Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Theft From Our National Parks

Last month I gave a presentation for a Road Scholar Program held at Natural Bridge in Virginia.  The title of the presentations was "Stealing Our National Parks; One Piece At A Time."  In the audience were Wayne and Carla Anderson from Missouri.  They were so interested in the topic of wildlife, plant, and cultural resources from our Parks that they returned home and wrote an article in their regular column for the Columbia Tribune.

You can access the full article at;

Columbia Tribune Article

Learn more about Road Scholar Programs at;

Road Scholar

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Dwindling Park Ranger Ranks

Below is a link to an interesting article from the National Park Traveler website.

Due to the increasing retirement of law enforcement National Park Rangers, the number of Rangers in the parks are declining quicker than positions can be filled.  Budget restraints and sequester requirements are also contributing to this issue.

I remember in the early 2000's studies showing that the National Park Service was grossly under staffed in law enforcement.  At that time there were just over 1,500 permanent law enforcement park rangers in the entire system.  On the Blue Ridge Parkway a study revealed that a minimum of 50+ rangers were needed in this one park to be able to perform the job of protecting visitors and resources safely.  I recall that the terms used were related to working safely not efficiently or effectively.  At that time there were 32 positions within the park (2 being located at HQ) and the number has shrunk since then.

For some time managers were concerned with the issue of protection and staffing within our parks. The attacks of 9/11 and the fact that areas under National Park Service responsibility were considered potential terrorist targets resulted in a policy to fill any vacant law enforcement position as soon as possible.  These jobs were not to be lapsed to save funding.  With the advent of sequestered budgets and continuing resolutions year after year, managers have had no choice but to leave vacated positions unfilled for extended periods or in some instances abolished completely.

The possible future silver lining to this cloud is that the situation may lead to opportunities for those looking to join the Park Ranger ranks in the near future.  New budgets are including additional funding to hire seasonal law enforcement rangers in the parks next season.

I would hope that planning will also include filling of current vacant permanent positions and funding for additional park rangers in the higher use and incident areas of the country.  Although seasonal park rangers are essential in many parks, permanent positions result in higher and consistent levels of training and experienced personnel to handle the complexities of protecting our parks in the 21st century.

National Parks Traveler

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Dangers in National Parks

As I used to tell new and seasonal park rangers, "the one thing that most people do not pack for their park visits is their common sense."  Which leads to false senses of security.  Here are some examples of how a park visitor can get themselves in trouble fast.

‘Vacation brain’ can be dangerous for travelers in national parks

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Wildlife Officer Attacked in North Carolina

Even people stealing plants from public lands can become dangerous to Park Rangers and other Land Management Officers.  Here is an example from North Carolina.

“Charges in attack on wildlife officer upgraded to attempted murder”  -from a Greenville, SC news

Our Henderson County WRC officer was badly injured after an attack by two un-armed plant poachers.
He was investigating a “parked vehicle”

They: “beat Stronach in the head with a motorcycle helmet. Matthew Arold kicked Stronach in the head repeatedly,”

Hearsay from the neighboring state forest ranger:
Officer deployed his Taser on one, when the second jumped him and took control of the Taser.
The assailants then used the Taser 4-5 times on the officer while beating him. (not sure of that)
The officer maintained control of his firearm by laying on his holster side. (sounds very likely)

Not much locally, Asheville source WLOS: NC Wildlife Resource Officer Assault

Be safe guys! 
It’s not all about customer service, be alert!!

Stephen Tillotson
Park Ranger