In June 2016, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued a classification appeal involving an encumbered position in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, tasked primarily with performing investigative work, from the 0025 Park Ranger (Protection) occupational series, to the 1801, General Inspections, Investigation, Enforcement and Compliance series. In issuing this appeal, OPM stated that regardless of bureau, all positions currently classified to the 0025 occupational series that conduct case investigations should be reclassified to the 1801 occupational series. Shortly after this appeal was issued, rumors began to circulate within the National Park Service that all 0025 “Protection” Rangers would be reassigned to the 1801 series.
While this might appear to be a mundane administrative change, it caused great concern among many Coalition members who are familiar with the long history of the Ranger profession and the 0025 occupational series. In addition, many members of the Association of National Park Rangers (ANPR) were equally concerned, and the two organizations joined forces to raise those concerns to NPS leadership. While almost all law enforcement commissioned NPS Rangers perform “case investigations” on occasion, there was great concern that re-classifying all of these positions would significantly change and weaken the broad spectrum of skills needed by NPS field Rangers.
Throughout their history, National Park Rangers, (in this case Law Enforcement Commissioned Rangers,) have been known as “multi-skilled specialists”, trained and skilled in performing law enforcement, emergency medical services, search and rescue, firefighting, and more. For many, this mixed nature of duties, while challenging, has been the hallmark that has distinguished the profession, and for most, has been a great source of professional pride. In fact, when the authority of law enforcement commissioned Rangers was formally codified in the landmark 1976 Authorities Act, the House discussion (H.R. 11887) that led to the passage of that act stated “the Committee intends that the clear and specific enforcement authority contained in this subsection, while necessary for the protection of the Federal employees so involved, will be implemented by the Secretary, to ensure that law enforcement activities in our National Park System will continue to be viewed as one function of a broad program of visitor and resource protection.” RM-9, the NPS policy on management of the law enforcement program states unequivocally that, “the NPS adopt this Congressional intent as policy.”
The 0025 Occupational Series and benchmark Position Descriptions for commissioned Rangers, was designed to recognize the primary (at least 51%) function of law enforcement for these positions, while formally supporting and allowing Rangers to be involved in the other critical resource and visitor protection duties, essential to the protection of parks and the public. In the view of the Coalition and ANPR, conversion of all these positions to the 1801 series – a series focused almost exclusively on law enforcement and investigations – would have been a great disservice to the profession, the parks, and the visitors.
With ANPR taking the lead, representatives from both ANPR and the Coalition met with and expressed concerns about this possible conversion with the Director, Deputy Director, and the Associate Director for Resource and Visitor Protection over a period of several months. All agreed to carefully review the guidance issued by OPM and the well-documented history of the 0025 series within the NPS.
On January 14, 2021, Marlon V. Taubenheim, Acting Associate Director, Workforce and Inclusion for the NPS issued a memo to the field, stating that after careful review, no NPS 0025 positions would be converted to the 1801 series. In explaining the rationale behind the decision, he stated “it is therefore, the broad spectrum of duties and assignments, and the ‘mixed nature’ of NPS Park Ranger positions that supports placement in the 0025 occupational series.”
This was an excellent example of the Coalition joining with partners to advance our concerns about an issue we felt was important not only to the integrity of the Ranger profession, but of the protection of the parks and the public.
We are grateful to the leadership of the NPS for their review of this important issue and for their sound decision to protect the Ranger profession.