Wisconsin DNR to reinstate park rangers

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is changing course on a state parks law enforcement policy that’s less than a year old.

The agency has decided it will once again use credentialed park rangers to perform law enforcement functions at parks and other state recreational properties, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

The DNR had removed the law enforcement credentials of 120 park rangers under a realignment plan implemented earlier this year. Conservation wardens have been performing all law enforcement at state recreational properties.

The wardens in many instances have been required to travel across the state for park duty, incurring costs for lodging, meals, gas and overtime.

“After six months of observation, we’ve decided to implement a new model on how this will work for consistent law enforcement,” said State Parks Director Ben Bergey. “The refinement is putting credentials back into the mix in the parks and forestry program.”

Bergey said the change is estimated to save the agency $1.5-$2 million in annual law enforcement costs.

Feedback on the change from the Wisconsin conservation community has been was largely positive.

“I think it’s a good mid-course correction,” said George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and former DNR Secretary. “It addresses what clearly were problems observed by sportsmen and park users.”

DNR officials estimate that under the modified plan, wardens would be responsible for about 5 percent of law enforcement coverage in state parks and other recreational properties, while the credentialed rangers would handle 95 percent.

Other modifications to the plan haven’t yet been determined by the agency, including how many credentialed park rangers the agency will utilize and where they will be placed. Park rangers who lost their credentials will be eligible to apply for the new positions.

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