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What is a Park Ranger?

Also known as: Federal Park Ranger.

Park rangers, also known as conservation scientists, are environmental specialists who work in conjunction with landowners to observe and maintain untouched natural landscapes. Another interchangeable job title for a park ranger is forester, the term most often used to describe men and women who tirelessly monitor and protect the world's natural resources.

State and provincial authorities may employ park rangers in order to combat the ever-present threat of wild fires, or municipal governments may employ them to protect reserved parklands from erosion. Private landowners may similarly hire park rangers on a contractual basis to provide detailed recommendations on a wide range of land conservation efforts.

What does a Park Ranger do?

The job duties of a park ranger may include protecting unspoiled natural resources from pollution, improving the conservation efforts of large forested areas, and managing the day-to-day operations of national parks. From the perspective of federally employed park rangers, the most important job duty is maintaining the environmental integrity of natural resources. For example, rangers may ensure that the soil quality of river deposits remain within government standards, particularly when protected lands lie near an urban population.

Park rangers employed by ranchers and farmers often provide practical advice on how to improve the agricultural efficiency of a landscape by deploying objective scientific methods. These objective methods may include conducting a slew of tests in order to extrapolate the progression of land erosion. For ranchers in particular, water quality is a major concern since the survival of livestock and wildlife depends upon having a clean source of water nearby.

From an operational standpoint, park rangers may have to supervise the job responsibilities of forestry technicians and natural park workers. It is not uncommon for one park ranger to oversee the duties of a team of younger park rangers. Specifically, senior rangers may defer the planning and execution of a controlled wildlife burn to subordinates, providing the final authorization to clear the land after a thorough inspection.

Preventing wildfires is arguably the most important job duty of park rangers. Every year thousands of square miles of open rangelands fall victim to the ravages of wildfires. Completely eliminating the risk of wildfires is an impossible feat, but park rangers can deploy a number of strategies to mitigate the risk to urban populations. These strategies may consist of clearing fire-prone areas with herbicides or bulldozers.

The job duties of park rangers who work in conjunction with private landowners may include reviewing or negotiating the terms of contracts with forestry companies. Harvesting trees is a very common practice in the western regions of the United States and Canada. Rangers monitor the health of reserved forests by mitigating the risk of tree diseases or large insect infestations.

What is the workplace of a Park Ranger like?

Park rangers work primarily in forested areas, however, they may also monitor the land quality of marshlands or large riverbeds. As such, traveling deep into a wide variety of wilderness is not uncommon.

Park rangers may work in isolated research facilities that provide a base of operations. These remote facilities may contain fully functioning laboratories that allow park rangers to perform tests on-site. In other settings, rangers may have to coordinate with researchers at a nearby major university in order to find solutions to regionally specific problems.

How can I become a Park Ranger?

Not surprisingly, the best schools that feature degree programs in forestry and environmental conservation lie very near large areas of protected forests.

Degree programs fit for a career as a park ranger may include bachelor's degree programs in forestry or natural science. Graduate programs in forestry are appropriate for supervisory postilions in national parks or large private tree harvesting companies.

Other than a strong educational background, careers in conservation science require high analytical skills in addition to the ability to interpret a large amount of technical data. The ability to communicate effectively with government entities and park visitors is an indispensable skill of a successful park ranger. Lastly, careers in conservation science require individuals to have an unabashed love for nature itself.



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