Washington, DC–Bob “Action” Jackson, the Yellowstone National Park backcountry ranger known for high profile poaching arrests and exposing the problem of salt-baiting for elk, will not be invited back for his final season, according to a whistleblower complaint filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). In addition, Yellowstone National Park is dramatically cutting back its law enforcement force despite an overall budget increase.
The National Park Service informed Jackson, the longest-serving seasonal ranger in Yellowstone, that he would not be hired for the coming summer. The PEER complaint charges that the decision not to rehire Jackson was in retaliation for his well-publicized criticisms of laxness in enforcing wilderness rules, particularly the practice by hunting outfitters of using salt to lure elk out of the park. The resulting large numbers of elk carcasses at salt baits attract grizzly bears looking for a pre-hibernation meal. This in turn causes an increase in bear-hunter interactions, often ending with bears being shot.
Despite an 8 percent budget increase this fiscal year, Yellowstone Park officials are slashing its law enforcement program by an estimated 75 percent:
the number of seasonal rangers is being reduced from 48 to 10;
patrols in the backcountry, except for search and rescue, will cease, thus eliminating any Park Service enforcement of wilderness laws; and
while Yellowstone officials have indicated that Jackson will be replaced by a permanent, full-time ranger, it is unclear whether that position will even be filled.
“Yellowstone Park is putting out a big Bob-Jackson-Is-Not-Welcome mat,” commented PEER General Counsel Dan Meyer. PEER filed a similar complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel on Jackson’s behalf in 2001, after Jackson was given an order not to speak publicly about Park Service issues. In responses to that complaint, the Park Service rescinded the gag order, scheduled First Amendment training for its managers, deleted all derogatory information in Jackson’s record and rehired him for the 2002 season.
Yellowstone officials claim that changes in its law enforcement program are designed to upgrade its professionalism in order to implement a reorganization championed by U.S. Senator Charles Grassley (Iowa). Yet Senator Grassley has been one of Jackson’s biggest defenders and contends that the Park Service is obstructing needed reforms.