Emmerich has worked at Glacier National Park since 1989 and supervises a 250,000-acre region with 170 miles of trail, 39 miles of road, 28 miles of river, 18 miles of the U.S.-Canada border, four campgrounds, four lakes and the Continental Divide. He started his career at Yosemite National Park (where he met his wife, who also works at Glacier.)
The National Park Service lifted gun restrictions in parks in February. Has it changed your job and impacted visitors?
I guess the biggest thing I’m cautious of is to not violate a person’s Second Amendment rights. It’s legal for them to carry a gun. The adjustment for park rangers was that we used to react immediately. Now . . . you’re just cautious. . . .
There are some people who used to say they would never hike in Glacier National Park, but now they do because they’re packing. They were worried about bears before, but now they can carry guns. . . . I would say 90 percent of visitors don’t carry guns into a park and I’d say about 10 percent do, and if they do, good for you.
The gun issue is controversial, and it’s one that people thought might be blown out of proportion. But it shouldn’t be. It’s not that big a deal. We’ll get used to it, we’ll adapt and it shouldn’t change our lives at all. We’ll just be careful and respect peoples’ rights to carry a handgun or shotgun or rifle.
What is the best part of your job?
It’s the variety that you get on a daily basis, which includes wildlife management. And bear management is huge in Glacier. Search and rescue is a huge part of our job, and we try to do preventive work too. . . . In the winter, we shut down the roads, and I have to patrol by skis. You have to go in and do track surveys and see what kind of wildlife is in the area. You have to do water surveys to determine whether we’ll have floods in the spring.
Source: Ed O’Keefe for The Washington Post.