Urban-style violence against forest rangers is intruding more than ever into the nation’s public forests, reports the Christian Science Monitor. Drug smugglers, robbers, and hard-partying or alienated city dwellers are setting up camp in the deep woods and clashing more with rangers, US Forest Service personnel say. Over the past decade, violent incidents involving forest service personnel rose 9 percent, from 431 cases in 1995 to 477 last year, according to new data.
“It’s really a microcosm of where we are with society,” says Jack Gregory, a special agent who heads the Law Enforcement and Investigations Branch of the US Forest Service’s southern region, which includes 13 states and Puerto Rico. “We’ve even had stickups in our campgrounds – these guys are doing armed robbery right there in the woods.” Many incidents, he says, relate to drugs and problems along the US border. In the West, Mexican cartels have moved into central California to grow marijuana on public lands, especially in the Sierra and the Stanislaus National Forests, he says.