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

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