Park Rangers to the Rescue
by: Sean Smith Posted on: February 25, 2013
Editor’s Note: A sneak peak at a thrilling novel set in Yellowstone that cannot escape the reality of our underfunded National Park System.
America’s National Park System is at a crossroads. The ongoing Congressional squabble over the pending budget sequestration threatens to cut hundreds of millions from an already strapped National Park Service. The budget knife, like the sword of Damocles, has hung over and on occasion fallen on the park service, making it extremely difficult for the agency to preserve and protect our national heritage.
When I set out to write the novel Unleashing Colter’s Hell, a political thriller set in Yellowstone National Park, I wanted it to be a fun, roller-coaster story about a terrorist attack on the park. The story’s hero is a single park ranger named Grayson Cole.
Prior to writing my novel, I had read countless James Bond thrillers. No matter what the situation, Bond always defeated the bad guy. He enjoyed the backing of MI5 and an endless array of tools and gadgets to do his job. Whenever Bond got in a tough spot he always seemed to have just what was needed to achieve success.
But having infinite resources or just the right tool is seldom the case in real life, especially for the National Park Service. Park rangers are tasked with protecting not only the country’s nearly 400 national park sites, but also the more than 280 million people who visit the parks each year. No easy task, made all the more difficult with the park service’s extremely tight budget.
The park service operates on about $2.5 billion per year. That sounds like a lot of money but its actually only 1/14 of 1 percent of the entire federal budget. Or, put another way, the park service runs Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Gettysburg, Mount Rushmore and many, many more parks, on roughly what the Defense Department spends for a single Virginia Class nuclear submarine.
Yet, America’s small investment in its national parks produces significant returns for our country. National Parks are huge economic engines that pump more than $31 billion into state and regional economies. That spending supports more than a quarter of a million jobs.
Making matters worse, Congress’ continuing failure to address budget sequestration could cut another 5 to 8% from the park service’s budget. In fact, just this past month Park Service director Jon Jarvis sent a memo to park mangers calling upon them to prepare for across the board cuts. Here in the northwest Mount Rainier and Olympic will have to shave more than $1.2 million from their operations. If these cuts go through, park managers across the country will be confronted with Solomon like choices. Mass staff layoffs, reduced visitor center hours, closure of sections or entire parks could all be on the table.
I wanted my characters, specifically Grayson Cole, to operate under these real life constraints. How much suspense could be built if the lead character had infinite resources and tools to fight his enemies? I believe a more suspenseful, thrilling story is woven around a ranger who not only fights maniacal bad guys, but does it while stretching the limits of his available resources. Cole is Yellowstone’s Chief Ranger and with his contingent of roughly two dozen officers, he is responsible for a place that is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined. That’s equivalent to one ranger for an area the size of San Francisco. He drives beat up government vehicles over cratered roads, rather than high performance sports cars on the autobahn. He has limited back up and lives in dilapidated Eisenhower era housing.
My novel is pure fiction. Thankfully, I am unaware of any terrorist plot to ignite the Yellowstone super volcano and destroy the park and country. However, the park service’s budget problems are real and have the potential to damage our park system and the country almost as much as a super volcano eruption.
Grayson Cole will take on the terrorists. To find out how he does this pick up a copy of Unleashing Colter’s Hell. However, Cole can’t save the parks on his own; he needs you to take on Congress. Contact your elected officials and urge them to hold the line on further budget cuts. Together we can pass on a better park system.
Sean Smith is a former Yellowstone ranger and writes National Park thrillers from his home in Western Washington. Follow him on Twitter: @parkthrillers or on Facebook: www.facebook.com/unleashingcoltershell
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Articles On Ideas
Ideas: Lessons learned, perspectives, advice and more by and for organizers working toward a more democratic society.
- Sep 26 Education Sneak Peek
- Jun 5 US Climate Movement: Funnel Money Downward if You Want to Survive
- Jan 12 For Teachers and Citizens: How to Respond to Federal Immigration Raids
- Jan 5 How To Respond When Your (Local) Government Gets Sued By A Corporation
- Dec 8 Occupy’s Not So Invisible Work
- Dec 8 Getting Specific About What We Want
- Dec 8 National Sovereignty At Stake
- Dec 8 Lessons Learned By A Federal Enforcer
- Dec 8 Sacred Democracy-The Marriage of the Ethical and the Moral
- Dec 8 A Briefing On The State-Owned Bank of North Dakota
- Nov 8 Politicizing a Social Worker
- Nov 8 Sacred Democracy-Enlightenment and Democracy
- Oct 8 The People Know Best, Should We Listen?
- Oct 8 Sacred Democracy-Democracy: a Work in Progress
- Oct 8 Dispatches from Denmark-Ærø
- Oct 8 Protect The Local Initiative Process-Why Support WA Initiative 517
- Oct 8 Questions for a County Council Could-Be
- Sep 8 A Brief Chat about Workers’ Rights
- Sep 8 Sacred Democracy-Glimmers of Empathy in the Shadows of History
- Aug 8 Native Resilience and Interethnic Cooperation: How Natives are adapting to climate change, and helping their non-Native neighbors follow suit
- Aug 8 Imagining a New Society: Comparisons from Iceland
- Aug 8 Sacred Democracy-Rites of Nature
- Jul 8 Sacred Democracy-The Beatitudes of Fairness
- Jul 8 Speaking With a ‘Fractivist’: Data Acquisition to Federal Exemptions
- Jul 8 Selections from the Public News Service-July 2013 (Audio)
- Jul 8 How the Declaration of Independence got Hijacked
- Jun 10 A Bright Future: Creative, Passionate Students at Class Academy in Portland Participate in Read the Dirt Environmental Writing Contest
- Jun 8 (Audio): Read the Dirt’s Coverage of the 2013 Public Interest Environmental Law Conference
- Jun 8 Sacred Democracy-Living Democracy as Spiritual Practice (Or Vice Versa)
- May 8 Sacred Democracy-The Moral Blueprint
- May 8 Transforming Faith
- Feb 25 Park Rangers to the Rescue
- Feb 11 Washington’s Renewables: An Introduction
- Dec 12 Species Banks
- Nov 23 Our Slaves
- Nov 17 NW Coal Ports: Voice your concerns, voice them loud!
- Nov 13 Meditations on our Future
- Nov 4 Book: Ecoliterate: How Educators Are Cultivating Emotional, Social, and Ecological Intelligence
- Oct 14 Equity, Environmental Justice, and Industrial Pollution in Portland
- Oct 8 Cities advising Counties?
- Sep 12 Talking with Washington State Legislators-Stanford
- Aug 26 Talking with Washington State Legislators-Pollet
- Aug 21 Help! I’m being Climate Changed!
- Jul 14 Questionnaire for the authors of: THE GOLDILOCKS PLANET The 4 Billion Year Story of Earth’s Climate-Oxford University Press
- Jun 17 Can City Planning Make Us Cooler, Healthier and Friendlier?
- Jun 11 The Results-2012
- Mar 25 Making Clean Local Energy Accessible Now (Part 1)
- Mar 8 Our Right To Know
- Jan 18 PROTECT ONLINE FREEDOM—READ THE DIRT DEPENDS ON IT!
- Dec 23 Talking About Our Nuclear Hazard
- Oct 28 Why make Mt. St. Helens a National Park?
- Oct 20 The Story behind the Book, A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest
- Jun 23 McKibben Comments on Expansion of Coal Exports at Cherry Point (Whatcom County)
- Apr 3 WASTED POWER
- Dec 20 Meet Some Environmental Consultants
- Dec 5 Using Dirt to Teach
- Oct 21 The We, The I and The Dirt
- Oct 21 Turning Pollution Into Energy
- Oct 21 Orange and Green
- Oct 21 Election 2010: Talk with a WA State Supreme Court Candidate (Wiggins)
- Oct 21 Election 2010: Talk with a WA State Supreme Court Candidate (Chief Justice Madsen)
- Oct 20 Our Dirty Web Designer (Video)