Behind The Badge With The Maine Forest Service – Part 1

Wayne Harvey

Updated 9 months ago

The duties of a Maine Forest Ranger have been the topic of discussion in Augusta recently.

But how many people know what a Forest Ranger actually does?

Game Wardens take care of wildlife in Maine, Forest Rangers like to say they take care of where the wildlife lives.

With about 90 percent of Maine covered by forests, rangers have a lot of area to cover and a lot of responsibilities.

“When I first started looking into becoming a Forest Ranger I had no idea what they did” said Forest Ranger Ben Goodwin who has been with the Service for the last four years. “And as I look into it more the scope of what we do is amazing”

“44% of Maine is unorganized territories and we’re the Fire Department in those unorganized Territories, so any woodland fires that occurs there, that’s our jurisdiction so you know fire is our main mission, we also try to protect the Forrest land from timber theft, timber trespasses, water quality issues and things like that too.”

“There’s no more fire towers,” said Goodwin. “We’re out on the ground now. we do fire as our main mission, but now we’re law enforcement, so any burning violation or anything like that we handle, and we write summonses for those. so our job has changed from what it was back in years ago, so we cover a large area now for what we do for a job.”

“we’re also there to work with the harvesters and the people that are cutting to make sure they don’t violate any of these things, we try to be proactive and get out to these harvests as they are going on, so we can talk to them, and if we think there’s an issue we can say well you’re getting close to the line here, or this might be a water quality issue, or your road is damaged here and we can work with those harvesters that are cutting wood to try to prevent things from happening.”

At the site of a camp in an unorganized territory, Goodwin made a stop by for a spring check to see how it fared after the winter and what the camp owner can do to make sure it’s safe in the case of a wildfire. He also had other reasons to stop in and do the walk around.

“What we try to do, we come down here and inspect a camp like this, give them some suggestions they can do to help prevent their camp from burning in a wildfire.”

“Embers get this stuff going, you know you get some flying embers, the fire comes through they get caught up in here, they catch this on fire and we’ll lose this camp.”

“And also clean out any of this stuff, you know any place where those flying embers or fire can get under there and get caught up in those little pieces of wood and things like that.”

“And a lot of this little debris that’s around this camp, you come up in the Spring and take that stuff back so if a fire’s coming on the ground it doesn’t creep through this stuff and get up underneath this camp.”

“We also do a walk around if we see something that’s damaged, a window broken, we see pipes ripped out of the wall or things stolen that we don’t feel is correct, we’ll make a phone call to that land owner.”

At the location of a reported burn barrel in Bradford Goodwin talked to the home owner. “I gave him a warning for it, he wasn’t burning anything, so I just gave him a warning for, and have him a heads up it is a Class C crime, if he does burn in it then he’s going to get a summons for it. So any other Ranger that comes by can look back in our program and see well he’s already been warned once, so then he’ll be issued a ticket, so I just gotta get a couple pictures.”

People in Eddington had called in about a dumping site just off the main road at a turnaround spot.

“It’s too bad, we’ve got a beautiful state and it’s too bad that we have problems like this, you know it just makes the area look terrible and once one person starts dumping here everybody thinks it’s a free for all.”

“Our aircraft stations are out of Ashland, Old Town, and Augusta so we can get to any spot with those aircrafts, from any of those areas, so we can cover the state pretty well, and as remote as the state is, you know 90% of it is forest land, that we can get to those areas and usually with those helicopters or our equipment that we do have we can get into some remote areas and work the fires and things like that.”

  • Bill_Randall

    There was a time in Maine’s history when forest rangers were a needed item. Maine game wardens now excel in providing the needed services that are required to protect our Northern forests.

    • Jill McIntyre

      Except Wardens do not know how to fight fires and do not have the equipment to fight fires. Plus the Rangers have helicopters that assist in fighting fires and can be a huge asset for search and rescue! Oh and we have entomologists that study bugs in Maine.

  • MikeSmith01

    I would have liked to see a discussion of not only forest protection from wildland fires, but also from pests like Emerald Ash Borer and Asian Longhorned Beetle. The law enforcement focus on Forest Practice Act violations is a “newer” thing for the rangers, and largely to keep the rangers who went from part-time to full-time busy with work. Keeping busy is not a good enough excuse to give guns to rangers who should be spending their time fighting fires and bugs!

  • Lisa Pinette

    Thank you. For everything!