Zion National Park rangers are being deployed along the U.S.-Mexico border
(Al Hartmann | Tribune file photo) Hikers play on the sandstone rocks from the Canyon Overlook Trail with a view into Zion Canyon in 2017.
Three rangers from Zion National Park will be sent to assist other law enforcement along the border with Mexico.
Daniel Fagergren, chief ranger at Zion National Park, confirmed in an email Monday that the three personnel will be sent to work at parks and monuments operated by the National Park Service along the Mexican border.
While Fagergren didn’t offer more specifics on the locations, that would imply the rangers are being sent to such spots as Big Bend National Park in Texas
or Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
“Rangers sent from parks like Zion perform the same duties on the border that they would be performing in their home park,” Fagergren wrote. “Namely, law enforcement, including drug interdiction, emergency medical response, and search and rescue. While the environment and temperatures are certainly different, the work is similar.”
In a follow-up email, Fagergren wrote: “The impacts to existing staff [at Zion] will be negligible because we schedule and plan for the gaps several months in advance.”
He said two Zion rangers were sent to the border last year.
(Brian Maffly | Tribune file photo) Then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, center in blue shirt, inspects a renovated loop of the Watchman Campground during a tour Zion National Park on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018.
The Trump administration has been using park rangers to augment agents from Customs and Border Protection. The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has criticized diverting the rangers
in an era of increased visitation and understaffing at the national parks.
Christina Hazard, associate director for wildlife and natural resources at NPCA, said Monday that sending rangers to other National Park Service units is preferable to deploying them elsewhere along the border, and that the Zion rangers are likely better accustomed to the deserts of the Southwest than personnel from Eastern parks. But Hazard also cited Zion as a park without rangers to spare.
The park this summer set a record with 500,000 visitors per month
. Some parks have rangers handling parking enforcement instead of doing things like caring for the park’s ecology, Hazard said. “You’ve got parks without enough rangers to do all the jobs rangers are supposed to do."
It was unclear whether rangers from other national parks and monuments in Utah also will go to the border. A spokesman for the National Park Service in Denver, whose offices oversee the Utah units, declined to discuss whether any other Utah rangers are being transferred.