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Know the West

Hats off to Stiles

  The artful cartoon by Jim Stiles (HCN, 5/24/99) was deeply appreciated by many current and former National Park Service (NPS) rangers who have first-hand knowledge of the extent to which our parks have become increasingly militarized. I worked for the NPS as a seasonal backcountry ranger for six years (1987-92), and consistently received official commendations and superior performance ratings. However, beginning in the 1990s, the NPS refused to re-hire me and others because we declined to carry guns at our remote wilderness stations. My former colleagues tell me that NPS wilderness rangers now receive more training in how to intimidate and kill people than they do in search-and-rescue and emergency medical techniques.

There is wide agreement that rangers performing frontcountry "road patrol" duties need to be trained as full-fledged law enforcement officers. But many current and former NPS employees are deeply disgusted that the agency's paranoia has extended into remote wilderness areas where incidents requiring the use of lethal force are virtually non-existent.

My hat is off to you for having the guts to print a cartoon that, while offensive to some, tells it like it is.

Tom Suk

South Lake Tahoe, California