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US Trump sent park rangers to the border, national parks official says he wasn't informed

23:55  05 december  2019
23:55  05 december  2019 Source:   usatoday.com

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The nation 's top national parks official said Wednesday he was in the dark about President Donald Trump 's ongoing efforts to use national parks rangers Initially, former Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke announced 22 park rangers and other staffers would be sent to the border in May 2018.

Diverting rangers from national parks is a way to direct federal resources to the border without the Federal officials have been tight-lipped about the number of rangers taking part in three-week Andrew Fitzgerald, deputy chief ranger at Zion national park , confirmed to the Guardian that they

A U.S. Park Ranger gets back into his vehicle after opening a side road within Joshua Tree National Park on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019 in Calif. Despite the partial federal shutdown Joshua Tree National Park remained open Thursday, January 10, 2019. The park has minimal staffing and campgrounds are now open. There is no park entry fee at the moment.© Will Lester/MediaNews Group/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/Getty Images A U.S. Park Ranger gets back into his vehicle after opening a side road within Joshua Tree National Park on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019 in Calif. Despite the partial federal shutdown Joshua Tree National Park remained open Thursday, January 10, 2019. The park has minimal staffing and campgrounds are now open. There is no park entry fee at the moment.

The nation's top national parks official said Wednesday he was in the dark about President Donald Trump's ongoing efforts to use national parks rangers to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border.

National Park Service Deputy Director David Vela, who has served as acting director for the National Park Service since Oct. 1, told lawmakers during a U.S. House National Parks, Forests and Public Lands subcommittee hearing that he did not know much about his own agency’s deployment of park law enforcement rangers to assist the Border Patrol with illegal immigration.

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The Trump administration ordered rangers from national parks around the country to travel to the U.S.-Mexican border to fight illegal immigration and drug traffickers. Park officials say they've been told they should continue sending park rangers to the border through September 2020.

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Vela was responding to U.S. Rep. Debra Haaland, D-NM, chair of the subcommittee, who questioned the chief of the parks system about a story published Nov. 23 by the USA TODAY Network that exclusively revealed the extent of the NPS border deployments. The story reported that the Trump administration ordered rangers from national parks around the country, from as far as Alaska and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as from the Rocky Mountain and Great Smoky Mountains national parks, to travel to the U.S.-Mexican border to fight illegal immigration and drug traffickers.

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The law enforcement operation, known as the Department of Interior-Border Support Surge, began as a pilot program in May 2018. A second surge began in October, amid record numbers of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexican border.

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Park rangers and officials are part of the National Park Service and must adhere to Trump 's orders, he said . It's up to activist groups to advocate for Big "Every Texan should be outraged that President Trump is threatening our biggest wilderness, our biggest national park , that we donated to the

"Making park rangers , in essence, border patrol officers erodes the trust the agency has attempted to build Addressing concerns about training, he said that "outside of orientation briefing, we find Now he 's sending @NatlParkService rangers to the border to hunt refugees, taking them away from our

Initially, former Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke announced 22 park rangers and other staffers would be sent to the border in May 2018.

RELATED: Trump: Park rangers will patrol Mexican border, arrest migrants

But under the Interior Department's new director, David Bernhardt, officials refused to discuss the operational details behind the latest surge, including the exact number of rangers, U.S. park police and other Department of Interior law enforcement officers used to bolster border security.

However, Robert “Bob” Bushell, assistant chief patrol agent for the U.S. Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, confirmed to the USA TODAY Network that the surge was underway, calling it “an awesome partnership.” Other parks officials told the USA TODAY Network the park rangers would be needed at the border through September 2020.

a person smiling for the camera: Rep. Debra Haaland, D-N.M., chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, questioned National Park Service acting director David Vela on the surge of NPS law enforcement to assist the Border Patrol.© Courtesy photo Rep. Debra Haaland, D-N.M., chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, questioned National Park Service acting director David Vela on the surge of NPS law enforcement to assist the Border Patrol.

During the subcommittee meeting, Haaland said that nearly every time the National Park Service has provided testimony before U.S. House lawmakers, the agency has focused on its deferred maintenance backlog of nearly $12 billion, noting that it is NPS’s main funding priority.

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“How does sending NPS staff to the border, paying for them to remain there and temporarily diverting them from their role as resource protection fit in with that prioritization of the funding backlog?” she asked Vela, who served as a deputy director for the NPS for six months before being given “acting authority” as director.

Vela did not seem to know, or did not give specifics on the border surge, answering: “Clearly the president has some very specific interests and objectives on the border that we are doing our best to satisfy current day.”

Vela is a nearly 30-year veteran of the park service, who worked as a law enforcement ranger, as well as a park superintendent, including at two border parks in Texas.

“This is a little more defined, more focused, but in my history in the NPS, this is something we have done from time to time for certain mission and certain causes,” he said.

a man wearing a suit and tie: National Park Service deputy director David Vela has been exercising the authority of Director for the National Park Service since Oct. 1.© Courtesy of National Park Service National Park Service deputy director David Vela has been exercising the authority of Director for the National Park Service since Oct. 1.

Haaland persisted in asking how many park rangers had been deployed to the border since the pilot program began in May 2018, saying that it “means significantly more staff being diverted out of our parks and to the border.”

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Donald Trump has said he is prepared to send as many as 15,000 troops to the US-Mexican border to head off a caravan of Central Currently there are 2,100 national guard troops at the border and the Pentagon said on Monday it was deploying more than 5,200 troops but that the number would rise.

The park rangers will work with U.S. Border Patrol agents. Park officials say they've been told they should continue sending park rangers to the border Andrew Fitzgerald, deputy chief ranger at Zion national park , confirmed to the Guardian that they would be sending three rangers to the border

The USA TODAY Network reported exclusively this year using data obtained via the federal Freedom of Information Act that the nation's ranger corps and park staff dropped by 20% over the past decade. The staffing reductions come as the 419 national parks see historically high visitation numbers, totaling 320 million in 2018.

a group of people standing in front of a bus: Visitors unload from trolleys and find a space along trails at the Elkmont Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to view the synchronous fireflies on June 3, 2019. The Smokies, the most visited park in the National Park Service, will send law enforcement rangers to assist in the Department of Interior-Border Patrol surge on the U.S.-Mexico border in FY 2020.© Angeli Wright/awright@citizen-times.com Visitors unload from trolleys and find a space along trails at the Elkmont Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to view the synchronous fireflies on June 3, 2019. The Smokies, the most visited park in the National Park Service, will send law enforcement rangers to assist in the Department of Interior-Border Patrol surge on the U.S.-Mexico border in FY 2020.

Vela said he had only been on the job three months and hadn’t “been briefed on the current call as to what is being required and requested. It is a briefing I will be receiving soon,” he said.

“Based upon the mission, we will determine the number of assets that we will need. These deployments are short term, for a specific period of time. I think that we’re learning about who we need to deploy, how long, the skill sets that are required. I hope to have answers to those questions myself in the near future based upon the mission and the purpose for the call out,” Vela said.'

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He cited national monuments , which he said would stay open. Late Thursday, as lawmakers labored to forge Open gates at national parks and monuments would stand in stark contrast to the last Acting Glacier Park Superintendent Eric Smith said visitors would be able to drive along the 8 miles of

A former park service director says leaving parks open without key staff is equivalent to leaving the Smithsonian open with priceless artefacts One of my jobs as ranger was to shovel out the fire hydrants every day, so that if there was a fire in the hotel, headquarters or housing, we’d be able to

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Jeff Ruch, Pacific Director for the federal agency watchdog group PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility), called the NPS acting director's answers "glib but not substantive."

Rangers who are deployed to the border all have federal law enforcement training but not necessarily training in immigration enforcement, he said.

"As we understand these border deployments, the overall mission is open-ended, so it’s not like they’re there to accomplish a specific mission, they’re just responding to a quota given by non-park professionals, coming to the Department of the Interior from the White House for a certain number of law enforcement bodies," Ruch said.

"There's no measure of what they’re trying to accomplish, nor any indication that it will end any time soon."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump sent park rangers to the border, national parks official says he wasn't informed

Off-duty park ranger stopped Auburn library stabbing suspect from hurting others .
Jared Elster was picking up a family member at the Auburn library on Tuesday when he jumped into action to stop a stabbing suspect from harming more people, officials said. Elster, an off-duty Sacramento County Regional Parks ranger, heard someone yell "Call 911!" while he was waiting to pick up his relative, according to Liz Bellas, regional parks director. Sign up for our Newsletters Elster jumped into action and confronted the attacker, identified by police as 33-year-old Opada Joseph Opada. One of Elster's hands was cut during the confrontation, Bellas said.

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