Assaults on forest rangers, park police, and wildlife refuge workers increased in 2012.
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A bill that would give Maine’s forest rangers firearms and the training to use them is now in the hands of state lawmakers and agency leaders, who will address issues about funding before moving forward. The bill, HR 297, has been a contentious issue since it passed the state’s Criminal Justice Committee last spring. According to the Bangor Daily News, two chairmen from the committee will be meeting with leaders from the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee to decide if there is money to equip rangers with the necessary firearms.
The issue is not a recent one, some rangers have been supporting the idea for years. As part of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, rangers are considered law enforcement officers with a wide range of duties. The Maine Forest Service is the state’s first line of defense against wildlife and other woodland disasters. Rangers enforce forest laws and can arrest suspected criminals. Much like game wardens and state troopers, forest rangers deal with both people and animals that can be dangerous. Unlike other law enforcement officers, however, rangers are not issued a firearm.