Public Lands Stewards: Wilderness Rangers at the Entiat Ranger Station

Michael McNeil

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Computer time for a wilderness ranger in Mt. Adams Institute’s Public Lands Stewards program is few and far between, and that’s the way I like it. While I do have some time to spare, I would like to put into words what it is that wilderness rangers do exactly at the Entiat Ranger District. At any given time us wilderness rangers can be in the field 30 miles away from everyone, or in the front country helping prepare trails for early season hiking; many hats are worn at the USDA Forest Service. Thanks to our supervisor, Mr. Jon Meier, my time in Entiat, WA has become very rewarding.

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Citizen Service for Community Needs

Aside from all the hiking we do, Wilderness Rangers are also mentors. Myself plus one were given a very important task of introducing a group of 4th grade students to the usefulness of federal land and water. In this particular case the Wenatchee National Forest. The federal government in conjunction with the Forest Service has introduced a new program called EVERY KID IN A PARK. This program helps to connect children, 4th grade and higher, to federal lands recreation and what it means to protect these diverse lands. With this new information, these kids have the ability to educate their peers and even their parents on what federal lands and water are and why they exist.

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From firsthand experience I know how hard it is to stand in front of a group of kids and request their attention, unless you are funny; comedy in the classroom is one of my strong points. We knocked it out of the park, figuratively speaking. The kids were so interested in knowing what animals and beautiful sites they live amongst; they even started raising their hands in advance to answer questions before their peers had the chance to. Eagerness comes with anticipation of a prize. The prize in this case was a FREE pass to ALL federal lands and water in the United States. Must be nice to be a youngster!

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Interagency Engagement

In preparation for the official season to begin, working and learning from individuals within our district has become essential. To say the least, myself plus my peer (Forest Patton) are the first ever Wilderness Rangers to be Chainsaw (S-212) certified! All thanks to the Entiat Fire Crew, we have learned valuable training techniques that not only benefit ourselves but the community also. Not to say that we will boastfully carry our chainsaws into the forest to show people what we know; productivity will advance as needed! With the advancement and earning of certification we have been able to work with the Entiat Trail Crew and bond not only as workmates, but also as “homies” or “dawgs”. I am positive that this is what the thesaurus states what a close friend can also be called. This bond has led to clearing of log and trail blocking sources that limit access to the forest! We have learned a lot thus far.

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[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]

“How many miles have you hiked?”

“ How many people are out there?”

“ Did you see any bears yet man!?!?!?!”

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Hiking

YES these are real questions and I’m sure this is the part everyone has been waiting to hear, but don’t get your hopes up because the season has just started. While it is early in the season, we have still managed to pull in a couple of quality adventures. Our most recent adventure involved a 40+ mile ranger patrol amongst the Saw Tooth backcountry during Fourth of July weekend. Before that, Forrest and I explored the trails amongst the Mad River for 20 + miles. Our main job is engagement. We want to keep the Forest clean (Leave No Trace), keep the trails intact, and most of all engage with the individuals that explore these trails. These trails are accessible to mountain bikes, horses, dirt bikes, and hikers. The people we see are very friendly and honestly know more about these trails than we do because they have lived here so long. I feel as if I am learning from the various dirt bikers that we see. They actually tell us where the snow is located, and what trees are down. They also do their part in riding on the trails that they are allowed on. I am looking forward to interacting with more people, and going to places with in the forest that most people don’t get to see. It would be so corny to sit here and say that the “majestic mountains of the Wenatchee National Forest take me away”, everyone says stuff like that and it is really cliché. To tell the truth, it is more than getting to see mountains all the time. I have been able to make connections with people from different parts of the Unites States. I am very fortunate to be stationed at the Entiat Ranger Station and more fortunate to be able to display my public service and set myself up for future endeavors.

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