Interior Remains Tight-Lipped About Park Rangers Sent To The Border

Nov 26, 2019

The Trump Administration is continuing to deploy park rangers at the U.S.-Mexico border to help with enforcement. And while national parks and other public lands in the West are feeling the effects, it’s unclear just how much.

Park rangers first began heading to the border in 2018, part of a pilot surge operation run by then-Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke.

Zinke called the operation a success, and touted more than a dozen arrests in the first days.

But Christina Hazard, an associate director at the National Parks Conservation Association, says the policy takes away valuable resources from already short-staffed and underfunded parks.

“Law enforcement rangers have very specific skills and it’s not easy for another ranger to just fill in,” Hazard said. “It might not be possible in some cases for other rangers to backfill a law enforcement position.”

The Department of Interior has not shared any details publicly on the number of personnel being sent to the border or from where. In a statement, a department spokesperson confirmed that employees are being sent to the border, but “due to operational security, we will not be disclosing any additional information about our officers assisting in the operations."

High Country News reported on the program earlier this year after receiving heavily redacted documents through the Freedom of Information Act. Last week the magazine covered a protest at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, where some park rangers have been deployed.

As The Salt Lake Tribune and Tennesean, among others, have reported, employees from Zion National Park in Utah and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado have been among those sent to the border.

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, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.