parts about being a National Park Ranger.  It is not for everyone.  To paraphrase an old saying, "If it was easy, everyone would do it."

Many I worked with had their own frustrations and demons to deal with.  I talk about many of these in my book.  But in the long run I have to say I can not think of a career path that could have been more rewarding or fulfilling for me than being a National Park Ranger.  The key is to keep yourself focused on the mission of the agency and what drew you to the job in the first place.  That is not always easy to do and life's distractions will certainly step in the way.  You have to decide that this is a life path you want to commit to.  If you have a family, you need to be sure they know what you are getting into.

For one starting into this career I would advise that in addition to keeping your personal focus you maintain an outside life away from the park.  In many instances individuals that become tied to their park 24/7 with no outside support system are in danger of burn out and suffer for it.  Make and keep friends that do not work for the Park Service.  It is amazing the emotional grounding that can provide.  Luckily for me my wife is a teacher and that gave us an additional social group away from the park.  Parks can be very busy and demanding places that can eat away all your soul if you let it.  At first this is an exciting adrenalin rush, but over time this can wear on the emotional threads of our lives.

I would highly recommend that you find and read the book "Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement" by Kevin Gillmartin.  His research included working with National Park Rangers so this is not just information for big city police officers. I was privileged to attend a session given by Dr. Gillmartin at a training course later in my career and found his research astounding and resonating like it was written about my life in dealing with the demands of being a Park Ranger.  I really wish I had this information earlier in my career.  I was so moved by this that I bought a copy of the book for all the Rangers on my staff.  So check that out.

So bottom line, after working as a National Park Ranger for almost 33 years and now having been retired for three would I do it all again.  Yes, I have to say I would not hesitate.  There is something about belonging to an organization that has what I feel has such an important mission that sings still sings to my soul.

Generalist Park Ranger Positions

Questions from a reader:

Hello, I have read your book and understand that the NPS have rangers specialize in specific fields. Are there certain areas where there is still the "ranger-does-all," such as law enforcement, firefighting, EMS, interpretation, maintenance, etc...?

I noticed looking through USAJOBS that there was one listing out of the other listings titled "Park Ranger (I)" that hopefully will still be up on this link: Would this be the kind of career I am talking about?

Thank you for writing the book!

Thanks for reading my book.  I hope you enjoyed it.

The type of job you are describing is termed a "Generalist Ranger" in National Park Service parlance.  Truly  and totally generalist positions are becoming harder to find.  The demands of modern society have required park rangers to receive specialized training to be certified to perform duties in law enforcement, firefighting, EMS, and search and rescue.  This time and education commitment is good on one hand, but on the other tends to lead toward more specialization of individuals.

As a result in most parks rangers are divided into two main categories.  Protection Park Rangers are the ones who are mainly charged with law enforcement, fire fighting, EMS, and Search and Rescue.  

The second category is Interpretive Park Rangers or what you noted on the USAJobs web site a Park Ranger (I).  This is where you find your naturalists, historians, and educators.  These Park Rangers in many parks also get involved in protection functions other than law enforcement.  This is not normally part of their job description and is done more often if the employee is interested in doing that work and they have a supervisor who supports it.

Some parks will tend to have their personnel in more specialized positions and others will have people more involved a variety of duties.  It may even depend on where in the park a person is assigned.  As an example in Yosemite National Park if one works in protection position in the main Valley they will be spending most of their time focused on law enforcement.  There are also park rangers who specialize in search and rescue and others in interpretation.  If the position is in another area of the park that is less populated with visitors the duties will be more general in nature.

When reading through vacancy announcements on be sure to carefully read through the section on Qualifications and Duties.  This will give you some idea of what that specific position will entail.  If possible, I would recommend that you contact the park and talk with the Chief Ranger or other Park Rangers to ask what duties and the percentage of time Park Rangers spend conducting each activity run.  Even better whenever possible would be to visit the park in person.

Look at parks in a bit more remote areas with smaller staffs.  These areas tend to have their staffs work in more general positions to cover all the functions within a park with their limited personnel resources.

I hope this in some way answers some of your questions.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

National Park Service Seasonal Law Enforcement Park Ranger Training

I have received several requests for information and guidance in the process to qualify for a job with the National Park Service as a Law Enforcement certified Park Ranger.  As I have written in the past,  the vast majority of individuals start working as a temporary or seasonal employee.  Not only myself, but most of the park rangers I worked with during my career started out this way.

One of the, what many consider, the oddities of the National Park Service is that to qualify for a seasonal law enforcement or protection positions an individual must complete a training academy certified by the Park Service.  You will hear this referred to as the Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program or SLETP.  These training academies are operated by colleges and universities across the country.  The odd part is that this program is done by the prospective Park Ranger on their own time and at their own expense.  Once completed the graduate can be considered for hiring for jobs that last for up to six months at a National Park anywhere in the country.  In some cases these programs will also qualify graduates to work for state and local agencies where they are located.

In addition, once someone is fortunate enough to be selected for a permanent Park Ranger protection position, they will be required to complete the training program at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC).

You can learn a lot more at these sites:

Monday, July 9, 2012

Park Rangers Looking Out For Visitor Safety

From the National Park Service Morning Report:

Blue Ridge Parkway – A traffic study launched in 2001 identified particular locations and times where accidents most typically occurred.  The park then began an innovative signing and targeted patrol program that has since cut the number of annual accidents nearly in half, down  from over 450 in 2000 to just over 250 last year.

This effort started in 2000 involved Park Rangers identifying a concerning trend in the increase of  motor vehicle accidents on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Rangers worked on an interdisciplinary team with Engineers, Landscape Architects, Dispatchers, and others to identify locations where accidents were revealing patterns.  One example was at Mile Post 36.5 where there were over a dozen motorcycle accidents in the same curve within one year.  During the following year there were zero accidents at this location.

The plan included three elements; education, signage, and increased enforcement.

What is not shown in the above morning report entry is that due to more aggressive enforcement of traffic regulations the number charges for more serious crimes such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, distribution of drugs, etc. also went up significantly.

After approximately two years of this work by Rangers that was not popular at times unpopular with the public, the crime rate turned decreased significantly.

Why did this happen?  I believe there was a change in the perception of local communities and violators.  In the past I had heard many times that people were using the Blue Ridge Parkway as a travel route because they did not think they would get caught.  Once the number of violation notices and arrests went up, that perception changed.

So not only did the Blue Ridge Parkway make a significant impact on the number of serious motor vehicle accidents the were causing personal injuries, property damage, and at times death, they made the Park a much safer place to visit.

I credit the Chief Ranger at the time Gordon Wissinger and his Assistant Chief Ranger John Garrison for not only taking a leadership role in developing this plan of action, but standing by it at times when certain members of the public and politicians did not like the increased enforcement actions being taken.  They are both examples of what a good manager can still accomplish in our National Parks.

Examples of more aggressive signage that was developed for high accident areas.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Fourth of July in National Parks

July Fourth to most people brings memories of family picnics, outdoor fun, and cookouts punctuated by a fireworks display to celebrate the birth of our Nation.  During my National Park Service career it meant time away from my family, long hours of hot working conditions, and getting to meet all kinds of interesting people literally ranging from the President of the United States to drunken idiots.  I spent the vast majority of July 4th's away from home in such places as Washington, DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Saint Louis working at jobs ranging from parking cars, crowd control, dignitary protection, and eventually Incident Command positions in planning and operations at the national level.

So today do not forget all those National Park Service employees that are having to work protecting our resources and making your July 4th visit a safe and pleasant one.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

More On The Potential Affects Of Pending Legislation Before Congress

More from the Coalition of National Park Retirees on the impact of new legislation on management of our National Parks.

H.R. 4089/S. 2066 would elevate fishing, hunting, and shooting over all other uses of the National Park System. Throughout the National Park System, authorized public uses are not distinguished from each other; they are all managed on the same level, unless singled out by the enabling legislation for a specific area. No one activity is given favored status throughout the System. The bills would alter that balance, however, by requiring NPS to “support and facilitate” hunting, fishing and shooting. No other public recreational activities are subject to a statutory mandate imposed on NPS to affirmatively advance the opportunities to engage in such uses of the park area’s resources. These bills would require NPS to take extra steps to assist hunters, trappers, fishermen, and recreational shooters. H.R. 4089 subsection (I) tries to brush this problem away by stating the bill does not require a “preference” to be given to these activities over other uses. This provision does not negate the fact, however, that NPS would be legally required to take action to support and facilitate hunting, fishing, and shooting, when a similar affirmative duty does not apply to any other uses.  

I would point out that even if as stated above the bill does not require "preference" to be given to hunting, fishing, trapping, and recreational shooting it does open an argument for special interest groups to file law suits against the National Park Service if they do not agree with their interpretations.  This would end up costing our government money and time that could be dedicated to more relevant issues.  If you do not believe this could happen just look at the long history of court actions by the NRA to open parks to hunting and other cases involving the use of snow machines and personal water craft in our National Parks as just a few examples.

Tragedy Strikes - Another National Park Ranger Makes the Ultimate Sacrifice Saving Others

For the second time this year Mount Rainier National Park has been devastated by the loss of one of their own.  This past Thursday Park Ranger Nick Hall fell 3,000 to his death while rescuing climbers off Mount Rainier.  Once again a National Park Ranger has made the ultimate sacrifice protecting others.  I can only imagine the sense of grief and loss his family and fellow workers must be experiencing.

Even though I am now retired I still find myself deeply affected by the loss of another National Park Service Ranger.  My thoughts and gut are tied up in thinking about the dangers faced by Park Rangers every day and how easily things can go wrong.

The situation at Mount Rainier is acerbated by the fact that just this past January 1st Park Ranger Margaret Anderson was shot and killed in the line of duty at Mount Rainier setting up a road block to stop a vehicle that turned out to be driven by a wanted murderer.

Many Park Ranger's across the country face dangerous situations on a daily basis.  Unfortunately neither Margaret or Nick were facing challenges that do not have the potential to exist every day in our National Parks.

Park Rangers are not the only employees to face hazardous working conditions.  Just this past May Maintenance Worker Dana Bruce was killed when the mower he was operating rolled down the side of an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Our National Parks are wild places that do not allow for many societal or natural controls.  Both people and nature are constantly changing and unpredictable environments to work in.  Today National Park staff members are taken aback with this latest loss, but they will continue to do the job they have dedicated their lives to; protecting our National Parks and the people who visit them.

On this day let our thoughts and prayers be with the family, friends, and co-workers of Nick Hall in this time of grief and loss.

Nick Hall

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Adverse Effects of Sportsman’s Heritage Bills on the National Park System

As I have written before, the National Park System is under an attack by Congress that could turn management of our Nation's treasures on its ear.  The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees is speaking out against a bill that recently passed in the House and is now being considered in the Senate that would open most areas managed by the National Park Service to hunting, trapping, and recreational shooting.
The Federal Government already manages millions of acres where these activities are permitted and managed.  Theses areas are under the direction of the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service, DOD and others.  Now special interest groups want to change practices that have been in place and upheld by Federal Courts in National Park areas since their founding.
The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees has published a paper that specifies the challenges that this change in direction of National Park Service Management will generate.  I will publish these as a series on this blog so that you may be informed and make your own decision on how this will impact our future.
One last diatribe from me; I find it hard to believe that our members of Congress can find time to consider such additions to bills rather than work on the economy, jobs, and our National debt.
Coalition of National Park Service Retirees
The House of Representatives has passed H.R. 4089, a bill that would open most units of the National Park System to hunting, trapping, and other consumptive uses of fish and wildlife and additional currently prohibited uses.  In doing so, the bill would also undermine fundamental principles of management that have governed the National Park System for decades.  A similar bill, S. 2066, had previously been introduced in the Senate, but no further action has been taken. These bills present what is perhaps the greatest threat to the National Park System throughout its history.  This briefing paper highlights some of the most significant problems with these two bills.
H.R. 4089/S.2066 would invalidate the decades-old management principle that consumptive uses of National Park System resources are prohibited unless expressly authorized.  NPS has long governed units of the National Park System based on the principle that hunting, trapping, collecting specimens and other uses that extract natural resources from park area ecosystems are not allowed, unless Congress has clearly authorized such activities.  This longstanding principle has been confirmed by the courts.  H.R. 4089/S. 2066 would eliminate this principle because they would recognize that hunting, trapping, fishing and collecting are to be affirmatively supported and facilitated on all federal lands.  As a result, H.R. 4089/S. 2066 would stand NPS management policy on its head, creating a presumption that consumptive uses are the norm, and must be allowed unless expressly prohibited.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Rocky Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway Makes Top Ten List Of Campgrounds

Rocky Knob Campground located on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia made the top ten list of locations in a recent article in the National Parks Traveler web site.  I could not help but notice that this selection is one of some pretty spectacular sites all west of the Mississippi.

Visitors Still Face Dangers In National Parks - If Not Prepared and Smart

The number of visitors that meet their deaths in National Parks remains surprising.  Many are the result of people not remaining aware of their surrounding and limitations, making dangerous decisions, and taking unnecessary risks due to a false sense of security while using parks.

This article from the National Parks Traveler reviews several recent incidents which resulted in deaths.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Tip Of The Hat To Law Enforcement Park Rangers- And A Few Info Tips Too

Pat Novesky has written an interesting article on "Police" on rural policing that specifically addresses the challenges faced by Park Rangers.  He is pretty well on target with his comments and even goes beyond that to point out several safety tips for park rangers and other offices working in rural or wilderness areas to keep in mind.

Check it out:

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Pressures of Running A National Park

Being a Superintendent of a National Park Service area can be extremely stressful and challenging.  The link below will take you to an interesting article about the new Superintendent of Mount Rainier where Park Ranger Margaret Anderson was murdered on New Years Day.  This may give you a bit of perspective that we often do not consider.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Crime On College Campuses

This is a bit off topic for the normal fare of this blog, but I found this link that was sent to me of interest.  It illustrates the levels of violent crime on college campuses in our country.  I do link this to National Parks in that both are places of learning and education as well as perceived as havens of safety and nurturing of our more peaceful soul.

As in nature, predators go where the prey are.

Check this out.  You may be surprised which campuses in the country are the most dangerous.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Wild Shrubs Flowering on the Blue Ridge Parkway

I was pleased when my wife told me that she wanted to go for a hike on the Blue Ridge Parkway for mothers day.  We were privileged to enjoy the natural beauty of the wild shrubs that bloom every spring among the Southern Appalachians.  This is a must see annual event that should be on everyone's bucket list.

Catawba Rhododendron in full bloom

The deep rich color of a Catawba Rhododendron flower preparing to open for its brief but spectacular life.

Pinxter Flower Azalea

Mountain Laurel Opening as the next colorful show in the Blue Ridge
A gift of a little color added to the blog from Mother Nature on Mothers Day.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"Something For Wildness" Project In Our National Parks

Soon you may be seeing a visitor to National Parks that may appear a bit more inquisitive than those Park Rangers are accustomed to serving.  Lacey Dupre is launching what she calls her " Something For Wildness" Project that will explore and record stories from National Park Rangers across the U.S. to be included in a new book.

Lacey is planning on this project educating readers about parks and rangers in addition to providing real help for fellow park rangers in Africa who are literally risking their lives daily protecting endangered wildlife.  A portion of the proceeds from the book will be donated to the PAMS Foundation.

You can learn more about "Something For Wildness" and how you can make it happen through a "Kickstarter" grant by going to Lacey's web site at:

Here is a brief outline of the project sent to me by Lacey Dupre.

The Project: 

We are going to visit most of the National Parks in 2-3 months, interview and photograph the rangers and their parks, make art on the road, then compile it all into a art-photo book.  We'll donate a portion of each book sold to the PAMS Foundation in Tanzania, who support rangers at the forefront of conservation.  

Our Mission: 

To create a connection between rangers the world over and a passion for and awareness of the importance of stewardship worldwide via the National Park Rangers.

Why Are We doing this?

Climate Change, exploitation of land, animals, and resources, as well as diminished habitat are all realities.  Visibility and Awareness is urgent and important.  Let's all DO Something for Wildness.  The problem is now. If we all contribute just a little, and the word gets out and spreads, well then, we have done something! 
 'Be the Change you Want to See in the World' -Mahatma Gandhi.

Why, if we are successful, does a portion of book sales go to Tanzania?

This book is making a connection between rangers WORLDWIDE.  It's also an effort to give back to the many rangers the world over.  Tanzania is the birthplace of the African game ranger and the safari destination of the world.  YES.  A remarkable 40% of its land has been set aside for conservation.  Oh, and it's home to the Serengeti National Park.  The PAMS Foundation is there, supporting rangers at the forefront of conservation.  !!

Worker Killed On The Blue Ridge Parkway

Tragedy has struck the Blue Ridge Parkway in the form of the death of Maintenance Worker Dana Bruce.

This brings to mind the dangers faced by people working along the Parkway everyday.  Mowing along steep mountain slopes, cutting vistas along steep overlooks among loose footing and rocks, operating hazardous equipment, and vehicles.  All of this work continues so you can enjoy a safe visit to our parks.

Dana's death is a great loss to us all.

Below is taken from the National Park Service Morning Report for May 9, 2012.

Blue Ridge Parkway
Maintenance Worker Killed In Mowing Accident

Dana Bruce, 63, a seasonal maintenance worker with the Blue Ridge Parkway, was killed in an accident Monday while mowing vegetation at the Haw Creek Overlook on the parkway north of Asheville, North Carolina.  The accident is under investigation by Southeast Regional Office. Bruce is survived by his wife, Denise MacMillan, daughters Lorin Crowley and Alexandra Harrington, stepdaughter Stephanie Cohen, stepson Kevin Stevens, ten grandchildren, and his parents, Robert and Esther Bruce. Bruce was a Vietnam-era veteran who has worked for three seasons as a seasonal employee with Blue Ridge Parkway. “He was a great worker with a wonderful attitude, and was a friend to everyone he met,” said Superintendent Phil Francis. “This is a very sad day for his family and all of us at Blue Ridge Parkway.” A memorial service will be held in near his parents’ home in New Hampshire.  The details of the service are to be determined.  In lieu of flowers, family is requesting donations be made to the Nature Conservancy, [Bill Reynolds, SERO]

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

National Park Face Being Opened to Hunting and Recreational Shooting

In April the House passed H.R. 4089 The Sportsmen's Heritage Act.  This law would open many areas managed by the National Park Service to hunting and recreational shooting.  Only areas designated as National Parks would be exempt.  This would open places like The Blue Ridge Parkway, National and Scenic Rivers, National Seashores, Recreation Areas, National Monuments, and Historic Sites to hunting.

An amendment was introduced that would have exempted National Park areas from this bill, but it was defeated in the House.  I have chosen to contact my congressman who voted for the bill and against the amendment with the following email that was sent to me by the National Parks and Conservation Association.  I took the time to add more details about my personal concerns about this change of law that has been in affect since our National Park System was established.

After spending more than 32 years of my life protecting our National Parks I want to express my deep disappointment that you failed to support an amendment on April 17 that would have exempted national park system units from the Sportsmen's Heritage Act. By voting against Congressman Rush Holt's common sense amendment, you failed to appreciate why national park system units were set aside in the first place--for public enjoyment; where we go to relax, re-charge, and be inspired by the wonders of our natural and cultural heritage. Equally important, they were also created to protect and preserve wildlife and other superlative natural and cultural resources.

The Federal Government already manages millions of acres under the US Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and DOD where recreational shooting and hunting are permitted. This includes over a million acres in Virginia within the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.   

Congress has already taken away the ability of the National Park Service to regulate the carrying of firearms in our parks.  Now this is to be expanded to allowing the taking of wildlife.  These are steps that continue to degrade the protection our nation has chosen to afford those areas that reflect our heritage and who we are as a people.

Why take away the protection and sanctuary of our National Parks to only add to what is already available.

I urge you to remember these things the next time you vote on an issue affecting our National Park System.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Blue Ridge Parkway Looking for Concessioners

The National Park Service has announced a process to find businesses interested in taking over the concessions facilities on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  This is the result of the historic companies that have managed these facilities for years bowing out of renewing their contracts.  The locations up for contract are Otter Creek, the Peaks of Otter, Rocky Knob, and Doughton Park.  If there are no takers for these business opportunities all these facilities loved by visitors for 50 years or more will be closed.

Here is a link to an article about the process:

Our National Parks Are Being Remodeled By Invasives

An article appeared May 3rd on the website Tennessee Journalist a publication of the School of Journalism for the University of Tennessee.  The article written by Marion Kirkpatrick is entitled Great Smoky Mountains National Park due for a Facelift.  The reader will find an outline of some of the changes occurring in the Park due to the impact of invasive species such as the hemlock wooly adelgid and the great efforts that will be going into protecting stands of these magnificent trees in the Smokey Mountains.

The hemlock wooly adelgid (HWA) is a devastating insect that came to our country from East Asia.  These almost microscopic devils suck the sap from hemlock trees leaving them standing needless skeletons.  The HWA was first noted in Pennsylvania in 1967 and since that time has become well established in our Eastern forests where it is decimating both the Carolina and Canadian hemlock stands throughout the Southern Appalachians.  Just take a short trip along the Skyline Drive or Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia to see this devastation first hand.

Foam like residue of the hemlock wooly adelgid one fo the first signs visible of infestation

I first met the hemlock wooly adelgid in 1986 when a seasonal park ranger working for me in the James River area of the Blue Ridge Parkway found signs of the insect on several hemlock trees.  He had studied this pest in a forestry class at Virginia Tech.  We reported this information to our Park Headquarters in Asheville, North Carolina and to the local US Forest Service offices.  As the information went up the food chain it became quite apparent that no one was concerned about HWA along the Blue Ridge.  The US Forest Services Forest Health scientists at that time told us that since hemlock is not considered a cash producing tree there was little or no research or work being done to protect the species from HWA.

At the field level we were quite surprised and dismayed to see this reaction and it was not until entire stands of hemlocks, that prefer nice cool wet coves, started to die did people begin to realize the impact.  For today instead of seeing impressive groves of cathedral like ceilings of woven conifer shading meandering streams, people are finding the sun shining through naked limbs intertwined as if hoping to hold each other erect.  The result is a loss not only of beautiful views and setting for the human eye but a change in temperature of mountain streams once the home to trout and many other species.

I am disappointed that back in the mid ‘80s we could not get officials more concerned about the hemlock wooly adelgid.  Now knowing more about the insect and seeing the devastation it leaves behind I am not sure how much of a difference we could have made.  I am encouraged that at least an effort is going to be made to help protect the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and I wish them the very best of luck.  I hope that years from now although I may not be able to walk among hemlocks here in Virginia, but perhaps I can travel to the Smokey’s to relive the past.  

Link to Tennessee Journalist Article:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lessons from a Park Ranger’s Life-Bad Supervisor

Life is an education and the best learners manage to benefit from both positive and negative experiences.  We all like to think we have control of our lives and as children we are led to believe this is reality.  As we mature and enter the work world we often discover that our daily lives, emotions, futures, and lifestyles are dictated by our jobs, careers, and supervisors.

Those of you that have read my book A Park Ranger’s Life: Thirty Two Years Protecting Our National Parks know that several stories centered on some interesting characters I had as supervisors during my career.  Although frustrations generated by working for some of these individuals had short term and in some cases longer term impacts on my life, after reflection I was still able to take these experiences and learn from them.

I am sure that you have seen examples of people who move up in an organization to a level where they will laud their authority over others and generally treat people badly in what seems to be an effort to strengthen their position.  In most cases this is behavior learned from their own experiences as an employee.  Now that they are in charge, these individuals feel entitled to take the same liberties and treat people worse than they had been handled by their bad supervisors.  At times I felt it was a form of one- upmanship or that they are going to make others pay an even a higher price than they had.

The challenges are to survive these trying times, outlast the protagonist, remain professional doing your job, and always remember how actions of bad supervisors made you feel and avoid those actions that did not motivate you to be productive.  On the other hand it is also important to recall the methods used by the good supervisors that made you feel positive about the job and yourself.
This is a bit simplistic because not every employee responds to the same incentives, treatment, and oversight so flexibility and adapting techniques is an ongoing process for success.  There is obviously a lot more to being an affective supervisor.

Several of the lessons I learned as a park ranger include;

Use the negative ways a weak supervisor treated you to remember how not to act toward others.

Never use your position as an opportunity to make yourself look smarter than your employees.  There is no better way to build resentment and disrespect within a work group.

Unlike the bad supervisors I had, a key to success is making every employee feel important and respected.
This foundation of this respect should be based on accomplishing the mission of the organization rather than any personal agenda.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Once Again, Budget Cuts For Our National Parks

During times of economic downturns and political elections it becomes necessary to trim Government spending.  To talk of no tax hikes and cutting of spending is a populist position often intended to garner votes rather than care for our Nation, its resources, and most importantly its people.

Unfortunately our National Parks are one of the few programs that can be cut without wealthy and well connected lobbyists or industries to speak out on their behalf.  So we are going to see additional cuts that most likely will result in less park rangers in the field and challenges to park managers to keep facilities open this coming visitor season.

Learn more at this article from The News Tribune:

Park Rangers Continue To Battle The Theft Of Plants In Our National Parks

People with connection to Mexico are still stealing plant resources on The Blue Ridge Parkway for monetary gain.  Below is an excerpt from the National Park Service Morning Report for March 30, 2012.

Blue Ridge Parkway
Two Convicted Of Galax Poaching

While investigating a report of a suicidal person on March 24th, a ranger
observed a driver operating a vehicle in a very suspicious manner in an
area known for galax poaching.  The ranger turned on the vehicle, and, as
he approached, saw two men exit from it and flee into the adjacent woods,
carrying duffle bags. The ranger conducted a traffic stop and subsequently
arrested the driver, identified as Oscar Rincon Reyes, of Spruce Pine,
North Carolina, for illegally harvesting galax.  Other rangers responded
and a search of the adjacent woods yielded three duffle bags containing
15,000 galax leaves.  During the investigation, one of the other subjects
was identified and an arrest warrant was obtained.  On March 27th, rangers
and Mitchell County Sheriff’s Office deputies executed the warrant and
arrested Francisco Rincon Felipe, also of Spruce Pine. Both Reyes and
Felipe appeared before the U.S. magistrate, pled guilty to conspiracy to
harvest galax, and were sentenced to 30 days in jail.  Investigation is
continuing to identify and prosecute the third conspirator. Currently,
local market value for galax leaves, used in floral arrangements, is two to
six cents per leaf.  Galax leaves are being sold for more than a dollar a
leaf in the international flora trade and is estimated that galax
harvesting is a $40 million a year industry in western North Carolina. [Tim
Francis, Pisgah District Ranger]

You can learn more about the theft of ginseng and other resources from our National Parks in the book A Park Ranger's Life: Thirty Two Years Protecting Our National Parks.  You can find the book at

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Peaks of Otter Lodge Saved For One More Season

More recent information has corrected my report from yesterday on the Peaks Of Otter Lodge Closing.  The current concessioner has agreed to keep the facility open until October 2012.  The entire facility will then close.

The Otter Creek Restaurant which is operated by the same company at Mile Post 60.8 near Big Island, Virginia will remain closed this summer season.

Sorry for the confusion.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Tradition Ends On The Blue Ridge Parkway

A tradition for many families has been an annual trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway and since 1964 many ended their day with dinner at the Peaks Lodge in Virginia.  Due to the decision by the current concessioner to not renew their contract (which has been extended previously) the Lodge which in the past was one of the few facilities in the Park open year round closed this winter and will not reopen this spring.

The National Park Service has tried several strategies to keep this lake side restaurant and lodge open to serve the visiting public.  So far they have had no success in getting another company to commit to the contract.

Some of the reasons may lay in:

The Peaks of Otter Lodge infrastructure is in need of large investment for improvements.

The changing expectations of the visiting public looking for more than the basic accommodations available at the Peaks of Otter.

The National Park Service decision that concession contracts will be shorter in duration not giving private companies enough time to recover any investments they may need to make in facilities and resources.

Who knows what the future may have for the Peaks of Otter Lodge.  It is a sad loss to the visitors and community.

The Peaks Of Otter Lodge located on Abbott Lake, The Blue Ridge Parkway near Bedford, Virginia

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fight the Reduction of Park Rangers In Our National Parks

The National Parks and Conservation Association (NPCA) is mounting an effort to fight potential budget cuts that would reduce the number of Park Rangers in our National Parks.  You can go to the link below for more information and the chance to take action by contacting your elected officials.

There is an additional point in NPCA's letter that I feel is important to make.  Cutting the number of Park Rangers is a false economy in that the damage to natural and cultural resources that are irreplaceable is the inevitable result.  During my 32 years experience working in National Parks I saw first hand that when staffing of rangers was cut the incidence of illegal hunting, resource theft, vandalism, and visitor injuries and fatalities increased.   Park Rangers have a much more important role in our Parks then just ensuring that visitors have a rewarding experience.  Should the resources our National Parks are established to protect be degraded, what is left for people to visit, enjoy, and learn from.  Would they become just like the hollow shells of closed businesses and shopping malls that dot our country.  I know that is pretty extreme, but lack of care and protection of these precious and fragile treasures can result in such a scenario very quickly.

National Parks and Conservation Association: