On Friday, Feb. 17, Governor Robert. L. Ehrlich, Jr. appointed the first civilian rangers to the Maryland Park Service and recognized 16 wildland firefighters from the Maryland Forest Service who have been deployed to fight wildfires in other states during the past year. The recognition coincides with the year long celebration of the centennial of Maryland Forestry and Parks.

“Rangers are the personification of the Maryland Park Service,” said Governor Ehrlich. “Along with stunning natural resources and well-kept facilities, a Ranger is an integral part of a visitor’s experience. These are the people who can answer questions, guide a guest to the best location for a chosen activity, help identify a bird or tree, and generally add to the meaning of being outdoors.”

The eight individuals (listed below) appointed as Maryland Park Rangers are actually veteran civilian employees of the Park Service who are the first to be awarded the new Ranger title.

For the past 30 years, the title of Ranger has been associated with law enforcement officers on state forest and parklands. Their focus on visitor service and resource management and protection made them a unique corps within Maryland. In 2005, most of these officers were incorporated into the Maryland Natural Resources Police force as part of the department’s law enforcement merger.

The change created the opportunity to redesign the role of Rangers in the Maryland Park Service to reflect their historical role as civilian resource and service professionals. The Maryland Rangers have professional responsibility for stewardship and protection of Maryland’s natural and historic resources, as well as regular interaction with the public. Employees who earn the title of Maryland Park Ranger will wear distinctive identifiers and symbols on the service issued uniform. The Stetson campaign hat will become the premier uniform symbol of the Maryland Park Ranger.

The Governor also recognized 16 wildland firefighters (listed below) from the Maryland Forest Service. The firefighters are part of the Maryland Wildland Fire Crew, which consists of 20 firefighters along with volunteer and career fire service personnel that have completed specialized wildland fire training.

“We are extremely grateful for these firefighters who battle wildland fires in Maryland and in other states when needed,” said Governor Ehrlich. “Seven of them just returned from Texas, where they helped fight rare winter fires spurred by extreme drought.”

The Maryland Forest Service has a Cooperative Agreement with the USDA Forest Service to provide resources to support wildland fire incidents nationally. Through the agreement, Maryland provides services and resources such as fire crews, wildfire engines, and tractor plow (fire dozer) units to other states as needed. Resources are normally assigned for 14 days plus travel with a possible extension to 21 days total if wildfire conditions warrant.

In 2005, Maryland dispatched 1 Type 2 IA (Initial Attack) fire crew that that provided assistance in wildfires in Montana and Idaho. Twelve single resource overhead personnel were also dispatched on 17 assignments to 14 separate incidents in Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Oregon, South Dakota, and Utah. Already in 2006, seven single resource tractor plow operators were dispatched to Texas to assist in an unusually early wildfire season tha