Resource Protection and Visitor Safety

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

We have a serious resource protection problem on many of our National Parks and National Forests and the problem is not the fault of NPS, USFS, or other agency personnel.  It’s a problem of under-funding and under-staffing. In these days of politicians stumping for lower taxes and a reduced federal workforce, it is important to remember and openly discuss the important roles many of our agency personnel play in maintaining safe, protected, and well-managed natural resources.  Continued cuts to these agencies only hurt their capacity to achieve missions and mandates.  See below for the inspiration for this post.

Petrified Forest National Park (AZ)

Twelve Arrested Or Cited For Drug And Resource Violations


Ranger Lindsey Pruett responded to a visitor report of other visitors collecting pieces of petrified wood at Crystal Forest on the afternoon of January 9th. She contacted one occupant of a converted school bus who turned over several small pieces of petrified wood.  When asked if there was any more on the bus or anything else Pruett needed to know about, he told her that there was also a quantity of marijuana on the bus. Ranger Marc Schlauch then arrived and assisted Pruett. A county sheriff’s office canine unit came out and positively alerted on the bus, indicating the presence of a controlled substance. The bus and all twelve occupants were searched.  Approximately twelve pounds of petrified wood, two pounds of rocks, three pounds of marijuana, nine pounds of food with THC content, and a small quantity of bath salts and hashish were recovered from the bus along with numerous smoking pipes and $2,941 in cash found with the hashish and marijuana.  No one admitted to any knowledge of the drugs on the bus. Two occupants were arrested and brought the next morning to the federal magistrate in Flagstaff; the rest were issued violation notices to appear in court later that week.  Seven of the ten individuals showed up for court and were found guilty of class B misdemeanors for the resource and drug violations. The two people who were arrested were each fined a total of $1,025 for the petrified wood and the drugs, placed on a year’s unsupervised probation, and banned from all national parks in Arizona for one year.  The other seven paid fines of $610 each and were sentenced to the same period of probation and exclusion from Arizona parks.  Of the three remaining cited individuals, one was a juvenile and had her tickets dismissed.  The remaining two were arrested days later on failure to appear warrants from this case.
[Submitted by Greg Caffey, Chief Ranger]