The May 27 article [“Forest rangers: Searches highlight staffing needs”] by Stephen Williams documents the disturbing number of rescues our forest rangers and others are required to perform in both the Adirondack and Catskill parks. Most of these rescues are, as Mr. Williams notes, the result of poorly prepared hikers. These people are a hazard to themselves and to others.
In 1949 (I think), New York recognized the need to make hunting safer, and hunter education was required before a new hunter could purchase a hunting license. The program has been responsible for a significant reduction in injuries associated with hunting.
The courses I teach are appropriately focused on firearms safety. But about one-third of the instruction deals with personal safety in the field. We teach compass- and map interpretation, some first aid, and stress-planning for the hunt by gathering weather reports and selecting appropriate clothing. We expect students to learn about where they plan to hunt and what to do if you become disoriented.
I believe that people who walk into the forest in our great wilderness parks should be similarly trained, tested and licensed. I’m certain that mandatory orientation and survival training will significantly reduce the number of rescues the state Department of Environmental Conservation staff are required to perform. License fees could be earmarked for additional forest rangers, the hiker training program, and maintenance of trails and parking areas.
Hikers, rock and ice climbers, birders, backcountry skiers and other non-motorized users have had a free ride for more than a century. I think it’s time for them to step up and pay their fair share.
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Categories: Letters to the Editor, Opinion