Park ranger

From Academic Kids

A Park Ranger is a person charged with protecting and preserving parkland, forests (then called Forest Rangers), wilderness areas other natural resouces.

Park rangers perform a number of important functions in the protection of wildlands. Especially in isolated areas many miles from inhabited regions, park rangers may be the only "official" presence, if not the only person around. Because they are the only persons around, park rangers must be very conscious of safety issues and may respond very differently from other emergency responders who have help near at hand.

A number of other diverse tasks are performed by park rangers because they are the only persons around, ranging from routine maintenance through life-saving emergency response.

  • Security: Rangers check to see that gates are locked, that closed roads are not in use, that unauthorized persons keep out of closed or sensitive areas, and that authorized visitors are following park regulations. Many of these park regulations are intended to protect sensitive areas from ecological damage. These functions are similar to those performed by security guards, except that they are performed in remote areas.
  • Law Enforcement: Some rangers, particularly those employed by public agencies, have police powers and enforce laws in the wilderness. Park rangers sometimes carry firearms, particularly in remote areas or when engaged in deterring illegal hunting or poaching. In some developing countries, the park rangers patrolling natural preserves may be heavily armed and function as paramilitary organizations against organized poachers or even guerillas.
  • Information and Public Education: Rangers provide directions to visitors and sometimes act as tour guides or lecturers about the park's history or ecology. Rangers are expected to be experts in not only the geography of the areas they patrol, but also the animal and plant life.
  • Emergency Response: Rangers are trained in wilderness first aid and participate in search and rescue to locate lost persons in the wilderness.
  • Firefighting: Rangers are often the first to spot forest fires and are often trained to engage in wildland firefighting. Rangers also enforce laws and regulations regarding campfires and other fires on park lands. In the face of a fire outside their control, rangers will call for help and evacuate persons from the area pending the arrival of additional firefighters.
  • Maintenance: Some rangers perform routine maintenance on facilities or equipment, especially in preparing for winter closures and spring re-openings. Rangers are often the first to discover vandalism or weather-related damage to roads or facilities.

A typical ranger vehicle is a well-marked and heavily equipped off-road capable light truck ("pickup truck") equipped with the following items. The variety of equipment carried gives some idea of the many roles of the park ranger.

  • a reliable radio or mobile telephone, often with a backup device for emergencies
  • an electronic locator unit such as a GPS, in remote areas supplemented by an EPIRB for signaling for help
  • detailed maps of the area protected and guidebooks about local flora and fauna
  • a clipboard and paperwork used to document activities, including a daily patrol report, citation book, incident reports and maintenance reports
  • informational handouts and maps to be given to visitors
  • a collection of keys that open gates, locks and buildings scattered across the park or preserve
  • personal survival equipment for an extended stay in the wilderness, including a backpack, tent and sleeping bag as well as fire-starting equipment
  • a comprehensive first aid kit including supplies for response to trauma and vehicle accidents
  • personal flashlight, folding pocket knife, multi-tool, handcuffs, chemical defense spray, defensive baton
  • blankets, emergency food and water, and portable tarps or other shelters (for any persons rescued)
  • hand tools including a shovel, axe, rake, Pulaski tool, crowbar, bolt cutter, and other miscellaneous tools
  • a power winch for extricating stuck vehicles, with associated cables
  • rope and life preserver for unassisted water rescue
  • hand fire extinguishers, a backpack fire pump, a one inch (25 mm) diameter 50 foot (15 m) length of fire hose with a 50 to 150 US gallon (200 to 600 L) fire water tank and gasoline-powered reversible pump, fireproof turnout coat, and a self-rescue fire shelter
  • firearms if appropriate to the area, often including a high-powered rifle with optical sights and a pump-action shotgun for close-range defense; park rangers engaged in police activities will often carry a pistol at all times in addition
  • additional supplies of fuel and water as appropriate

These supplies are often augmented according to the geographic area and the local hazards. A park ranger in urban areas may carry less survival gear and more law enforcement equipment; park ranger in the desert will carry much more drinkable water; a park ranger in the Alaskan outback will carry additional shelter materials and stove fuel. In more remote areas, pre-positioned caches containing survival equipment will be scattered throughout the park.

Skills required to be a park ranger include a profound interest in ecology and the wilderness, the ability to react quickly and appropriately to emergency situations, and the ability to work independently and alone for long periods of time, sometimes for days.

See also


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