Why are all the rangers deskbound?

  Regarding the article "Where have all the rangers gone?" (HCN, 12/26/05: Where have all the rangers gone?): During my nearly 30-year career with the U.S. Forest Service, it was very disturbing to observe many dedicated professional wildland managers being forced to change from a situation where nearly all were in the field, managing the forest resources with which they were intimately acquainted, to a situation where many of these same individuals were confined to desks, writing plans and responses to lawsuits.

Lawsuits and appeals were ongoing at every stage of the forest-planning process. While some of these challenges were brought by timber harvest organizations, most were by individuals interested in protecting their favorite recreation or hunting area, or by environmental organizations interested in advancing their objectives.

Today’s Forest Service operates with a much smaller number of employees, and most find a large portion of their working hours spent responding to appeals and lawsuits. It is little wonder that a district ranger, as described in your article, would prefer to warn individuals with motorized vehicles behind a "trail closed" sign rather than issue a citation, use office time to write up the incident, and perhaps spend a day appearing in court.

Anyone who wonders why the Forest Service employees who once were present to respond to their needs are no longer available, should review what effect past actions may have had to create this situation. The fact is that a large number of these rangers have either left for other employment or have retired, or are deskbound by all the current legal requirements.

Jack D. Cheney Jr.
Lander, Wyoming