National Parks See More And More Visitors, Fewer And Fewer Rangers

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Originally published on July 5, 2019 8:49 am

A new analysis shows that despite record visitation, the National Park Service is hiring fewer rangers and other staff.

The analysis was conducted by USA Today and shows that the number of law enforcement rangers in parks has dropped by 20% since 2005. Meanwhile, visitation keeps climbing — more than 318 million people visited parks last year. 

“It’s disturbing to me that we would reduce our staff, whether it’s maintenance staff, or interpretive staff, or law enforcement staff," says Phil Francis, chairman of the nonprofit Coalition to Protect America's National Parks. "And it seems that we would make a greater investment to make sure that our visitors are safe, well informed and our parks are clean and well taken care of."

According to the analysis which was based on data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the low staffing means that there’s just one ranger for about every 180,000 park visitors. 

The National Parks has a maintenance backlog of nearly $12 million. 

Find reporter Amanda Peacher on Twitter @amandapeacher.

Copyright 2019 Boise State Public Radio

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho,  KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

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