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Reader Participation Day: Should Rangers Cite, or Merely Warn, Visitors For Their Wrongs?


Should the campers who left this buffet for bears in Yosemite National Park have been cited, or warned, for their misdeed? Photo by Jeffrey Brooker via NPS.

What should National Park Service rangers do when they come across a visitor who has gone astray of park regulations? For instance, should they have cited those women in Glacier National Park who squeezed off a round from a .357 to scare a deer, or was the "education" enough?

And what about visitors in Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Yosemite, Great Smoky Mountains, or any other park with bears who leave their food available for bears? After all, as they say, a fed bear is a dead bear.

What do you think? How strict should rangers be? Do some rules infractions merit stronger action than others? Should the Yellowstone visitors who ignore the "do not swim" signs be cited as quickly as those found guilty of leaving a messy camp that helps bears associate humans with food?

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Cite those whose actions endanger others, park resources, or wildlife. That includes people whose actions have the potential to endanger SAR personnel, rangers, or others who would have to rescue them from their own negligence. There needs to be an incentive to stop such actions. Educate those who endanger only themselves. Deciding which to do should be in the discretion of the ranger.

The strict adherence to the law seldom works and those who enforce the laws sometimes lose their mental balance, all it takes is that magical ingredient not taught in any university, common sense. That said, I am fanatical about litter and would probably not make a very good ranger.

I have worked in campgrounds in Great Smoky Mountains National Park & Yellowstone. Signs are posted about food storage, the campers are told at check-in about food storage, the campers are given a copy of the rules about food storage. I think that is enough education. When campers leave food items out, the campers should be fined...big time! Only until you get deep in their pockets, will some folks learn. Thank goodness most folks do abide by the food storage rules.

This is a tough one because it is sometimes simple ignorance. When I was a child I went to Shenandoah to feed the deer. I didn't know any better because it was allowed every where else, including the Naitonal Zoo. It makes sense that the same mentality would be brought to the parks. I didn't learn that I was actually killing the deer until I was in college. The education just wasn't there. The parks are now getting better about the education, but there are still some that just don't know what they are doing to the animal. They think that it's just gov't rules ruining their fun. And when state parks allow you to feed the animals, even selling you the food to do so, it's hard to understand why the national Parks won't allow it. In that case, I usually educate the person. Sometimes it seems like people just leave common sense at home when tehy come into a park and need a reminder to think every now and then.

But there are times when people just don't care no matter what you do. They will do what they want, rules be damned. When I was at Shenandoah, my sister and her kids showed up during my "bear talk." I was just getting to the part about food storage and why we can't feed bears when my niece informed me and the entire audience that my sister had brought marshmallows for the bears. I used my sister as an example and explained to her and everyone why this will end up killing the bear. Darned if my sister didn't go out after that talk and feed the bears anyway. She got a citation from her own sister!

As a state park police officer for the state of answer is it depends. For most minor violations like speeding, littering, etc. its all on them. If I can make contact with them and get them to correct the action then they will get a warning (verbal or sometimes written). However, if their attitude is "How dare you question or stop me..." then they get a citation. Of course for more serious violations like fighting, public intoxication, drugs, they get a citation immediately and sometimes are taken to jail.

I fully agree with Anonymous. Until you hit these morons deep in their pocketbooks they will never get the message. I also opt for repeat offenders losing the privilege of using our beautiful National Parks. Like Volpe, I would never pass Ranger school as I am such a hard nose about the feeding of wildlife, illegal hunting or poaching, abandoned camp fires, and the dangerous habit of flicking lit cigarette butts into the dry forest or grassland. Seriously, if the federal government would visit some big-time serious fines on these violators of rules we could afford to hire more rangers to enforce the laws and rules. Thank you for the opportunity to express my views.

I think that rangers should take a firm stance on any and all violations they see - no matter how large or small the violation. While people talk about common sense, it's time to realize that common sense is not common at all. My husband and I just visited our first national park earlier this summer (Yosemite) and we were appalled by the sheer number of visitors we witnessed violating basic rules. We saw people walking through meadows being restored, feeding deer, not using their bear boxes, etc. It was really sad.

While education is important, some people are just too stupid to really get it. And while strict enforcement might be challenging, it's an important part of making the park experience enjoyable for everyone.

Was our experience completely ruined? No. Was it impacted by the rude/inappropriate actions of others? Yes.

Education should come first, but some people only seem to get it, and hopefully learn, when cited. As an Interpretive Ranger I can't give tickets so always try to explain to visitors why certain "rules" are in place and that usually works. But I'd have no problem getting on the radio for LE backup if someone wanted to obnoxiously challenge my authority.

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