You don’t have to read the fantastic page-turning book The Last Season by Eric Blehm about legendary backcountry ranger Randy Morgenson to understand how important the backcountry rangers are to the John Muir Trail and its vast wilderness. These dedicated people are highly-skilled backpackers and mountaineers who are the first responders, the remote emergency medical technicians, and the trail ambassadors who remind everyone how to “Leave No Trace” . When necessary, they are there to protect us all and enforce the rules.
Over many years of budget cuts, changed priorities and redeployed assets, the number of these experienced veterans has fallen, particularly along the JMT south of Yosemite National Park. Because the public lands through which the JMT travels are part of two separate cabinet-level federal departments—the Dept of Agriculture for the forests; the Department of Interior for the national parks—the basic management protocols, device technologies, even the IT platforms are inconsistent across the region. This affects rangers in the field, by complicating their work and making regional efficiencies difficult to achieve.
The Conservancy is working to improve regional management of the sharply-increasing visitor use across the greater JMT region. We have started by supplementing ranger patrols, and will continue to improve equipment, expand training and coordinate wilderness assessments and alerts. This program will eventually incorporate satellite-based device technologies, compatible applications with dynamic data-sharing, and a consistent IT platform across the land management units.
Pictured is Rob Pilewski from the Crabtree Ranger Station in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks as he summits Mt. Morgenson, a peak dedicated to the memory of NPS Ranger Randy Morgenson in 2015
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