Amid Shutdown, Park Rangers Speak Out -- And it's Touching

Park rangers didn't sign up for the job so they could turn people away at the gates of national parks. They did it to protect the country's treasures so everyone could enjoy them. But with the government shutdown -- which could actually end tonight -- they've become one of the reoccurring characters in the media's narrative of the shutdown.

And, frankly, they're not feeling the love. To that end, the National Parks Conservation Association put together this feel-good video that's worth three minutes of your time. "[I]t's very hard to make efforts to keep people out when our whole lives we've worked hard to get people in," says a narrator at the beginning of the clip, which uses quotes from rangers, who could only speak under the condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, the National Park Ranger Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police just put out their own statement through the environmental whistleblower group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Of note, they challenge the public to find a way around the Anti-Deficiency Act, which carries shutdown instructions. "[W]e urge you to seek legal remedies in court if you believe NPS actions to close park facilities to be illegal," wrote George Durkee, president of the group. "Life would be much easier for us if the parks were open."

The letter in full can be read below:

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In recent days, media coverage regarding the actions of NPS rangers has been less than flattering. The image of a United States Congressman yelling at a Park Ranger -- doing her job as she was directed -- was shameful.

Park Rangers are being assigned tasks that, at minimum, are an inconvenience to the public and that often deprive the public of their access to Federal lands and facilities.

Closing National Parks is against our nature. The reason we became Park Rangers and love our profession is because we enjoy welcoming people from around the world to our national treasures, and providing for safe and enjoyable visits to these sites, while leaving them protected for future generations.

However, there is a law governing government shutdowns, the Anti-Deficiency Act. Over the decades, multiple administrations have implemented closures under this law. We are unaware of any injunction or other court-issued document that has ever overturned the government's authority in these matters. For those who believe they have standing, we urge you to seek legal remedies in court if you believe NPS actions to close park facilities to be illegal. Life would be much easier for us if the parks were open.

Without any contrary court findings or changes in the law, we will carry on with this miserable, thankless, and pay-less task denying public access to parks during the government shutdown. Although our actions too often make sensational news stories and fodder for pundits -- they are supported by precedent and legal guidance from government lawyers, under laws we are sworn to enforce.

Instead of being angry with the messengers, we hope the public complains loudly and often to their elected representatives who caused this mess -- it's not the National Park Service or the rangers and employees, who are always here to serve the public. This situation was preventable, and should be fixed. The same holds true of those in the media who sensationalize and incorrectly report on our actions, blaming those who enforce the law rather than advocating for needed changes in the laws. The American people and our international visitors deserve better.

We hope that in the aftermath of this, laws are put in place to eliminate such closures.

Joseph de Maistre wrote, 'Every nation gets the government it deserves.' We hope you contact your elected officials and those in the media and express your opinion so we don't have to go through this nonsense in the future.

Thank you,

George Durkee
President
Ranger Lodge, Fraternal Order of Police

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About the Author

Zach Behrens is KCET's Director of News, Region and State, working on digital and on-air news products that relate to Southern California and beyond.
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