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Ranger Smith Is A Thug

The National Park Service was established in 1916 with a bill that mandated the agency “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”  The Roosevelt Arch at the northern entrance to Yellowstone Park is inscribed as follows: “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People.”

No one at that time could imagine a scenario in the future where employees of that agency — on behalf of the federal government — would be engaged in acts of strong-armed intimidation of innocent visitors enjoying parks and monuments the public owns and pays for.

If you’ve been following the news since the faux government shutdown, you’ll know I’m not exaggerating.  In addition to locking up open-air monuments like the World War II Memorial and threatening to arrest 80-year-old veterans, the NPS has spent extra staff time and money (during the aforementioned “shutdown”) putting up fences and barricades on public roadways in attempts to deny Americans the pleasure of even viewing national treasures like Mt. Rushmore, the Grand Tetons, and the Grand Canyon — from the road.

One of the worst example of NPS thuggishness occurred in my neck of the woods, Yellowstone Park, where rangers ordered seniors and foreign visitors back on their tour bus and accused them of “recreating.”  Not only that, the busload of guests were ordered to not venture outside of the Old Faithful Inn, lest they see the famous geyser erupt. Armed NPS rangers stood outside the doors to make sure it couldn’t happen. Some of the foreign guests thought they were under arrest, and some seniors said they’d witnessed “Gestapo tactics.”

There’s long been a sickness in the National Park Service. I once heard a ranger explain to a fellow bureaucrat in Yellowstone that the NPS could really run the place well “if there weren’t all these damned people in it.” Another time, while interviewing park law enforcement for research for a novel, I was told by the highest-ranking park cop that he thought of his rangers as a “small army” that “could hold their own.” This, while showing off his massive armory of automatic weapons, combat shotguns, and tactical SWAT gear. 

How did the NPS go from an agency charged with managing our national parks “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People” — to a para-military force that would do this?

Is every NPS employee a thug? Of course not. But when the faux-shutdown ends I don’t think Americans will think of the NPS as benevolent Ranger Smiths of Jellystone Park ever again.

Image courtesy of Hanna-Barbera Productions

  1. C.J. Box

    My apologies to Jack Dunphy, who posted a similar post I missed earlier in the week.

  2. Devereaux

    You have singled out the NPS. But your illness pervades government at all levels.

    The simplest explanation is that it has gotten way too big and too powerful. Police forces, in a move to be “modern”, have created SWAT teams were none are needed. These teams “train”. And all that costs money.

    So to show off the results of all this “training”, SWAT teams are deployed at all manner of inappropriate times. Check out the recent Alaska remote gold miners being “surprised” by the EPA – and SWAT teams. The “explanation” was that it was a “multi-department task force”. That’s governmental gobblygook for “we have this stuff and we need to use it”.

    In Evansville, IN recently I observed the local police force being “trained” on a new armored vehicle they had acquired – by Army personnel. ?Just why does Evansville need an armored vehicle. ?Or Army training. They’re cops, not rangers.

    Look for all this to get worse. A government that has grown in power will INEVITABLY flex its power – to the detriment of the people.

  3. Pseudodionysius

    CJ Box,

    You are clearly smarter than the average bear.

    Sincerely,

    Boo Boo

  4. C.J. Box
    Devereaux: Check out the recent Alaska remote gold miners being “surprised” by the EPA – and SWAT teams. The “explanation” was that it was a “multi-department task force”.

    I followed that one closely with blood set on “boil.”

  5. C.J. Box
    Pseudodionysius: CJ Box,

    You are clearly smarter than the average bear.

    Sincerely,

    Boo Boo · 1 minute ago

    If the cartoon was updated, Yogi would be no doubt be blown away by Ranger Smith in SWAT gear for stealing picnic baskets.

  6. DocJay

    Howdy ranger, I’m Claude Dallas.

  7. Basil Fawlty

    Would you care to address the Anti-Deficiency Act, which (as I understand it) holds federal employees criminally liable for expending government funds for purposes deemed nonessential (e.g., sightseeing?) if those funds have not been appropriated by Congress  (e.g, during a lapse of appropriations such as this shutdown)?  If, in fact, the Park Service closed scenic overlooks at Mount Rushmore on highways over which they had no jurisdiction, then those responsible should be fired.  Otherwise, they were just doing what Congress told them to do.

  8. Pilli

    I doubt Joe Pickett would do these things.  He has integrity and a backbone.  He’d tell the guy issuing the order to lock up old people at the inn where to go.

  9. Tamara Jackson

    Chuck,

    I wrote about this yesterday and was pretty riled up!

    http://theblacksphere.net/2013/10/yellowstone-park-next-site-obama-gestapo-tactics/

    I doubt Joe would follow these orders and you know Nate would flat-out defy them!

    This is frightening considering how many acres of land are owned now by the Feds — here’s hoping that trend will change!

    Tami

  10. Pilli
    C.J. Box: My apologies to Jack Dunphy, who posted a similar post I missed earlier in the week. · 52 minutes ago

    We wanted your take, too.

  11. C.J. Box
    Basil Fawlty: Would you care to address the Anti-Deficiency Act, which (as I understand it) holds federal employees criminally liable for expending government funds for purposes deemed nonessential (e.g., sightseeing?) if those funds have not been appropriated by Congress  (e.g, during a lapse of appropriations such as this shutdown)?  If, in fact, the Park Service closed scenic overlooks at Mount Rushmore on highways over which they had no jurisdiction, then those responsible should be fired.  Otherwise, they were just doing what Congress told them to do. · 11 minutes ago

    I hope someone with a better understanding of the Anti-Deficiency Act can address this.  But I’m confused: when did Congress tell the NPS to barricade scenic overlooks and turnouts?

  12. C.J. Box
    Tamara Jackson: Chuck,

    This is frightening considering how many acres of land are owned now by the Feds — here’s hoping that trend will change!

    Tami · 9 minutes ago

    Paul Kengor in Forbes has a solution: Privatize the parks.

    My solution would be to sell the national parks to the states.  States manage parks better.

  13. C.J. Box
    DocJay: Howdy ranger, I’m Claude Dallas. · 32 minutes ago

    It’s gonna happen.

  14. Nick Stuart

    Bear (heh) with me recycling my response to Jack Dunphy’s post.

    While some NPS, and other federal, employees undoubtedly enjoy playing tough cop, there hopefully are some who find it distasteful, but do it because they need the job. They’re just ordered to act like a******s, not load people into gas chambers, it would be hard to argue that the orders are illegal or immoral. I know, blocking WWII vets from the WWII memorial is outrageous, and we are definitely at the civil disobedience point.

    But does it give anyone pause to consider how many uniformed federal services (e.g. Park Service, Transportation Safety Administration) are being hardened to treating citizens like cattle? And to “just follow orders.”

  15. Basil Fawlty
    C.J. Box

    Basil Fawlty: Would you care to address the Anti-Deficiency Act, which (as I understand it) holds federal employees criminally liable for expending government funds for purposes deemed nonessential (e.g., sightseeing?) if those funds have not been appropriated by Congress  (e.g, during a lapse of appropriations such as this shutdown)?  If, in fact, the Park Service closed scenic overlooks at Mount Rushmore on highways over which they had no jurisdiction, then those responsible should be fired.  Otherwise, they were just doing what Congress told them to do. · 11 minutes ago

    I hope someone with a better understanding of the Anti-Deficiency Act can address this.  But I’m confused: when did Congress tell the NPS to barricade scenic overlooks and turnouts? · 0 minutes ago

    Congress told the Park Service to spend money only on “essential” services during a lapse of appropriations.  Because some of the parkways with overlooks and turnouts were also deemed “essential” for folks to get from point A to point B but nonessential for “recreational” purposes such as sightseeing, the parkways were left open but their overlooks and turnouts were closed.  Crazy, I know, but that’s the government.

  16. wilber forge

    Anyone seen a BLM map lately ? The checkerboard pattern is quite revealing.

    Or just how much acreage the National Parks occupy ? Now that is a lot of control.

    Would be fun if BigFoot made an appearance and chased the Rangers out of the parks. Or would that wind up in a SWAT response ?

  17. flownover

    Your overarmed park rangers are going to feel alot more paranoid after this blows over. Just think about the glares from the average American as they remember what these jokers did .

    Combine that with their newly acquired arsenal and we have the combination for worse things to happen in the future . Privatizing the park system has about as much chance as eliminating the EPA. First problem is that it makes too much sense, second is that it would probably create a good revenue stream. I see them creating a union sooner to represent them as they are assaulted by the mean looks of the citizenry. (im probably too late in predicting a union)

    Sorry, the Leviathan just taketh away, no giveth at all.

  18. tabula rasa

    My late father-in-law was a crusty old cattle rancher.  Many years ago, we went with him into one of Utah’s many national parks on a holiday day-trip. The park was very busy and we had to park on the side of a dirt road near one of the sites.  This required us to pull 3-4 feet off the road and to make tire tracks (apparently in a location where such tracks violated park rules).

    As soon as we got out of the car, we were approached by an officious young park ranger who, rake in hand, told my father-in-law he must, then and there, rake out the tire tracks. My father-in-law said something like this, “Son, there isn’t the slightest chance that I’ll rake those tracks out.  If you push the issue that rake will be sticking out of your rear end.  I’ll let you decide which end I insert.”  The ranger scurried off never to be seen again by us.

    He’s probably running the NPS now.

  19. wilber forge

    Add this – Just what áreas of these Federal Lands are shut down ?

     

    Think hard.imagesCA60STU4.jpg

  20. tabula rasa
    C.J. Box

    Paul Kengor in Forbes has a solution: Privatize the parks.

    My solution would be to sell the national parks to the states.  States manage parks better. · 41 minutes ago

    I agree completely.  In some cases, it may be better to have them managed at the county level (assuming the park in question is entirely within a single county).

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