LD 297 Maine Forest Rangers, Training, Vests & Firearms

LD 297 Maine Forest Rangers, Training, Vests & Firearms

The Forest Ranger’s job has changed over the years from strictly fighting forest fires, manning lookout towers and investigating open campfires in the backcountry to include law enforcement patrol of Maine’s timber resources.  As their responsibilities have changed, Rangers find themselves in need of increased protection when exposed to potentially dangerous situations.

There is a bill coming up before the Legislature which address that need.  LD 297 will provide training, ballistic vests and firearms to Maine’s Forest Rangers.  In speaking with Jon Blackstone, A Maine Forest Ranger with over 20 years experience, he explained “We are not looking to change our role in protecting Maine’s natural resources but the role has changed over the years.”

“Maine’s Forest Ranger’s investigate and enforce a wide range of criminal laws including Arson, Theft, Criminal Mischief and Criminal Trespass. We often conduct these investigations along with surveillance in remote locations . Our nearest back up is often a couple of hours away and would have a hard time even accessing some of the areas we go to.”

An article in The Bangor Daily News Outdoors explains the complexity of the issue surrounding a Ranger’s job in enforcing laws that protect Maine’s natural resources and landowner property rights.

According to the Portland Press Herald…., the results of the Governor’s task force indicate the issue no longer is if the Rangers should be armed but rather how to fund the initiative.

LD 297 has passed out of the Criminal Justice committee with overwhelming support and will likely go to the floor for a vote this week.  Ranger Blackstone as well as many others “are urging people to contact their state Representative and senators and ask them to support LD 297.  We would also like them to do the same to the Governors office.”

The bill includes a recommendation of training from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy for training and equipment that would cost around $140,000. The Federal Law enforcement support agency has offered free sidearms and the Federal government has grants that cover a large portion of the cost for bullet proof vests.  As Ranger Blackstone explains, “this will reduce the cost significantly.”

Forest Ranger