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Watchdog group: National Park Service law enforcement staffing remains low

Published: Tuesday, January 10, 2023 - 5:21pm

In the last couple of decades, visitation to national parks has increased significantly, but the number of law enforcement officers in the parks has fallen.

New findings by the nonprofit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility show the National Park Service has reduced the number of special agents who handle complex criminal investigations by 45%.

The agency has also cut back on other law enforcement divisions, such as uniformed rangers and search and rescue.

PEER spokesman Jeff Ruch said the agency does not keep track of criminal activity in parks.

“The last two budgets have increased the Park Service’s overall funding, including the funding for personnel, so they’re hiring additional personnel, but they’re not hiring law enforcement rangers or special agents,” Ruch said.

He says that in recent years popular destinations such as the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park have seen a high number of visitors.