They greet you at park gateways with a smile. They lead you on enlightening nature walks. They host informative and entertaining nighttime presentations down at the amphitheater. They answer questions and dispense information at visitor centers. And they check campsites and other facilities to make sure everything is in good working order.
But in addition to these visible jobs, what else does a park ranger do?
Park rangers, or forest rangers as they are sometimes called, are highly trained, well-educated professionals entrusted with protecting and preserving our federal, state and county parks and forests.
More than just guides in familiar dark green and tan uniforms who sport those great Smokey Bear hats, park rangers have many serious responsibilities. Here's an overview of those duties.
While one of the primary jobs of any ranger is to help foster respect for nature by building good relationships with visiting guests and local communities, many rangers have police powers to enforce national, state and local laws in addition to park regulations. This is why some rangers carry the same type of equipment as police officers.
Rangers conduct safety inspections, respond to noise complaints in campgrounds, and collect unpaid fees.
Upon completing police training and certification, a ranger can present written warnings or citations, court summons and arrest warrants. The ranger will also investigate and prosecute crimes, and enforce laws and regulations pertaining to campfires and other fires on park lands.
Education and Interpretation
Perhaps two of the most familiar duties of park rangers are to educate and inform visitors. Practical information a ranger shares includes directions, weather forecasts, trip-planning resources, and background knowledge about parks or regional landmarks and their histories.
In an interpretive roll, rangers sometimes visit schools to talk to students about forests and wild lands, and they often share iconic nighttime campground presentations with campers—all with the intent of building a respect for and interest in wildlife and wilderness areas, and to emphasize the importance of preservation.