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:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Supreme Court Lack Of Action Viewed As Ruling Pertaining To Hunters and Fishermen

Recently the US Supreme Court has turned down the opportunity to review a case out of California where it was ruled that those involved in hunting and fishing have fewer privacy rights as guaranteed in the Constitution.  The lack of action by the highest court serves for now as a form of endorsement of this interpretation of the law.

I know this will raise a lot of hackles among certain groups.

Some of my thoughts are that hunting and fishing are both important tool of wildlife and fisheries management, but:

These are highly regulated activities requiring special licenses, permits, and in the case of hunting in many states the completion of Hunter Safety training to qualify for issuance.  Licensed activities such as having a drivers license have long been considered by the courts as a privilege not a right.  Even the Supreme Court has ruled in the past that operating motor vehicles and the licenses to do so entail a diminished right of privacy when law enforcement officers are investigating the reasonable suspicion that a crime or violation has occurred.

The holders of these hunting and fishing permits and licenses are being given permission to take wildlife and fish that belong to us all that I believe entails a higher level of accountability to society for compliance with regulations.  Those who hunt or fish illegally are also stealing from those who follow the rules and try to take their game by the rules and have paid in some cases high fees for this privilege.

If additional limits were placed on Wildlife Offices and Park Rangers it would be near impossible to enforce seasons, protect specific species, ensure limits of wildlife and fish taken, preserve protected areas, etc.

In the case of hunters, when contacted by enforcement officers it is a known fact that they have weapons in their possession and it is necessary for officers to locate and secure those weapons for the safety of the public and themselves when making checks for possible violations.  Remember, the Game Warden or Park Ranger that is contacting a person has no idea who they are dealing with, their past history, proclivity for anger and violence, or if they have indeed broken a law or regulation until after the contact is made.

You can learn more about the court ruling from this article:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What Is In The National Park Service Arrowhead

Check out this site to learn what symbols are contained in the National Park Service's Arrowhead.  It is not quite the DaVinci Code or National Treasure dramatic, but interesting none the less.

Most Dangerous Jobs In The World

A recent article identifies some of the most life threatening jobs in the world.  Although some of these may be a surprise, Park Rangers do not make the list, thank goodness.  Check it out:

Friday, March 2, 2012

More Indication Of How National Parks Impact Local Economies

Even small National Park Areas such as Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site in eastern Pennsylvania provide a significant boost to local economies.

See this article for more;

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Park Ranger Employment Advise

From a reader;:

 I thoroughly enjoy your blog " A Park Rangers Life " Thought I would contact you to ask your opinion about something. I am 49.Worked as a seasonal law enforcement ranger with NPS 1981-1986.
Am considering maybe looking into applying again for a seasonal position. Any tips ? Do you know of anyone who was away for a awhile and returned ? How does my L.E. commission get reactivated or is their a statue of limitations of some sort with training. Is their a age/fitness cut off ?

Thank you for the kind words about the blog.  If you have not already, you might want to check out my book A Park Ranger's Life: Thirty Two Years Protecting Our National Parks.  You can find it at Amazon and several other on line sources.  It is now used at four universities as required reading.

There are a couple of issues that you might face if interested in a law enforcement seasonal position.  

Since you have not worked in NPS law enforcement for more than 3 years (off the top of my head I can not specifically remember what the time frame is in the policy, but you are well beyond the time limit) you would need to complete a full Seasonal Law Enforcement Academy again.  This even applies to permanent employees who move into a non-commissioned job and then want to return to law enforcement.

Since the time when you worked, the NPS has adopted a strict adherence to physical and medical standards for LE personnel.  If you go to the Association of National Park Rangers web site at you can find links that will give you details on this information.  I am not saying that your would have any trouble meeting these due to your age; but recommend that you check this out before making a decision.

The age limit for starting a permanent position in LE or Fire with the National Park Service is 37.  The last interpretation I saw of this was that for a permanent job an individual needed to get a position and then complete  FLETC before their 37th birthday.   The last I checked this did not apply to seasonal positions, but would prevent you from qualifying for a full time job.  The other age limit is that you can not work in LE or Fire after you turn 57.  This is all tied to retirement issues.

 Once you decide to apply for a job I would recommend you contact a park you might be interested in working at and talk to the Chief Ranger or staff member to find out the latest interpretations and hiring restrictions.

Of course all of this has nothing to do with a non commissioned or non firefighting position.  So you could apply for any other seasonal work in Interpretation, Resources Management, maintenance, fee collection, etc.  Some of the bigger parks out west may even have openings for EMS personnel.

You can go to the Office of Personnel Management web site  and do a search for what NPS jobs both permanent and seasonal are out there.

Good luck in your decision and job search.