Everyone deserves to go to work assured that they can go home safely — especially those who serve to protect us.
Maine’s forest rangers work every day to protect our great woods and maintain the quality of life in our state. Working alone in the wilderness, forest rangers are often the first officers at the scene of an emergency and can be hours away from backup.
That is why we have been fighting for the past year for Maine’s forest rangers to have the right to protect themselves. My colleague, Rep. Larry Dunphy, R-Embden, and I have been working together across the aisle to arm Maine’s forest rangers.
Forest rangers are the only law enforcement officers in the state who are not authorized to carry firearms. The only protection forest rangers have for an emergency is pepper spray.
While working on this measure, I have spoken with forest rangers from across the state who face dangerous situations too often. One ranger said he’s been shot at in the line of duty, while others have received death threats from angry criminals.
A forest ranger who lives in my community said she and her colleagues would feel much more secure with a firearm on their duty belts.
It’s not uncommon for them to deal with felons, arsonists, illegal drug dealers and violent criminals. On top of that, forest rangers must be prepared to encounter wild animals, such as moose, bears, coyotes and even rabid fox.
If police, state troopers, game wardens and sheriffs need firearms to be prepared for dangerous situations, so do Maine’s forest rangers.
Opponents of this measure have claimed that arming forest rangers would move them away from their original job description.
Adding a firearm to forest rangers’ belts would not change their duties, but it would provide a tool to keep them and the public safe.
The mission of the Maine Forest Service is to protect Maine’s forest resources and homes from wildfire, respond to disasters and emergencies and to enhance the safe, sound and responsible management of the forest for this and future generations.
For someone to be expected to protect so much for us, they should be able to protect themselves.
The bill is making its way through the Legislature. It passed in the House by a vote of 139-7 and awaits votes in the state Senate.
I hope you will join me in urging my colleagues in the Senate to do the right thing and provide our forest rangers with the ability to protect themselves.
Rep. Catherine Nadeau, D-Winslow, is serving her first term in the Legislature and represents Winslow and part of Benton. She serves on the State and Local Government Committee.