I’m sure I don’t have to tell you the last couple of weeks have been stressful. As we all grapple with the spread of coronavirus, we can take heart knowing that National Park Service employees are still serving our country on the front lines protecting parks and helping people. Now, more than ever, they deserve our thanks and our support.
The Association of National Park Rangers (ANPR) appreciates the actions the National Park Service has taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Though the response has been slow and halting at times, limiting access to facilities and closing parks is the right way to protect park employees and those who would have traveled to visit them. Now, ANPR supports empowering rangers to make decisions that are best for their communities and their families.
Rangers are members of close knit, park communities, and we want to support them as they take action to do their jobs and to keep themselves, their families, and visitors healthy and safe. We support the National Park Service’s flexibility in allowing telework, and we encourage the Service to be more forthcoming with policies to approve appropriate kinds of leave for employees who cannot perform their duties remotely or whose lives are being upended by the closure of schools or the sickness of family and neighbors in their communities.
At this time of year, our park communities typically grow as the National Park Service hires seasonal rangers to work on roads and trails, in park entrance stations, at visitor centers, and on patrols or surveys all over park lands. ANPR urges the National Park Service to honor its commitments to this year’s seasonal hires. We know the seasonals you hire today will be the service's backbone tomorrow. Breaking promises to employ them would needlessly throw their lives into disarray and be a wasteful disinvestment in the National Park Service's future.
I say this because ANPR always has and always will support those who pursue ranger careers. With that in mind:
We’ve got your back. We want to help and support all rangers. We know the rangers who study animals or plants, repair roads, lead hikes, administer park operations, and enforce the law are the soul of the National Park Service. We support keeping rangers healthy and want to make sure the National Park Service does everything it can to follow public health experts’ guidance in making decisions that might put you in harm’s way. If you are worried about what’s happening in your park, get in touch so we can talk about it. We want to know and share your stories.
We know you are concerned about your staff, your park, and the visitors who travel to see both. We want you to know that you are not alone. If you feel overwhelmed or need someone to talk to, reach out to me, and I’ll connect you with an ANPR member who’s been there and who can share advice and some words of comfort.
As parks take action to combat the spread of coronavirus, it’s more important than ever that you consider when and whether to visit a park. In order to avoid bringing the virus to small, isolated communities and to avoid taxing already strained rangers, consider delaying your visits to parks and planning for a visit later instead. Today there are many wonderful ways to enjoy your national parks using digital tools. Most of your favorite parks have multimedia resources available on their websites and accessible on social media. Take advantage of these great opportunities!
Parks aren’t going anywhere, and we aren’t either. Stick to planning your visit today so we can all enjoy the parks tomorrow. Waiting to visit until after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides will help ensure that you are able to travel safely and that the rangers you meet will stay healthy and ready to host you.
It takes everyone working together to keep our parks safe. Whether you work in maintenance, interpretation, law enforcement, natural and cultural resources, administration, business management or any of our many other disciplines, you play a vital role in protecting our parks and park visitors. Thank you for everything you are doing during this critical time! I am humbled to be president of the Association of National Park Rangers representing you and serving as your advocate.
Thank you for that trust and opportunity. We’ll all get through this together.
Please take care of yourselves and your coworkers. Be safe! Stay healthy!
Paul AndersonANPR President