Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Park Ranger Job Questions

Many National Park seasonal job for this coming summer are in the process of being filled about this time of year.  I have received several good questions from readers asking for some tips on seasonal hiring and job prep.

Having my "Class 2" NPS SLETP certification this allows me to apply for "part-time/seasonal" Protection Ranger positions in any park with postings. By default this only allows me to work a limited number of hours in each park, say I got out of college in December and was commissioned someplace as a Seasonal Protection Ranger through the winter, would I then be eligible to apply to another park as a Seasonal for the summer? Or would I have exceeded my number of hours allowed to work for the NPS for that year? 

The hour limit for working that you are hearing about only applies to each position you work in within a specific park.  The limit is normally around  1039 hours within one year.  That may have been adjusted since I retired, so you may want to eventually ask about that when you are considered for job offers.  As I said this applies to a specific job or position description within one park.  So what that translates to is that you can work say 1039 hours in a law enforcement seasonal position in a National Park and then be hired for another similar position in another park. Or you could be hired within the same park as long as it is not another law enforcement position.  As an example we would on occasion work an individual in a law enforcement position for the summer into fall and then hire them into a firefighter position for the winter.  These opportunities are few and far and between.  It is very common and the goal of most seasonals that are out of school to move from park to park in back to back jobs. In the old days I had several friends that worked at Shenandoah NP in the summer and Everglades in the Winter.  

The key with the 1039 hours is that if you are worked over that limit (without a rare waiver) you can not be considered for that same position with rehire status the next year.  Re-hire status means that if you work in a position one season, do a good job, and the supervisor wants you back; they can re hire you back in the same position the next year without competition.  A nice benefit to have.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How Old Are These Woods?

Today while working at the Boxerwood Nature Center I often ask students how old the trees around them are.  I often get back answers of one thousand years, three hundred years and alike.  It is just as when visitors come to the National Parks of the Southern Appalachians often believe they are entering some primeval forest as seen by the earliest Native Americans and European settlers.  They do not realize that the trees they are viewing are for the most part less than one hundred years old.  Most of the Southern Appalachian Mountains were stripped of timber by the early 1900’s to build railroads and supply the housing booms that occurred in major urban centers.  Only a few pockets in hard to get to hollows and areas of the Great Smokey Mountains were saved from the onslaught of logging by early pioneers of the conservation movement in America.

A common complaint heard on the Blue Ridge Parkway is, “why are the trees blocking the views from the overlooks?”  When one looks at photos taken during the early construction of the Parkway the landscape is much different from what we see today.  Barren hill sides, stumps, and extreme erosion were the norm for most ridges and mountain tops.  When the overlooks were designed, there were no trees to block the view.  Today Park Managers are challenged with trying to keep vistas open of vegetation to preserve the majestic views envisioned by the landscape architects who first laid them out.
Section of Blue Ridge Parkway in 1936.  not the lack of trees.

But even before the large lumber company operations and the Blue Ridge Parkway many acres of these mountains were cleared through hard sweat of small farmers and their families.  Although these farms are now gone (in most cases bought or forced out by the logging companies) signs of them still exist.  When hiking through the woods the attentive trekker can still see remains of these early residences.  In some cases you will find a still standing chimney, a pile of stones, still decaying chestnut logs.  In other sites the remains of some family matriarch’s flower garden of daffodils and yucca plants are all that are left to lead one to the footprint left by these farmers. 

Cemeteries can also be found where generations of families were laid to rest.  These can only be detected from the natural background by the presence of unusual bulb grown flowers; the decedents of those planted at grave sites that are only marked for posterity by standing flat slabbed field stones.  I have only seen of few of these stones that have worn names primitively scratched in to the rough stone surface.

Over the centuries man has impacted and changed what we view today as nature in the Southern Appalachians..

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Comments From A Reader Of "A Park Ranger's Life"

I just received this very kind email from a recent reader of my book A Park Ranger's Life: Thirty Two Years Protecting Our National Parks.

Mr Bytnar,

I picked up your book last week and read it in its entirety that day. To say I was impressed and moved is an understatement. Since I was a toddler the role of a Park Ranger always took on mythic proportions for me. I am 32 years old and have been a school teacher for 8 years. Recently I have decided to pursue my dream as a park ranger. I am applying to a few of the programs and schools to hopefully be accepted next year. I just wanted to drop you a note informing you that your book was a boon and inspiration for me. I appreciate and applaud your service sir, and through your writing and educating for others, you are a tremdous asset not only to NPS but to American History in the 20th and 21st century. 

Thank you for these positive comments.  They certainly made my day. 

National Parks Bring Economic Prosperity And Jobs To Communities

As I have stated before in this blog, an often ignored impact of the false economy of cutting budgets to National Parks is the economic opportunities for local communities.  This translates into tax revenues and jobs for neighboring localities. Cut budgets to parks and you cut maintenance conditions, services, and impact visitation.

What is this impact?  How much money are we talking about?

Academic studies in the past have indicated that The Blue Ridge Parkway brings as much as $2.3 billion a year to communities along the length of this 469 mile long National Park area.

In a new information release from the National Park Service, The Great Smokey Mountains National Park brings in the highest economic impact to its gateway communities.  Below is taken from the National Park Service Morning Report for February 1, 2012.


Great Smokies Tops Park Revenue Generation List

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park is not only the nation’s most visited national park, it also tops the 397 national park units in visitor spending.
A recently-released study estimates that in 2010 the park’s 9 million visitors spent over $818 million in the gateway communities surrounding Great Smokies. The study also estimates that 11,367 local jobs were supported by park visitor spending.
The study, “Economic Benefits to Local Communities from National Park Visitation and Payroll, 2010”, was conducted by Dr. Daniel Stynes of the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies at Michigan State University.  According to Stynes’ study, the National Park Service received 281 million recreational visits in 2010 and park visitors spent $12.13 billion in local gateway regions.
The study provides park-by-park and state-by-state breakdowns of visitation, visitor spending, and local jobs supported by parks from Alaska to the Virgin Islands.  The top five NPS units in terms of spending generated were Great Smoky Mountains National Park ($818 million), Grand Canyon ($415 million), Yosemite ($354 million), Yellowstone ($334 million), and Blue Ridge Parkway ($299 million).
“This study clearly demonstrates the economic benefits that communities located near national parks receive by being collocated with these unique national, historic and cultural sites,” said Dale Ditmanson, the park’s superintendent.
The entire study can be found at the link below.