Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The 95 Percent

“Good people don’t need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.” -Plato-

The boundary sign for BUFF
The job of a law enforcement ranger is very unique in that a law enforcement ranger must wear a variety of hats. They are not only responsible for enforcing local, state, and federal law, but they are also responsible for upholding the National Park Service’s ultimate mission as stated within the Organic Act of 1916, which is preserve, conserve, and protect, but also allow public access. This means that a law enforcement ranger is charged with the duty of educating the public on why certain laws and regulations are in place and how such laws and regulations further the mission of the National Park Service and thus, serve the greater good. Thus, according to Ranger Clif Edwards (the author of Paths Crossed: Protecting National Parks) and Ranger Kevin Moses, a more appropriate term for a law enforcement ranger would be the title of “protection ranger.” In the words of both Ranger Moses and Ranger Edwards, “the mission of a protection ranger is to protect the park from the people, the people from the park, and the people from the people.”

The view from Jameson Bluff
Over the course of my stint with the protection rangers thus far, I have had a variety of contacts with the public. I have been pleasantly surprised by all the good contacts we have had as compared to the bad. My Supervisory Ranger, Kevin, responded to my surprise by explaining to me that roughly 95% percent of the contacts between protection rangers and the park visitors are positive contacts where the visitors are abiding by park rules and regulations, while still enjoying the resources and having fun (which is essential to the park experience).

The view from a surveillance spot overlooking the river
Such a high percentage of positive contacts are partly due to the fact that good people do exist (despite popular belief) and such contacts are also due to the fact that protection rangers are doing a great job. I have learned thus far that the best form of law enforcement is… wait for it… EDUCATION! Protection rangers place a great value in engaging with the park visitors and starting a dialog about WHY park rules and regulations exist and why compliance is essential to the safety of the visitor as well as the protection of the park and its resources. Ranger Edwards and Ranger Moses quote Dr. George N. Wallace, a professor of natural resources at Colorado State University, when explaining that the park should be thought as a “living, breathing being with feelings” and as such, the visitor must consider how their actions impact the park and its feelings when they abuse its resources.

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