Monday, July 1, 2013

Recognition Of The Work Of A Park Ranger

I recently received an email from a reader asking about who they could write to in order to recognize the good work done by a park ranger they met while on a trip to Alaska.  Here is my response;

I greatly appreciate your wanting to recognize the good work done by one of the Park Rangers you met in Alaska.  This does not happen enough and when it does, it can make a significantly positive impact on an individual's morale and sometimes career.

I would recommend sending your comments to two high ranking individuals;

Alaska Region
Sue Masica, Regional Director
National Park Service
240 West 5th Avenue, Suite 114
Anchorage, AK 99501
(907) 644-3510


Jon Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service
National Park Service
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240

(202) 208-3818

These folks need to hear positive feedback about what their Rangers are doing in the field and will be sure to pass their appreciation back down the chain to the individual park ranger and their supervisors.

Thank you very much for your interest and support of our National Parks and the people who work to preserve them.

Bruce W. Bytnar
NPS Retired
Author of "A Park Ranger's Life: Thirty Two Years Protecting Our National Parks"

So if you have visited a National Park and been impressed by the service, care, kindness, or knowledge shared by a park ranger,  why not take a few minutes to express your appreciation in a letter or email.  Just a few moments of returned kindness or compassion can make a park ranger's day.

19 Firefighters Die In Arizona Wildfire

Tragedy has stuck the wildfire community with the deaths of 19 firefighters in Arizona.  Not a whole lot of details are known yet, but this is reported to be the worst loss of firefighter lives since 1933.

The deaths occurred on the Yarnell Hill Fire and the crew involved was the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew.  The fast moving fire also caused the evacuation of an entire community and the loss of approximately 200 structures including homes.

For what is know so far go to the LA Times at:

Firefighters Killed In Arizona

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Kenya To Hire 500 New Park Rangers

Due to the increases in poaching pressure on wildlife in Kenya, that country is going to add 500 more park rangers to their parks.  According to the below linked article, "Poachers killed 360 elephants and 19 rhinos in 2012," within Kenya's National Parks.

As world economies suffer, we will see a continuing increased presence of wildlife and other resources theft with parks world wide.  Meanwhile, in the United States we will be seeing fewer park rangers in our National Parks this summer due to budget constraints.  That leaves us with fewer protectors of our nation's wildlife during a time when illegal taking of resources for financial gain will most likely increase.

Kenya Hiring Park Rangers

More Information From Investigation Into Shooting of Unarmed US Park Ranger

New information may indicate that US Army Corps of Engineers Park Ranger D.P. Wright may have been shot by accident when a woman took her own life.

For more details go to;

Local Police Look Into Possibility That Shooting Of Park Ranger Was Accidental

Friday, June 28, 2013

Unarmed US Army Corps of Engineers Park Ranger Shot

On Thursday June 27 an unarmed US Army Corps of Engineers Park Ranger was shot while conducting his normal daily duties of closing and area for the night.  From the article you can visit below it sounds like he merely walked up to a vehicle to inform the occupant that they needed to leave for the evening so he could close a gate.  The person he walked up to shot him in the abdomen.

How many times a day do park rangers and other land managers conduct "sweeps" of areas so that they can close gates at dusk.  I know during my career I did this hundreds if not thousands of times.

The lesson, if there is one here, that we can all draw from this incident is that there is no such thing as routine whether you are an armed law enforcement trained park ranger, a fee collector, interpreter, biologist, or maintenance worker.  If you are working with the most unpredictable creature on earth, the human, you can never know what to expect.  Adding the wearing of any type of official looking uniform or vehicle and you can easily become someone's target.

Just last week I wrote about a study indicating a sharp increase in assaults and threats made against park rangers.  You can read about that in the post dated June 16.

Never be complacent, in to much of a hurry, or let your guard down.  Always remain alert and listen to your instincts when dealing with the public.  Do not harbor the expectations that everyone out there is going to react to your presence or contact the way you would.

I doubt this Park Ranger did anything wrong.  He just walked into a no win situation which looks to me to have involved a person ready to take their own life and not adverse to taking others with them.  I of course do not have all the facts and am making several suppositions based on very little factual information, but can see this scenario quite clearly being possible.

To all my land management agency brothers and sisters, be careful out there and let us remember this injured fellow ranger in our thoughts and prayers.  We all hope for him to have a speedy and successful recovery.

US Army Corps of Engineers Park Ranger Shot

Monday, June 17, 2013

Violence Against Park Rangers and Fellow Land Management Agency Employees Increases

Updated Reports reveal that assaults and threats against Park Rangers and workers in sister land management agencies increased in 2012 by 38% over 2011.

The US Park Police saw an increase of 43% against their officers.

Check out this article by the AP to learn more;

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Good News For Popular National Park Concession Operation

The National Park Service has selected a new company to take over the contract for running the Peaks of Otter Concession operations on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Bedford, Virginia.

The Peaks of Otter Lodge, Restaurant, Service Station, Camp Store, and Bus Tours have been closed since the contract for the last operator of this well know stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway chose not to renew their relationship with the National Park Service.

With budget constraints resulting in a number of National Park Service operated facilities not scheduled to open this coming summer, it is good news to hear that this popular visitor destination will be reopened to the public once again.

Details should be forthcoming in the next few days as to who received the contract and what form the approved services to be provided will entail.

The Peaks of Otter Lodge on Abbott Lake at mile post 93 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia
One of the many days I spent working as a Park Ranger at the Peaks of Otter.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Park Ranger Questions From a College Student

I was asked a series of questions by a college student for a class project.  You may find some of these answers of interest.

Where did you work during the majority of your time as a Park Ranger?   

I spent the most of my 32+-year career on the Blue Ridge Parkway in both NC and VA having worked in three different districts from 1981 to 2008.  I started in 1975 at Fort McHenry in Baltimore and then transferred to Fredericksburg, Va in 1977.  Being part of the National Park Service I worked on details as long as four months all across the country fighting fires, helping with complex investigations, hurricane recoveries, training, etc.

 What did you like about being a Park Ranger?

Being part of an organization with an important mission to preserve and protect some of the most important sites and resources in our Country.  I was fortunate to have the opportunity to live the career I dreamed of since being a child.

 Was there anything you disliked about it?

Dealing with administrative and bureaucratic minutia such as forms, forms, forms, and insufficient budgets to do the job affectively, efficiently, and safely.  Toward the end of my career as a supervisor and manager I felt I spent way to much time making excuses for why we could not accomplish the job or work on initiatives proposed by employees and the public.

 Could you describe a typical day at a park you worked at?

No, there was no such thing as a typical day.  I could wake up in the morning and form a list in my head of what I needed to accomplish that day and by the time I got to work all those plans would be thrown out the window.  We spent much of our time responding to whatever was happening at the time.  That could range from emergencies, investigations, or new administrative demands.  This lack of routine was one of the aspects of the job that I enjoyed most of the time, although over the long stretch it can drain you physically and emotionally.

 How did you get started in the Ranger world?

I started as most Park Rangers do as a seasonal employee.  My first such job was at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine.  I made the contact to get this job as the instructor for one of my classes in college was the Chief Ranger at the park. 
You can learn a lot more detail about how to get started with the National Park Service on by blog;  Go to the search window to the right and type in “jobs.”  That will take you to several articles I have written on this topic you might find of assistance

What would you say is the best way to enter the field/occupation?

Starting as a seasonal park ranger (see above) or volunteering at a National Park is where most people get their foot in the door.  You can learn more about this at the blog.

 What sort of demands are there to do the job?

Depending on what type of position you apply for there are certain requirements.  The general requirement for full time positions is a four-year college degree.  You can work as a volunteer or seasonal without a degree.  Many people do this during summer breaks from college.

If applying for what is referred to as a protection ranger position (these are the Rangers who do law enforcement, fire, Search and Rescue, etc. type of work) there are specific physical and medical requirements.  You can learn more about this at:

Generally speaking a good park ranger needs to be flexible, patient, always willing to learn (I spent my entire career learning new skills and knowledge), knowledgeable about the resources they are protecting (and that will be different for each park), and truly dedicated to protecting park visitors and the resources with which you are entrusted.

 With government cutbacks, how do you see the future for Park Rangers?

With current cut backs in budgets, there will be a slow down in hiring.  Right now there is a freeze on hiring new full time employees due to the Sequester.  Many parks may also be hiring less seasonal employees this summer.  During my career I witnessed numerous such situations and there was eventually some loosening of funds for filling critical positions.

Another factor is that many Park Rangers of my generation are continuing to retire.  It was predicted one year ago that more that one third of the Park Rangers working then would be retiring within three years.  This could and should spell opportunity for those interested in getting into this field.  Remember I mentioned patience in one of the answers above.

 Do you have any advice for someone looking to enter the same line of work?

Get as much experience as you can working with the public, learning about resources of parks, visit parks and get to know someone on the staff, get training and certifications in first aid, emergency management, fire fighting, outdoor skills, etc.  These opportunities can be found if not in parks then with local volunteer fire departments and rescue squads.

Most importantly, stay in school and complete a four-year degree looking for chances to work in parks during the summer months.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

"A Park Ranger's Life" Makes Its Publisher's Great Expectations Author Program

I received a letter and certificate from my publisher, Wheatmark, informing me that my book, "A Park Ranger's Life: Thirty Two Years Protecting Our National Parks", has sold enough copies to qualify me for their Great Expectations Author program.  This means that I met my personal goals for the book and it can only improve.

 Thank you to everyone who  has read my book.  I greatly appreciate your support in making what has been a dream of mine, writing and publishing a book, come true.

I am continuing to work on a second book to follow up on "A Park Ranger's Life" and a work of fiction based on a murder investigation in which I was involved during my career.  Who knows what the future may hold.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Predicted Affects of Sequestration On National Parks

With the impending "Fiscal Cliff" that could result automatic cuts in budgets to those Federal Agencies open to political adjustments, The Coalition of National Park Retirees has prepared a Press Release that outlines the affects of these cuts on our parks.

You can read this at:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Opportunity to Become A National Park Ranger

What during my time in the National Park Service was a very rare thing indeed was an opportunity to work as an intern in the protection division of a park.  Right now recruiting is being conducted for just such an opportunity at Catoctin National Park in Maryland.  This looks like an incredible deal for some interested college student.

Check it out at:

Park Ranger Internship

If at all interested you better get on this fast.  The closing date for applications is February 8.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Wildlife Encounters in National Parks

You may remember from past posts on this site when I have warned people not to crowd or get to close to wildlife?  Just like people animals have their personal space that they do not like to have invaded.  In most cases wild animals do not react with the best of manners or concerns for the intruders welfare.

Check out the video link below to see what happens at Yellowstone National Park when a bull elk starts to feel a bit encroached upon.

Elk at Yellowstone

Thanks to my fellow Park Ranger writer Andrea Lankford for sharing this on Facebook.