26 May 2016

Postcard from Clair in the USA


I'm sending a blog 'postcard' from the USA, about my recent adventures to the Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument and Lake Mead National Recreation Area (this is the first time they’ve offered shadow assignments at the World Ranger Congress). I’ve tried to pick out the highlights as there is so much I want to talk about!

Andy Dutton (an Australian ranger from Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service) and I spent a week with key staff and rangers at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, the Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument and Pipe Springs National Monument as well as the awe-inspiring Zion National Park. We shared stories about our respective areas and learnt about issues facing each of these areas. The American protected area system is so different to the UK, many of these areas are owned by the federal government. It was a fantastic experience to compare how the three different countries approach the ranger profession. And my, do the Americans know how to make people feel welcome.

Lake Mead is a huge area outside Las Vegas (think a huge version of Windermere) popular with boaters, day trippers and those seeking a wilderness experience.

The vastness of Lake Mead, where they're facing issues with historical lowering water levels.
We also experienced the Colorado river in all it’s glory by taking a rafting trip below the Hoover Dam to see some of their visitor and resource management issues. Obviously enjoying the mid-30 degrees heat!
Rafting down the Black Canyon, meeting local specialists including a meteorologist, the chief Law Enforcement ranger and a biologist.

Ranger pilot Scott Taylor also took us between Boulder City (where we were based) to St George in a small plane. In between bouts of nausea (the updrafts were pretty intense) I took what seemed to be a million photos of the Grand Canyon en route. The scale of land they manage out here makes having a small plane an essential part of their role, particularly for law enforcement and fire management.
What a view! 

As a contrast,we also saw the Grand Canyon from the Parashant (the flatter lands to the North of the main Grand Canyon that the tourists go to).

It was great to spend time with their ecologist, their physical scientist, archaeologist and other rangers and to learn more about what it takes to manage this huge piece of land.

And finally, imagine being a backcountry ranger and being given a government issued mountain bike to patrol around on? Often the roads in this part of the country are so difficult to navigate (particularly when it rains!) that this is the best way to get around (being a long distance runner also helps too, naturally). I am sure job applications from any of you fit and hardy souls would be welcome!

From one extreme to another. Zion National Park has 4 million visitors a year. Most going to the main canyon, with concrete pavements and double buses getting visitors up to the main walking routes up the valley. It seems in order for everyone to be able to enjoy these special places such apparent extreme measures are necessary.

One of the key things I’ve got from this experience is that as rangers we all face similar issues regardless of our location. However rangers in America have comparable powers to the police, have responsibility for fighting wilderness fires and play a key role in search and rescue. But then America is much much larger than the UK.

Many thanks to my hosts at both Lake Mead and the Parashant. I look forward to showing them the delights of our wonderful Lake District in the future!

I’ll leave you with this little guy…

Ground squirrel plotting something! 

I’m now at Estes Park in the Rocky Mountain National Park for the World Ranger Congress and it is quite a contrast to the very dry desert. 


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