All 401 national park sites are currently closed, including Yosemite. The vast majority of National Park Service employees, including me, are indefinitely furloughed until the shutdown is over. Once the shutdown ends, we can go back to work and reopen the parks, but for now I'm unemployed.

I work in the division of Interpretation/Education - we're the rangers you see behind the desk of the visitor centers. We also lead ranger walks (geology, bears, history, etc.), answer phone calls and emails, run the Yosemite Facebook and Twitter accounts, create exhibits and brochures, and pretty much everything related to educating and informing visitors. There are other types of rangers too - law enforcement, maintenance, wildlife, natural sciences, etc. - but I've only worked in Interpretation.

When I posted the letter and sticks Evie mailed to me a few months ago, I had a number of requests for an AMA. So, now that I'm out of a job, I figure now's as good a time as any!

1:45am PST Edit: Thanks for the questions so far; heading to bed now. Feel free to keep asking away and I'll get to the next round of questions in the morning.

8:45am PST Edit: Oooh, that's a lot of new comments. You're not making this easy on me! I'm back, and will keep answering throughout the morning/day.

12:00pm PST Edit: I've got to step away for now; apologies if I didn't get to your question. Most of the ones I didn't respond to have already been answered elsewhere in this thread. I might have a chance to get back on here later today and get to a few more of them, but no promises. If you're desperate for an answer, you can always send me a pm too, and I'll do my best to respond. Thanks!

Comments: 553 • Responses: 74  • Date: 

Iamswitters207 karma

What is it like knowing that Yogi is running wild with all of the picnic baskets?

bestmattever178 karma

Ha! But if there are no visitors, then where will he get the picnic baskets?

mikrowiesel48 karma


bestmattever155 karma

If bears are using eBay, we've got more important things to worry about than them stealing picnic baskets.

Kurvco93 karma

Considering that parks cause major revenue for their surrounding areas, would you consider then more essential than many people believe?

bestmattever175 karma

I'm glad you brought this up - this is a huge point that's often forgotten. "Big deal, a park is closed, I wasn't going there anyway." Besides the sheer lack of empathy this shows for people who have spent lots of time and money planning their vacations, it also shows ignorance for how much money parks bring in to local economies. $30 billion and 250,000 jobs is nothing to sneeze at: "The national parks return more than $10 for every $1 the American taxpayer invests in the National Park Service."

mystinkyfingers78 karma

I just spent the day in The White Mountain National Forest. Hope they get their crap together soon. Its leaf peeping season and the shut down not only affects federal employees but also the local merchants, restaurants and hotels

bestmattever95 karma

Yes, many forget that the local communities' economies depend on these parks being open and functioning!

Old_School_New_Age23 karma

What was your course of study in school?

Are there any 1 or 2-year certificate programs that you know of that can get me involved?

bestmattever37 karma

It sort of depends on what exactly you want to do.

If you work in Interpretation like me, it doesn't really matter what you study, although some sort of science-related degree is good. Law enforcement rangers go through FLETC, whereas a wildlife ranger might have some sort of wildlife biology degree.

Really the key is to start off by volunteering, rather than any special certificate program. Once you get some experience and show that you're a decent human being, then you can start getting paid. I started off by volunteering in 2005.

And to answer your original question, my undergraduate degrees are in Geology and Business, and my Master's is in Park and Recreation Management.

Old_School_New_Age12 karma

That's a nice, varied, grounded, and intelligent course to your present position. Very 21st century.

There's a Ranger station in the next town. Just walk in and ask about volunteer opportunities?

bestmattever15 karma

Yeah, what sort of ranger station? There are different agencies that have different missions, so a National Park Service park ranger will be a bit different than a Forest Service ranger or a state park ranger. is a great way to find out about volunteer opportunities around the country - generally parks will have free housing for their volunteer positions. Yosemite can be tough because of a housing crunch - we have some volunteers this summer that just lived in a campsite.

I got my first volunteer position through the Student Conservation Association.

SnowGN42 karma

What happens to hikers who are currently deep, deep within the national parks, beyond the range of normal contact?

bestmattever64 karma

Anyone who heading out into the wilderness in the last several days was warned about the possibility of a shutdown in advance. We just told them, hey, once you're back to the trailhead, there might not be any services and you'll need to head out of the park. But we're not going to go helicoptering in with a megaphone telling them we're closed. :)

Spirt201040 karma

if you're not working, who is going to stop visitor from entering parks?

bestmattever62 karma

There is a small staff of law-enforcement rangers who are deemed "essential" and continue working during the shutdown. Keep in mind that there are hundreds of concessioner employees (hotels, restaurants, etc.) and park employees that live in the park, so some rangers have to keep working and can respond to medical incidents and such. These rangers are staffing the gates, turning around visitors and non-residents.

Some of us aren't too happy about not being considered "essential."

HarborLights35 karma

Can I drive through Yosemite from the entrance near Highway 49 and go through the Tioga pass to get to my home in June Lake, Ca?

bestmattever41 karma

Yes, through roads will remain open for the duration of the shutdown for driving through. There will be no services and you won't be able to park/hike - it's just for passing through.

oloamaolo34 karma

Just a short question. I am from germany currently on holiday in CA and am planing to visit yosemite this sunday. If the shutdown will end in the next 1-2 days how long til the parks open for visitors again? Will it open immediately or are there a few preparation days for the staff to manage things?

bestmattever35 karma

The goal is to be open again the very next day. So if word comes Thursday that an agreement has been reached and it's passed/signed, we'll be at work Friday and the park will be open.

Swiftapple29 karma

Do you still have the sticks?

gialight26 karma

Don't the parks actually make money? Why would they shutdown something that actually generates revenue if the budget didn't pan out?

bestmattever66 karma

The parks definitely make money overall, but not for the park service - they generate income for the businesses and surrounding communities.

The little money we make on park entrance fees and campgrounds doesn't pay for the park itself.

It's this way by design, actually. Imagine the sorts of conflicts of interest there'd be if the park service had to both a) protect national parks and b) generate income? "I know it's really important to protect this beautiful view.... but wow, we could really afford some awesome visitor center exhibits if we built that gondola to the top of Half Dome."

Andromeda32116 karma

This is what annoyed me so much about Republican candidates in the 2012 election who kept saying stuff about whether we "need" national parks. Even over a hundred years ago when the first ones were created people saw how much commercial interests destroyed Niagara even then and that was a huge motivation for founding them.

bestmattever14 karma

Niagara Falls is the best example of "why we have national parks," to me. A lot of people try to argue that private corporations would run parks better than the NPS. All you have to do is point to Niagara Falls to show that's not true. (And to think - it's wayyyyy better than it used to be!) If the same people responsible with taking care of a place are also able to make money off of it.... you're going to have a bad time.

TI89_Titanium20 karma

Do you expect to get back paid for the time you were furloughed after the shutdown ends?

bestmattever40 karma

Unsure. In previous shutdowns (mid-1990s), employees did receive back pay. This time we don't know, as it seems like there is more of an anti-government mood among some members of Congress than there used to be.

Fingers crossed! These college loans won't pay themselves. :)

GeoBrian5 karma

Do you need a college degree to work at an interpretive center?

bestmattever10 karma

It's not necessarily a requirement, but it certainly does help. Nowadays most are college educated. Regardless of education level, still the best way to get a job is by volunteering first. If you're a volunteer who's super-helpful with visitors and friendly and empathetic, you're going to have a much better chance at an entry-level interp job than a stern, serious grump who happens to have a college degree.

MrMattradio4 karma

I'm really sorry that this happened to you but any non-government employee has had to deal with layoffs, no severance, no back pay for years and years now. I really understand and sympathize with you and truly am not trying to be a dick.

bestmattever18 karma

Oh sure. That's part of the package deal. I have good job security, as I know that my job will still be there once the government reopens again. I don't have to worry about the park service "going out of business" and having to lay everyone off and trying to find a new line of work.

It's really more of a morale thing than anything else. "Sympathy toward government employees is much less now. (They) have gone from a very well-protected class to an often attacked or often cut group in budget debates over the past couple of years." I think for most people, "government employees" = Washington, D.C., and they forget that the rest of us get caught in the crossfire when doing federal pay freezes year after year, for example.

evilcleverdog18 karma

Everyone but the politicians get their pay freezed, huh?

rickbrody9516 karma

Who do you see most at fault for the government shutdown?

bestmattever52 karma

Even though I'm technically not currently a government employee as long as this shutdown occurs, I will be an employee again when this shutdown ends. Thus I will refrain from answering this question - I hope you can understand. An employee in the private sector probably would refrain from commenting if his or her CEO and board of directors were going back and forth too. :)

El_Dubious_Mung15 karma

What would you say to people who just show up to the park? Who's gonna stop anyone?

bestmattever25 karma

People that were already here camping and lodging basically have 48 hours to find new accommodations and vacate. People who weren't already here get turned away at the gates. I do not envy the rangers staffing those entrances right now. Imagine how you'd feel if you were a visitor, all loaded up with your camping gear for a week in Yosemite, only to be turned around at the gate?

blacksweat12 karma

How are you addressing current backcountry users who may be there longer term?

bestmattever24 karma

Everyone who's gotten a wilderness permit and headed out into the wilderness over the last several days was warned that the park could be closed when they returned, so they wouldn't have any services and would need to be completely self-reliant. So they'll be trickling out over the next few days, but we're not going to go chase them down.

mech101v2 karma

wilderness permit

TIL thats a thing

bestmattever9 karma

Yosemite gets 4 million visitors each year, and everyone who wants to go out into the wilderness tends to want to go congregate in the exact same areas. Before permits were ever required, backcountry lakes would be completely trashed - trees cut down, shelters constructed, holes dug, garbage everywhere, etc.

Now, you obtain your free wilderness permit in advance, which requires a face-to-face meeting with a ranger ahead of time to pick it up. Each trail has a quota for how many people per day can start their overnight hike from each entry point, to ensure you don't end up with hundreds of people all camping next to the same lake at the same time.

It's a bit of red tape, yes, but means you can now go into the wilderness and actually have a wilderness experience.

nefastus5 karma

Are there patrols to make sure nobody stays longer than 48 hours, or are they just trusting people to leave?

bestmattever11 karma

Well there's a couple campground rangers that are still on duty for now, so it's not like you can just stay in your campsite and no one will notice. And we have law enforcement rangers on duty throughout the shutdown who are patrolling as well. (They have to keep working throughout because we still have thousands of concession and NPS employee residents living in the park.)

metalsupremacist2 karma

I'm curious about the sentiment of the rangers. When/if they have to kick someone out that is camping and didn't make a strong effort to leave after 48 hours, would they be approaching them with a "hey, I have to do my job, even though I wish I didn't have to, and kick you out" kind of attitude?

I'm just imagining that the shutdown is not popular among very many people there.

bestmattever5 karma

Pretty much. I think we're all pretty apologetic about this whole thing.

AustinHooker3 karma

I bet there's some Camp IV guys that are up on the wall laughing right now.

bestmattever8 karma

Exactly - we sure aren't going to be helicoptering up there forcing them down! Nor are we going to sit out in the meadows will bullhorns either. :)

subuserdo14 karma

Do you enjoy your job? Any cool benefits?

bestmattever42 karma

Enjoy it very much. The biggest benefit is that I get to live in places people travel from all over the world to come see. I've worked in four parks, giving ranger programs standing in front of the tallest waterfall in North America (Yosemite) and the largest tree on earth (Sequoia NP). I've given 6-hour boat tours (Voyageurs) and stargazing programs on an ocean beach (Acadia).

The fact that I get to live in these places and interact with people from all over the world on a daily basis? Pretty awesome.

misophone914 karma

What's the weirdest thing you've ever seen happen in the park?

bestmattever21 karma

Nothing all that strange, honestly. People often ask about dead bodies (we're always fascinated with them, seems like), and yes, I have seen that. Seen some interesting things while doing evening campground roves, but nothing really to discuss publicly online.

I got kicked by a mule once; that was weird, sorta.

DuplicitousDogX12 karma

Do you believe this shut down will last long enough to have any adverse effects on the state of the parks' infrastructure?

bestmattever26 karma

The longest shutdown in the 1990s was only a couple weeks, so I don't think we'll have any major problems. Even during the shutdown, we do keep a bare-bones staff of employees to do basic upkeep, so it's not like animals will start taking over buildings and such.

At last we hope not.

Steveklaw11 karma

When did you decide you wanted to become a park ranger and what spurred that decision?

bestmattever14 karma

Summer of 2004 - I was in Yellowstone with my family for a full week. At the time, I was in college and working at a grocery store during the summers. "Hey, maybe next summer I should work at a grocery store in Yellowstone!"

Then I learned about The SCA and decided to volunteer with the park service instead of working at a store instead. I loved it, and have never looked back!

iaminterslice7 karma


bestmattever8 karma

I wouldn't say it's too late, although generally it can be tough getting permanent status. Seasonal jobs are not as difficult to come by, but the seasonal lifestyle tends to be easier for younger people or retirees who don't need to depend on a year-round income.

So it's all about your own personal flexibility. You can't expect to walk right into a permanent year-round job, but may have to be sort of a nomad while you're working seasonally. And the seasonal situation can last for a while... I was lucky in that I was only seasonal for 5 years before getting a permanent job; many end up waiting much, much longer.

anmoyunos9 karma

I've had plans for 6 months to take my fiancée whose never been this weekend.

Pissed. Able to pull any strings for rebooking us when this bullshit is over with?

bestmattever9 karma

Hey, it's not over - shutdown could be done in time for this weekend, and we'll open up ASAP as soon as it ends.

backtoboston8 karma

Are you originally from the area? What did you study in school? How would you recommend getting involved in the field?

bestmattever12 karma

Originally I'm from Seattle - the fun thing about working for national parks is you have the chance to work all over the country (I've worked at four different parks).

To get involved with parks, it's not so important that you need to study something incredibly specific, but some sort of science background can be nice. Really the key is to get some experience volunteering for a bit - I started as a volunteer during the summer of 2005, and many of my coworkers started the same way. It's hard to just walk in right away and start getting paid, but if you can put in some time working for free as a volunteer (with free housing!), you've got a good start.

My undergraduate degrees are Geology and Business and my Masters is in Park and Recreation Management, but that's really pretty unimportant - none of those have played a role in me getting a job with the park service.

Nick169310 karma

my Masters is in Park and Recreation Management

Did you graduate with Leslie Knope?

bestmattever8 karma

Ha! That show started during my last year of grad school. Season 1 was pretty iffy so we wrote it off right away.... Glad to see it turned itself around.

thenewestboom7 karma

How often would you say, taking into account the years of ranger-ly expertise, the innumerable hours of training, and all your real life experience, that, on average, and not disseminated by race or gender, does a bear shit in the woods?

bestmattever9 karma

Here's what's really fun -

I like doing off-trail hiking in the Sierra, since you end up seeing a lot more than when you're just mindlessly following a dirt path.

If you're at the right elevation, a couple times a day, you hit some spot where you start seeing piles of bear shit all over the place.

That's when your heart starts pumping and your eyes get a bit wider, because you know you're probably within just a few hundred feet of a bear.

It's always fun to see them - here in California we only have black bears (except on the California state flag, so there's no danger issue. Usually they either look at you and ignore you, or they take off running the opposite direction.

Every once in a while you can get bluff charged, though that's usually just a mama with cubs nearby.

Elegaunt6 karma


bestmattever7 karma

Very cool dude; we commiserated a bit about the looming shutdown on Sunday. He borrowed my car once and returned it in tip-top shape. We're both tall and thin; people would say we look a lot alike, except...

ishiaschance5 karma

Please be the patriot park ranger we need and open the gates for us, get arrested for it and give the American people something they need to see to get them motivated.

bestmattever20 karma

There's that............. or we could just get a budget agreement and then I wouldn't have to bother with prison. Preferable.

tctfchamp5 karma

How annoying is it for the park to be closed?

bestmattever16 karma

About 3.8 annoyings.

technicallynottrue2 karma

Out of how many annoyings is that 5 or 10?

bestmattever8 karma

It's a 4.3 annoyings scale, naturally.

FreeOnes_Petra5 karma

What's your thoughts on geocaches? ;-)

bestmattever11 karma

Hahaha, oh, we've had these discussions a few times.

It's a tough one. Geocaching, on the one hand, is great for getting people outdoors and seeing things they otherwise never would. Generally, we're thrilled with any activity that gets people outside into parks.

On the other hand, it's totally against Leave No Trace principles and really increases human impacts to very specific areas that otherwise wouldn't be impacted. And, well, some see it as basically a form of littering, just in very discrete locations.

Parks are much more open to Earthcaches and in many cases, park rangers have even planned out earthcache routes through their parks. Conversely, I don't know of parks that have actually encouraged geocaching.

sausagefingerscunt5 karma

G'day I got reservations at the Yosemite lodge for a few days in early November, all this shit gonna be sorted by then ? Coming over from Australia, also will I have to fight any bears ?

also, how do I pronounce Yosemite ?

bestmattever20 karma

I'd be shocked if it would go on that long... but stranger things have happened.

Bear fighting has wrapped up for the season. The champion has been crowned and the trophy awarded.

(Seriously though, just make sure you take all food and scented items out of your car overnight when you're at the lodge; cars still get broken into sometimes.)

Yo - sem - it - ee

uberlad4 karma


bestmattever9 karma

Oh I'm definitely not qualified to answer this! Haven't been on this planet long enough.

However, I'd say that the key is to make sure you feel good about what you do for a living. It's pretty common to "work for the weekend" - gotta get through the work week in order to do what you actually want to on the weekend with all the money that you made. Or, you end up stuck in a job you don't really like because the pay is too good.

However, I don't find that as much with National Park Service employees - generally we're in our current job because we love it. We feel good about what we do and truly believe in our agency's mission. Sure, this doesn't apply to every employee, but I think a higher percentage than normal. You don't just randomly end up working for the park service because you need a job (usually).

I think the ideal is to: a) do what you love, for b) a cause you believe in.

And if it's not possible to do both, I think at least getting one of those two under your belt is a good thing.

funkychicken994 karma


bestmattever10 karma

Most employees went to work this morning to sign their furlough papers and take care of whatever wrap-up things they needed to do before leaving the workplace for an unknown length of time.

Today was actually a regularly-scheduled day off for me, so I slept in and did house chores. Exciting life! (In my defense, it was my first day off at home in two weeks.)

deathbycatman4 karma

if somebody were found in Yosemite rite now, what would the repercussions be? Like hiking in from the northern boundary form hi4 or something?

bestmattever12 karma

Well right now we're in that 48-hour window where visitors who were already camping or in a hotel don't have to be out yet.

And yeah, we don't really have the staff to cover every one of our 800 miles of trails.... so you could probably sneak in and no one would ever know (or really care, to be honest).

frederikhector4 karma

How are you feeling?

bestmattever7 karma

Frustrated, amused, fascinated, defeated, and a bit nervous.

Stoked19843 karma

Who do you blame and do you expect back pay?

bestmattever11 karma

I don't want to get into my personal political beliefs here, but I would guess it's not hard for people to figure out where an outdoorsy park ranger stands politically.

Not sure about back pay. In the Clinton/Gingrich shutdowns in the '90s, everyone got back pay. The political climate seems a bit harsher toward government employees this time, however... so there's a chance it won't happen.

-sideshow-5 karma

"but I would guess it's not hard for people to figure out where an outdoorsy park ranger stands politically"

Actually, this isn't clear to me. Would they appreciate a government protecting park land and ensuring it remained free and available to the public in perpetuity (Democrat), or be the outdoorsy, freedom-over-all cowboy wilderness man (Republican)?

99trumpets12 karma

Not the OP, but having done bio research in national parks, pretty much every park ranger I've met would fall into the former camp (pro-government) because they have seen firsthand exactly how much the public would trash the environment if there were no governmental regulation. Public lands are like ground zero for the Tragedy of the Commons.

bestmattever5 karma

Mostly correct. Though there are indeed rangers of all political persuasions! (Thinking specifically of my friend with her McCain/Palin bumper sticker.)

JFSOCC3 karma

have you considered doing your job unpaid? for a while, at least

bestmattever6 karma

We can't. There are regulations in place that forbid employees for volunteering for a job that they'd otherwise be paid for - this is in place to prevent employees from being taken advantage of: "Oh, budget cuts - you're going to have to work for free next week."

msheaven3 karma

Who had to kick the sleeping campers out at midnight?

bestmattever12 karma

They've got 48 hours to leave, so many are still here.

I like that thought, though - I'm imagining a ranger walking around with a bullhorn at 12:01am: "Everybody up, park's closed, go home."

sonicspeed123 karma

Are scared of illegal hunting going on?

bestmattever5 karma

That always is sort of a background issue in Yosemite; normally I'd link you to a couple news releases on our web site about some of the poachers we've caught in recent years, but the web site is down for the shutdown.

Honestly, I'm not sure what the remaining law enforcement staff has planned for combating that.

tenminutestocircle3 karma


bestmattever6 karma

Generally that's one of the differences you'll find between Forest Service and Park Service - you're a bit more prohibited to what you can do on national park lands. For example, not many parks allow bikes off pavement. Similarly, few parks allow dogs on trails. Yosemite allows neither mountain bikes nor pets in wilderness.

The great thing is there are a lot of other nearby areas for these activities - Mammoth Mountain (outside the east entrance) is becoming huge for mountain bikes.

I think mountain biking interest groups have a lot of work to do if they want to convince national parks that either a) they should be allowed on current hiking trails, or b) the park service should build new trails just for them. I don't see either occurring in the near future.

HarborLights2 karma

Can I still make a reservation at the Ahwahnee Hotel?

Will I be permitted to pass through the gate to get there?

bestmattever6 karma

Well I'm sure the concessioner is accepting reservations for future dates, but you wouldn't be able to make a reservation for say, tomorrow, and go on in. Previous reservations are being canceled and refunded. The Ahwahnee will reopen as soon as Yosemite does. (Guests who were already there prior to today have a 48 hour grace period to find alternate accommodations and leave.)

Curtis_Boom2 karma

I plan on visiting in April during a Road trip from NC to several parks. Are there any spots that are a must see? And will most of the park be able to be driven in with the snow?

bestmattever3 karma

In April, Yosemite is still kind of wintery, so you won't be able to drive over Tioga Pass or to Glacier Point or anything. Yosemite Valley will be accessible though, and it's likely it'll be snow free. (Here's where I would normally link you to our [Visiting in April]( page, but it's not working right now with the shutdown. Sigh. (Once the shutdown is over, you'll want to take a look at that page.)

Personally I love all the Utah parks and April is an awesome time for them - Zion, Canyonlands, Arches, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon. Make sure you have plenty of time for those parks - lots of people just do Zion and cruise on through.

MakerGrey2 karma

How possible is it to choose where you work when you sign on with the NPS? I'd almost kill to work in Grand Teton NP.

bestmattever6 karma

You need to wait for a job opening to come up, then you apply. It's not like you can be like, "Hey, I'd like to transfer to so-and-so." You need to wait for a job opening and then you have to go through the same formal application process as everyone else.

So if your goal is to work somewhere specifically, you're usually better off volunteering or working for a concessioner or cooperating assocation rather than the NPS.

Ivanthecow2 karma

As a hotel employee outside a national park, I feel your pain. We have already had cancellations and shortened stays because of the shutdown and our town's economy will be severely damaged if this last a month. My question is, would you rather congress get the NPS up and running as part of piecemealing the budget, or would you rather they wait to pass the budget all at once? The rangers here I have spoken to have been split, as some are living paycheck to paycheck, while others want people to have their vacations ruined so they might become more politically motivated.

bestmattever4 karma

It's a tough call. One thing that especially sucks for Yosemite is that so many of our visitors come internationally. They get their vacations ruined and can't get politically involved. All they're left with is a bad taste in their mouth about the American political system (can't blame 'em!).

Selfishly, it'd be nice to get the parks open ASAP. On the other hand, I understand the perspective that you can't just shut down the government and then slowly reopen, 1 by 1, the agencies that Congress likes.

It is nice to know that support for parks is generally bipartisan, though!

MickeyStrauss2 karma

How do you go about getting a job as a serviceperson or ranger in Yosemite?

I have been thinking about attempting a move to the US. I've loved Yosemite since I was just a li'l kid and I'd jump at the chance to earn some coins there.

EDIT: Just saw the comment down there addressing the exact same query as mine.

bestmattever7 karma

One thing to add to my previous comment is that you do need to be an American citizen to be an employee of the federal government, including park rangers. That said, I have a ranger friend who grew up in New Zealand and moved to the U.S. in this twenties; he's been a ranger for over 10 years now after getting his citizenship.

If you're not a citizen, you can still work in parks - just not actually for the National Park Service, which is the federal agency that manages them.

karmanaut2 karma

Could you please provide some more proof beyond the image that you submitted to /r/pics?

bestmattever14 karma

Does this work? I'll send you a pm too.

A_huge_waffle2 karma

Do you think that the parks should be closed because of the government?

bestmattever5 karma

Well the official Department of the Interior position was that a shutdown should not occur.

If you're asking whether a park should close as part of this shutdown - that's not something we have any control over in the park itself (direction comes from Washington). Certainly almost all of our employees are laid off, so it'd be pretty tough to just leave the park open and let visitors go to town. This could work for some places, but probably not for a park like Yosemite.

DJOstrichHead2 karma

Hi I used to work on bear team. How's it going friend

bestmattever5 karma

Been an exciting summer - first the Rim Fire and now this! No hantavirus anymore, whew...

kovah2 karma

I'm from the UK, I don't quite understand how stuff like parks can be closed, like we have visitors centers and stuff in national parks here in the UK which do close from time to time but the park itself is still open for camping/walking.

So are the parks closed completely like no one in or out for camping and walking and such or is it just visitors centers and stuff.

bestmattever3 karma

So you can have visitor centers and facilities that close for a season - oh, it's winter, so we'll close these facilities for now since there's no reason to staff them. When I worked at Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota, during the winter the visitor center was open Wednesday-Sunday and was closed Mon/Tue, which were my days off. I was the entire staff.

That said, you could still go in to the park and recreate, since the park was still funded. We could still pick up your trash and empty garbage cans and rescue you when you break your leg and maintain our restrooms, etc. But right now, we basically don't have the legal authority to spend money.

I can't speak for other national parks, but with the huge visitation Yosemite gets, we can't just all go home, leave the gates open, and still fulfill the National Park Service mission of leaving lands "unimpaired" for future generations.

BoardBuster452 karma

What did you do to become a park ranger? What kind of training do you go through? (Hopefully you really are coming back. I'd love to know this.)

bestmattever3 karma

I started by volunteering with the National Park Service first, before I was able to get a seasonal job. For working in visitor services/education/interpretation, the park will take care of all the training for you when you arrive. No special classes or degrees are necessary, but a college education does help.

If you want to do law enforcement, then you go through FLETC.

[deleted]1 karma

As someone who had a family member working in the Bureau of Land Management as a Law Enforcement Ranger, I've always thought of someone called a "ranger" as being in law enforcement. With popular shows about "Texas Rangers", and such, is there ever confusion about you being a law enforcement officer? Additionally, given the fact that you are a uniformed federal employee, do you ever wish you were armed? The LEO ranger I knew often said he would never wear a federal uniform without a gun, as it simply made him a target for anti government lunatics.

bestmattever1 karma

Interesting question! Indeed, park rangers can be rather specialized in their daily work, especially in large parks. Many don't realize that there are two main types of rangers: law enforcement and interpretation/education. (You've got other types as well, but these are the most common.)

At a large busy park, the rangers will be pretty specialized - law enforcement will be busy handling 911 calls, missing persons, injured visitors, reckless drivers, etc., while interp/education will be staffing visitor centers, giving ranger programs, roving trails, etc. At a park with a smaller staff, everyone has to be a bit more flexible and generalist. BLM generally doesn't have many areas with really high visitation, so everyone has to be pretty generalist, hence the high percentage of commissioned rangers.

It's interesting to see how visitors respond to the whole armed/unarmed thing. Some are surprised to see that I don't carry a weapon; others are shocked when they see law enforcement rangers that do.

Personally I've never felt like I needed one, but I've always worked in pretty "safe" areas. Could be a different story working at a place like Organ Pipe National Monument, where the uniform looks a lot like border patrol and there are lots of attempted border crossings there. Might also be different if I had to patrol huge desolate areas where you may not have another coworker around for dozens of miles - lots of BLM is like this.

In the end, I really have no desire to become commissioned and do law enforcement - although it tends to be an easier way to get jobs and move up, it's just not my personality. I don't like telling people what to do - I'd rather explain why we have the rules that we do, rather than actually enforcing them.

MetalTones20121 karma

I'm aspiring to do exactly what you're doing as a ranger (education, tours, etc). How did you get into doing this as a career?

bestmattever2 karma

I started as a volunteer in Yosemite with the Student Conservation Association - they gave me a stipend for food and the park gave me housing, but I basically worked for free. BUT, I got experience, as was able to get hired on as a seasonal ranger after that. lists all kinds of volunteer positions around different parks and recreation areas. Be willing to work for a bit for no money - the experience is priceless. Too many people want to walk right into a paid position, but it's going to be tough to get paid right off the bat if you've never been in that type of work before.

Education isn't as important as experience, but some sort of science is generally helpful.

Frogslayer1 karma

With the shutdown, what happens with the state parks that have camping? Certainly they won't run campers out and close the gates....

bestmattever3 karma

Well state parks will be unaffected by the shutdown since they're funded by state governments - it's only federally protected lands like national parks that are closing.

Yosemite has over 1500 campsites; this time of year, several hundred are normally still open. Campers were basically given 48 hours to vacate the park - same goes for those staying in the hotels.

Not a fun situation for anyone.

Frogslayer1 karma

It would suck to have your family vacation screwed by this. Thanks for the reply.

bestmattever5 karma

This time of year we have a lot of international visitors, too, who are doing big national park tours - Yosemite to Death Valley to Grand Canyon, etc. All national parks. All closed.

I guess that's like going to Paris and having the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, and Notre Dame all closed. Rough.

potatoturtle6661 karma

What will happen to the people who dont leave in 48 hours

bestmattever2 karma

I guess it depends on what you mean by this.

If you're out there hiking through the wilderness on your own, and come back to your car after a week out, you're fine. Just every service and facility will be shut down, so you'll have to head on out.

Now if you're proposing that a camper on Thursday (once the 48-hour window is over and the campgrounds are all closings) refuses to pack up and leave their campsite... there could be some repercussions. Law enforcement rangers are basically police officers, and generally it's not a great idea to refuse an order.

Seems like a silly thing to risk an arrest over.

typoholic1 karma

I am supposed to go camping in Yosemite towards the end of October! I was actually supposed to go next week, but we are delaying the trip because of this mess. IF the park is open, what would you suggest a first time visitor not miss out on? Favorite trails/camping spots? Secret hidden treasures?

bestmattever1 karma

Well next week might be possible if the shutdown is over - we'll be up and running immediately once it ends.

The big things to see are Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point, the Mariposa Grove, and Tioga Road. Generally people prefer camping in Yosemite Valley, which is right in the heart of the park and on the shuttle bus route and everything.

We're getting a bit late in the year for my favorite secret spots, but the Glacier Point Road should still be open - I'd hike the Taft Point/Sentinel Dome loop if you can. It's about 4 miles total and you won't have many other people on the trail with you. Some of the best views in the park.

triit1 karma

Have several camping reservations and cable hike passes for next weekend. If the park is closed, do you think we'll get refunds? If the idiots in DC get their shit together, will the campgrounds and cables be available shortly thereafter?

bestmattever3 karma

I know for a fact all the camping reservations will be refunded, and I imagine the Half Dome permits will be as well. The goal is for the park to be fully open the day after the shutdown ends; theoretically, if it ends Friday afternoon, we're completely open Saturday. That's the plan, but I can't promise anything. Afterall, if something gets signed at midnight, it'd be tough to have everything ready to go the following morning, but we'll do our best.

illimitable11 karma

Thank you for taking the time to answer questions. I myself am a federal employee on furlough.

I like camping and the outdoors. Since I have an unexpected bit of freetime at the moment, I'm planning a trip. I wanted to clarify what it means that a National Park is closed, and what the furlough means for other Federal lands.

Specifically, how will the Park Service keep backpackers and backcountry travelers out? Sure, no one is around to issue backcountry permits, but no one is around to enforce permit requirements, either!

I don't believe that the Forest Service will be closing the lands under its auspices. So if I cross on a trail from wilderness managed by USDA/FS into NPS, what's the likely outcome?

bestmattever1 karma

This is a tricky one - we're still feeling our way through this.

We have a pretty bare-bones staff during the shutdown, and they're focused on manning the entrance gates and patrolling the roads (since through-traffic is allowed on Tioga Road).

When you're backpacking, you need a valid wilderness permit. You won't be able to get one from us, since we're closed and the wilderness center rangers are on furlough. I believe the Forest Service is also closing their permit stations too. So there's no legal way to go on a backpacking trip currently into Yosemite.

Now we're not naive and assume everyone will perfectly follow the rules (they don't when we're open, either!). If the shutdown just lasts a couple days, we probably won't be too concerned about patrolling the backcountry, but if it lasts any longer, I think it's possible that some of the law enforcement folks could do some spot checks on some of the main access trails into the park. That said, I honestly have no idea - now that I'm on furlough, I'm only speculating since I'm completely out of the loop.