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How park volunteers in Tucson illustrated the growing resentment to unjustified authority

Forest Service discovers it ain't our lord and master
Forest Service discovers it ain’t
our lord and master

Recently the National Forest Service suspended its agreement with a volunteer organization, the Santa Catalina Volunteer Patrol, which had unpaid volunteers wear a forest service uniform with a volunteer patch, rather than a badge, and patrol within Sabino Canyon and other Forest Service trails near Tucson, answering questions for the public.

The reasons why the volunteer patrol was suspended were not described initially, except for vague statements that the volunteers needed “retraining.”

This drastic action is needed because we have patrollers not following our Forest Service Agreement, and any additional violations will result in our charter being removed. All patrollers will be required to go through retraining.

This past weekend that suspension was lifted, with the announcement giving a better explanation as to the cause of the suspension.

According to [Santa Catalina Volunteer Patrol President Mark] Wright, the volunteer patrollers, who work in Sabino Canyon and throughout the Santa Catalinas, previously were trained on how to interact with visitors who were found to be breaking Forest Service rules, such as dogs in the front range (banned to protect desert bighorn sheep) and no bicycles in Sabino when shuttles are running.

They were trained to “inform but not enforce,” Wright said. “Unfortunately, we have had incidents where patrollers were met with aggressive responses from visitors and even bites from dogs,” Wright stated. Forest Service officials “felt that … a patroller engaging such individuals, is potentially at serious risk for injury.”

The Forest Service also interpreted engaging with violators as “enforcement regardless of the intent to inform only,” Wright continued. “SCVP members are not trained in de-escalation techniques should a confrontation arise.”

Some visitor complaints to the Forest Service about patrollers also indicated some well-meaning volunteers might be violating agency policy on interacting with the public. One example offered to the Star by a former patroller was an instance where a visitor was confronted more than once by different patrollers during a visit to Sabino and complained of being harassed. [emphasis mine]

First, I don’t believe Wright’s claim of volunteers getting bitten by dogs. What I think really happened is that his volunteers decided they were there to boss people around, and started harassing others for breaking what everyone knows are stupid regulations. For example, the ban on bicycles when the shuttle bus is running in Sabino Canyon is utterly absurd. The bus runs on paved roads that are easily wide enough to accomodate both. It passes hikers on the road all the time. The ban is simply the Forest Service passing a trivial rule to establish its authority.

Similarly, the ban on dogs is also viewed as laughable, especially within Sabino Canyon. The effort to re-introduce bighorn sheep in the Santa Catalina mountains will not be affected one iota by a dog being walked on a leash in Sabino Canyon, where there are thousands of visitors each day, shuttle buses running, and plenty of normal disturbances. Similarly, walking a dog on a trail isn’t going to kill any of these new bighorn sheep.

What these volunteers discovered when they tried to tell people what to do was the growing anger and resentment in the general population to these petty rules as well as the control freak mentality of anyone associated with our government. The volunteers must have thought it was 2020 again, and they could boss people around by exerting an authority they did not have, and that when they did so everyone would meekly bow to their lordly authority. Instead, they discovered people are now pushing back, telling them essentially to go to hell.

The Forest Service decided it needed to tell these volunteers to pull back, that their job was to inform, not enforce.

The story provides some important cultural lessons. First, the public is sick of being bossed around. It won’t tolerate rules any longer that make no sense. And it will now tell these bossy control freaks so, in no uncertain terms. Second, some government authorities (as least at the Forest Service) are recognizing that they are supposed to be the servants of the public, not its lord and master. Its job is to maintain the parks so that the public can enjoy it, not make up endless rules as an excuse to keep the public out.

Will this pattern spread? We can only hope.

Genesis cover

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  • F

    Minor correction:

    The reasons why the volunteer patrol was suspended were not described initially, expect for vague statements that the volunteers needed “retraining.”

    “except” in place of “expect”

  • James Street

    “You’re a Free Range Human in a Tax Farm”
    “150 years ago you didn’t need permission from the government to:
    • Go fishing
    • Own a property
    • Build on your property
    • Renovate your home
    • Use a transportation vehicle
    • Start a business
    • Get married
    • Own a weapon
    • Hunt
    • Cut hair
    • Sell a product
    • Protest
    • Grow your own food
    • Sell that food that you grow on your own property
    • Set up a lemonade stand”
    (40 second video)

  • I’d believe it if it were the Biden’s dog(s).

  • pzatchok

    The park ranger and forest service system is a sort of odd duck as government administrations go.

    I have noticed a lot of parks have very different rules and relationships with volunteers. Some are actually rather adversarial. It all depends on the director overseeing the volunteers.

    There are very few actual rules regarding the volunteers.

  • BSinSC

    So, did they need reTRAINING or reSTRAINING? Sounds like both!

  • Every action, no matter how well meaning it may be, has an equal and opposite reaction.

    And it remains to be seen what the new balance may be.

    And that being said I think this is relevant to that statement:


    “Mr. Obama prevailing in the 2008 presidential election famously said one and did three essential things in the furtherance of “The Agenda” and has delivered us all to where we are today. ”

    Obama in search of a new balance.

  • Foo

    Tucson is going thru changes- more authoritarian prognazi’s.

  • CJ Phaedrus

    Dogs, leashed or not, do not belong on trails.

  • Richard

    Several of the comments here illustrate the dog issue is not about Big Horns but about people who don’t like dogs. Been a long time since I have been to that patch of National Forest and I guess I am not going back. I have long avoided lands administered by the National Park Service for the sheer officiousness of bureaucracy. They get overrun by deer and instead of opening up hunting, they hire people to kill the deer.

  • GWB

    I will only slightly disagree on one thing: dogs.
    While leashed dogs shouldn’t be a problem ti wildlife, I know that way too many people decide that they’re in the wilderness and they should let their dog be a dog, and take them off the leash as soon as they round a bend that takes them out of sight of rangers. And the dogs then do what dogs do – harass wildlife (which is fine when it’s geese or squirrels in your backyard), go digging because they smell something, marking their territory, etc.

    Too many Americans don’t adequately train their dogs to be obedient and restrained. Even on a leash they can be unruly and disturb other people (trails are often not very wide).

    So, when seeing “stupid regulations” like that, you can think your less-disciplined fellows for “why we can’t have nice things.”

  • GWB

    February 27, 2024 at 6:22 am

    Several of the comments here illustrate the dog issue is not about Big Horns but about people who don’t like dogs.
    Actually, it is often about people who don’t love their own dogs enough to discipline them and leash them. Which then gets translated to “Well, we just can’t allow dogs, at all, then.”


    I run a loop in the canyon that finishes up on the road used by the tram. There are seven bridges that cross the creek that narrow down to a point where there is not enough room for a bike (or really even a runner) to cross safely at the same time as the tram.
    If the tram is entering the bridge, I wait for it to cross and then move on. I have seen on more than one occasion a biker (with a lot of downhill momentum)ignoring this and rip right past the tram with almost no margin for error.
    I will bet you dimes to donut holes that if a biker hit the tram, the first call after 9-11 would be to one of the ambulance chasers that advertise on all the city buses.
    Selfish people and our litigation lotto based society inevitably make onerous rules a reality for all of us.
    Improvise, adapt and overcome.

  • pzatchok

    Our local city has a deer problem. Way to many of them and they are habituated to people and of course dogs since a lot of people use the park to walk their dogs.

    I was walking my sons rottweiler through the park one day and came across a deer with a new fawn. They did not run away. In fact they both let the dog walk up to them and sniff them. As I reached out to pet the fawn the mother walked between us and pushed the fawn off into the woods. The dog being well trained just sat down next to me and whined that he couldn’t follow them.
    This is dangerous to the wild animals.
    Even worse their are houses around the park and MANY of the residents actually feed the deer who wank into their yards.

    A few months ago the state stepped in to do a culling. The residents sent up a stink to save the deer. They did not think there was an over population problem and the states estimate was not correct.
    The state went ahead with the culling but only used two spots in the park to do it. Both gulf courses on opposite sides. They wanted to kill 190 over 3 weeks with sharpshooters at night. They took 125 the first night. They ended up taking 204 in just three nights the first week.
    The meat was all donated to a local soup kitchen.

    I can still go through the park and almost touch a deer a day.

    Never believe the environmentalists.

  • Related: Unjustified authority:

    NYC: When is a law not a law? When it is an executive order.

    “Both a president and a mayor essentially ARE THE LAW as per their sworn fiduciary responsibilities of their offices in the interests of the people and the country. And so, when they choose to allow what is counter to rational thought, common sense and their sworn fiduciary responsibilities to their office and the interests of the people and country, then they have chosen irrational thought and no common sense and to surrender their fiduciary responsibilities to the people and the country. And there is a term for that, starts with “T” ends with “EASON”.”

  • grady

    No dogs allowed, but the local coyotes are just fine. Folks in Telluride have similar laws in exclusive neighborhoods. They say the local elk won’t have young if they know there are dogs present. We see coyotes all the time in the same areas. The dogs re only a problem to the folks that do not like dogs.

  • TC

    ‘Several of the comments here illustrate the dog issue is not about Big Horns but about people who don’t like dogs.’ Got one of them fancy certifications in mind-reading, do you? I notice a lot of that lately, been guilty myself once or twice. I’ve owned a few dags, hat tip to Lock, Stock & Smoking. There are two large dogs at the farm I work. I can say that dogs are almost never the issue, owners are. If the rule is no dogs, the rule is no dogs, follow the rule. And if the rule is leashed dogs, keep the dog on a leash. If you don’t like the rule try to get it changed and in the meantime follow it or go elsewhere.

  • TC: The whole point of my essay is that people have grown very tired of bossy individuals attempting to enforce stupid rules that make no sense. I specifically point out that the rule against leashed dogs in Sabino Canyon is utterly stupid. As I noted quite clearly:

    The effort to re-introduce bighorn sheep in the Santa Catalina mountains will not be affected one iota by a dog being walked on a leash in Sabino Canyon, where there are thousands of visitors each day, shuttle buses running, and plenty of normal disturbances. Similarly, walking a dog on a trail isn’t going to kill any of these new bighorn sheep.

    Similarly, the rule against bicycles makes as little sense.

    But nowadays if the government orders something, no matter how stupid, we must all obey, blindly, stupidly, and meekly. That’s what happened during the COVID panic, to everyone’s now long term distress — with some people dying because they obeyed blindly.

    My point is that people are far less willing to go through that again. They are demanding the government use some common sense, and not be so arrogant. I guess you just don’t mind that arrogance and abuse of power.

  • TC: I should add one more point. You say “If you don’t like the rule try to get it changed.” What Americans are now learning that such an effort is increasingly hopeless. Consider for example the demands by parents that school boards and teachers stop including blatantly pornographic materials in school curriculums and libaries. Seems quite reasonable, and something that once made aware of every school board in the nation would agree.

    Instead, in far too many cases, possibly a majority, parents have been ignored, silenced, sued, and even arrested for daring to complain. And in far too many cases, their complaints were utterly ignored. Porno remains in elementary school libaries, and continues to be taught in elementary school classrooms.

    My point was to note how this lack of response by government officials is feeding a growing frustration. You want people to follow your rules, then you better listen to them when they protest those rules. If you don’t, they will begin to defy you, with the defiance escalating as that frustration builds.

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