Not long ago I read about a ranger from Grand Canyon National Park, Lisa Hendy, who was named the recipient of the 2011 Harry Yount National Park Ranger Award. This award is the highest honor bestowed on a park ranger, but as I read about this ranger’s skills, I was amazed: “She’s fought structural and wild land fires, provided advanced life support as a paramedic, rappeled over the edge of the canyon to rescue people, performed mountaineering and climbing patrols, carried out law enforcement duties, served on the helicopter crew, performed technical and swift water rescue, searched for lost hikers, plans special events, and monitors archeological sites in the park.” I thought that this ranger must be going way above and beyond the call of duty, and decided to find out what a park ranger’s job really entails.
The National Park Service site lists duties of a ranger as follows: “Park Rangers supervise, manage and perform work in the conservation and use of resources in national parks and other federally-managed areas. Park Rangers carry out various tasks associated with forest or structural fire control; protection of property; gathering and dissemination of natural, historical, or scientific information; development of interpretive material for the natural, historical, or cultural features of an era; demonstration of folk art and crafts; enforcement of laws and regulations; investigation of violations, complaints, trespass/encroachment, and accidents; search and rescue; and management of historical, cultural, and natural resources, such as wildlife, forests, lakeshores, seashores, historic buildings, battlefields, archaeological properties, and recreation areas.” At the end of the job description I found the responsibilities that most people probably think of when they think of a park ranger: “They also operate campgrounds, including such tasks as assigning sites, replenishing firewood, performing safety inspections, providing information to visitors, and leading guided tours.” A “disclaimer” at the end read, “Differences in the exact nature of duties depend on the grade of position, the site’s size and specific needs.” Is that ever an understatement, I thought. This sounds more like the description of a superhero to me!
I went to Wikipedia and found another description of a park ranger: “The duties of the modern park ranger are as varied and diverse as the parks where they serve, and in recent years have become more highly specialized – though they often intertwine. Regardless of the regular duties of any one discipline, the goal of all rangers remains to protect the park resources for future generations and to protect park visitors. This goal is accomplished by the professionalism and sometimes overlapping of the different functions and specialties.” I concluded that every visitor to our national parks should be extremely grateful to our rangers for the vast scope of duties these men and women gladly shoulder on our behalf. If I need help of any kind when I’m visiting a national park, I’ll know who to ask!