Along with other U.S. Department of Interior agencies, Zion National Park will send three of its rangers south next year to support law enforcement efforts at national parks and monuments along the U.S. - Mexico border.
It’s a continuation of a Trump Administration program that started as a temporary law enforcement “surge” in 2018 and has now been extended through next year.
Daniel Fagergren, the park’s chief ranger, says the members of his staff travelling to Arizona and Texas will continue to perform normal ranger duties like traffic enforcement and emergency medical response, but with a twist.
“The border does add a bit more law-enforcement complexity in that there is a lot of migrant traffic coming through the parks on the border — and then, of course, drugs,” he said.
Even though this initiative is specific to this administration, the National Park Service has shared personnel with border parks and monuments under previous administrations, too.
“Rangers have been going to the border for several years. In my career, I’ve probably gone about a half-dozen times over the last decade and a half,” Fagergren said. “In terms of the rangers going, the number of rangers, the assignments, the work — it’s all the same. Nothing has really changed in that respect.”
Zion National Park employs between 12 and 16 rangers on its payroll at a time.
To mitigate impacts on the park, Fagergren said Zion will send one ranger at a time, usually for a period of a few weeks and not during trainings or busy periods. So it won’t affect their operations here in Utah.
Fagergren said he expects that Zion National Park will continue to pay its rangers’ salaries while they are assigned to the border. But he added that benefitting parks or units may also absorb those costs depending on the nature of the assignment or detail.
David Fuchs is a Report for America corps member who reports from KUER's Southwest Bureau in St. George.