- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 3, 2003

The list of the 10 most dangerous national parks by the U.S. Park Rangers Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police shows things don’t look good.

Now how do you feel about going to, say, Virginia’s huge Shenandoah National Park?

The rangers of the FOP lodge rate Shenandoah National Park as the seventh most dangerous in the United States. They say Shenandoah has a radio system straight out of the 1950s, one well known among U.S. park rangers as the worst in the National Park Service (NPS). As are so many others, the park is understaffed, and its ranger work force has to cope with armed poachers and encroaching suburban crime.

The ranger staff, the FOP lodge says, has been cut in violation of NPS policy without public outcry or repercussions from Washington.

The lodge says the evaluation was done by a panel of rangers with more than 110 years of NPS law enforcement experience.

The worst in the bunch, according to the FOP lodge, is Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. After the murder of NPS Ranger Kris Eggle, the NPS bolstered its force at the monument with tactical teams that have been removed since and has failed to restore staff levels to previous levels. It says the park is swarming with potentially violent smugglers of drugs and illegal aliens. Rangers estimate that at least 250 illegal aliens cross through the park each night.

For virtually the same reasons, Amistad National Recreation Area in Texas made the list, as did Big Bend National Park in Texas. At Big Bend, the rangers say law enforcement was ordered by management to allow illegal aliens into the country and to avoid the border area entirely if crime is suspected.

Drunk boaters and car drivers, as well as illegal activities by Las Vegas-based gangs, make the Lake Mead National Recreation Area (Nevada/Arizona) the fourth worst in the nation, followed by Coronado National Memorial in Arizona, which is a small park with big drug, smuggling and inadequate staffing problems.

Now add Florida’s Biscayne National Park, where drug smuggling, illegal fishing and a nuclear power plant that could be a target of terrorists mean danger for a small ranger force. When there’s a problem, the Coast Guard never sends a boat from Biscayne with less than four officers, but NPS rangers must go alone into the open waters.

The Delaware Water Gap on the New Jersey/Pennsylvania line is rated as the eighth worst in the land because of understaffing. Its close proximity to New York and Philadelphia brings in crime that is often ignored, say the FOP members. The same reasons are given for No.9 on the list, the Edison National Historic Site in West Orange, N.J., which is threatened by vandals and burglars.

In the No.10 spot is Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park. The FOP lodge says Yellowstone eliminated its entire seasonal law enforcement staff at the beginning of the 2003 season. This resulted in few back-country patrols and a dangerous lack of backup during growing numbers of incidents. The staff has been enlarged this summer, but it is still below NPS staffing levels.

Evinrude/Johnson sold again — Canadian industrial giant Bombardier Inc. says it has sold its Recreational Products Division for $1.25 billion (Canadian) to a corporation formed by Bain Capital and the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec. The division includes the Evinrude and Johnson brands of outboard motors, as well as Sea-Doo watercraft, ATVs and other products.

This is the second time in the past several years the outboard motor brands have been sold. Bombardier bought the famous boat motors from the Outboard Motor Corporation three years ago. The boat motor division has been profitable, but Bombardier says it wants to focus on its aerospace and transportation businesses.

Fish & Wildlife Service to increase fees — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public comment on a proposal to increase permit application fees for the majority of permits the agency issues.

Since 1982, when the $25 permit application fee was established, the Service’s costs to administer the permits programs have risen in line with cost of living increases nationwide. New proposed fees range from $50 to $300 and are based on a variety of factors, including: (1) the level of complexity required to process the type of permit, (2) whether the permittee stands to benefit commercially from the permit and (3) whether the permitted activity serves the public interest. The proposed increase would apply to all Service permits except for permits for possession of eagle parts and feathers for Native American religious and cultural use and for refuge special use permits. To access the proposed rule and fee schedule, please visit: permits.fws.gov/ federalregister/federalregister.shtml.

Please send comments by Oct. 9 to the Division of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, MBSP 4107, Arlington, Va., 22203-1610. Alternatively, comments can be faxed to 703/358-2272 or sent by e-mail to [email protected]

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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