National Parks are dangerous places to enforce the law

Jan 3, 2012

Mount Rainier will remain closed through Thursday after the fatal shooting of ranger Margaret Anderson on Sunday.

The tragedy underscores a little-known fact about the country's most beautiful landscapes: They're also home to some of the highest rates of assault on law enforcement.

Bob Binnewies, a former superintendent of Yosemite National Park, recalls his first ranger job back in 1961 at Old Faithful in Yellowstone.

“I was issued a vintage .38 caliber, World War II revolver, and I had my badge and that was pretty much the extent of law enforcement training for rangers in those days,” Binnewies says.

Park rangers now receive the same training as FBI agents and U.S. Marshals.

'City goes to the forest'

Jeff Ruch heads Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a whistle-blower group that tracks assaults on Forest Service, Park Service and Fish and Wildlife officers.

“The city is coming to the forest, and you've got a very thin green line of law enforcement officers who are having to respond,” Ruch says.

In 2008, a Forest Service police officer was shot and killed on duty in the Olympic National Forest. Yet Ruch says the federal government fails to keep data on these attacks.

Through Freedom of Information Act Requests, his organization found that the rate of assault on law enforcement in the nation's parks and forests hit an all time high in 2009.

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