of Western public-land rangers are no longer at their regular jobs,
patrolling rangeland for illegal off-road activities or
investigating endangered species smuggling. Since the Sept. 11
attacks, rangers from the Bureau of Land Management, the National
Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service have been assigned
to guard federal buildings in Washington, D.C., and to serve as
temporary airline sky marshals. Law enforcement personnel will
still protect public lands, resources and their users, acting BLM
director Nina Rose Hatfield told agency employees in an Oct. 17
memorandum, but "national security is now their top
The action was not officially
announced, and officials will not discuss enforcement gaps it might
leave in Western states.
"We're working hard to
cover our bases, but that's all I can say," says Hugh Vickery, an
Interior Department spokesman.
agencies were already understaffed, and some worry that Western
wildlife and land may now go unprotected, says Karen Schambach of
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. "We've been
concerned about the lack of numbers in the field for a long time
now. So there's a concern if they're taking even more people away
from agencies that are already understaffed."