Forest Rangers bring to mind images of men and women wearing khaki uniforms directing people through the nation’s forests, regulating logging and fighting forest fires. However, their job is so much more and a lot more dangerous than many people realize.

According to the US Forest Service:

Mission

The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.

Motto: Caring for the Land and Serving People

The phrase, “Caring for the Land and Serving People,” captures the Forest Service mission. As set forth in law, the mission is to achieve quality land management under the sustainable multiple-use management concept to meet the diverse needs of people: It includes:

  • Advocating a conservation ethic in promoting the health, productivity, diversity, and beauty of forests and associated lands.
  • Listening to people and responding to their diverse needs in making decisions.
  • Protecting and managing the National Forests and Grasslands so they best demonstrate the sustainable multiple-use management concept. Providing technical and financial assistance to State and private forest landowners, encouraging them to practice good stewardship and quality land management in meeting their specific objectives.
  • Providing technical and financial assistance to cities and communities to improve their natural environment by planting trees and caring for their forests.
  • Providing international technical assistance and scientific exchanges to sustain and enhance global resources and to encourage quality land management.
  • Helping States and communities to wisely use the forests to promote rural economic development and a quality rural environment.
  • Developing and providing scientific and technical knowledge aimed at improving our capability to protect, manage, and use forests and rangelands.
  • Providing work, training, and education to the unemployed, underemployed, elderly, youth, and disadvantaged in pursuit of our mission.

My degree was in wildlife and fisheries biology and my studies and later work brought me in contact with many employees of the US Forest Service. I’ve spent time with them and learned a lot about what some of them do and the dangers they encounter. Like wildlife managers, forest rangers sometimes come into contact with poachers, drunks, radicals, etc, many carrying guns. A wildlife manager, at least in Arizona is also a licensed and trained state law enforcement officer who carries a firearm. Unfortunately, forest rangers are not law enforcement officers nor do they carry a firearm and have no real means of self-protection.

Will Tuell, a state representative in Maine has introduced a bill, HP0009, LD-8, to allow Maine forest rangers there to carry a concealed weapon for self-protection while on duty.

Previous attempts to allow Maine forest rangers to carry firearms while on duty failed due to the expense of training and providing firearms. Tuell hopes this newest attempt was designed to overcome the financial obstacles faced in the previous attempts, by specifying that the forest rangers would be allowed to carry personal concealed firearms.

Commenting on his bill, Tuell told the media:

“This bill would simply allow them to carry their own guns and the amendment I’m proposing, it would require that they be compliant with state police training standards and things like that. I think we need to make sure that all of our law enforcement at least have a right to defend themselves.”

In other words, his bill would place the burden of training and expense on the forest rangers instead of the state. Some of the forest rangers I’ve known in the past would jump at the opportunity to get trained, licensed and provide their own concealed carry firearm for self-protection.

Hopefully, Tuell’s bill will be passed and set a precedent for other stated to follow. Our men and women who work out in nature, often alone, and who encounter dangerous people and/or animals, need to be afforded some sort of self-protection.

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