Is The National Park Service The New Gestapo?

Yellowstone is one of the world’s greatest natural formations. The federal government didn’t create it. God and Nature did. The federal government doesn’t own it. The People do. The federal government’s only responsibility with regard to Yellowstone arises because it has been given the honor of acting as Yellowstone’s caretaker on the People’s behalf. Its job is to protect the park for the use and enjoyment of all people. If people are engaging in activity that does not affect Yellowstone, the federal government exceeds its constitutional authority if it tries to control that activity.

Yellowstone — the People’s national treasure

Someone needs to remind the Nazi National Park Service that it has a very limited mandate and that this mandate requires it to serve the people, not vice versa. The Nazi National Park Service grossly violated its caretaking responsibilities when it used the shutdown as an excuse to imprison a group of seniors in a hotel and later banned them from taking pictures or even using private bathrooms. The new Gestapo said that, with the federal government operating at 83% capacity, all “recreating” is henceforth banned.

Pat Vaillancourt, of Salisbury, Massachusetts, shared with her hometown paper, the Eagle Tribune, the horrible indignities and repression that the Nazi Park Service visited upon a group of seniors when their pre-paid visit to Yellowstone was interrupted by the shutdown. According to Vaillancourt, her senior tourist group, which included people from Japan, Australia, Canada, and the U.S. was held prisoner in a hotel under armed guard. The federal employees were so abusive that some of the foreign tourists, who spoke little English, thought that they had been arrested.

The Old Faithful Inn, where senior tourists were held prisoner under armed guard
The Old Faithful Inn, where elderly tourists were held prisoner under armed guard

At the beginning of their imprisonment (there’s no other word for it), the seniors were shepherded onto a bus. The bus did what tourist buses do in Yellowstone – it stopped when it came abreast of a passing herd of bison. When the seniors attempted to take photos, however, the female ranger in charge took quick exception to this activity – even though the visitors’ visual pleasure of the People’s national treasure had nothing to do with preserving the park, which is the ranger’s sole area of responsibility. Tourists, she said, were not allowed to “recreate.”

When the bus driver remonstrated, saying that the relatively passive act of taking photos is not “recreating,” the ranger got nasty. Vaillencourt remembered that “She responded and said ‘Sir, you are recreating,’ and her tone became very aggressive.”

Old Faithful, which senior tourists were not allowed to look at
Old Faithful, which senior tourists were not allowed to look upon

Once the seniors were delivered to the Old Faithful Inn, which is immediately adjacent to Old Faithful, their captivity began in dead earnest. The seniors were not allowed to set foot outside the hotel, and armed rangers guarded each door – not to protect the tourists from any dangers lurking outside, but to ensure that, without federal permission, even their eyes were denied a view of Yellowstone.

“They looked like Hulk Hogans, armed. They told us you can’t go outside,” Vaillancourt told the Eagle Tribune. “Some of the Asians who were on the tour said, ‘Oh my God, are we under arrest?’ They felt like they were criminals.”

There were further indignities to come. After two days holding the tourists as prisoners in their hotel, the park service eventually loaded the group onto a bus headed out of Yellowstone. As those who have been to Yellowstone know, the park is huge, so the trip out took two-and-a-half hours. During that time, the bus passed numerous private concessions that have been allowed to lease space on Yellowstone land. Those concessions had bathrooms and the senior citizens had (as many of you know) small bladders.

"Hey, you!  No 'recreating' by looking at that bison or, Gaia forbid, photographing it."
“Hey, you! No ‘recreating’ by looking at that bison or, Gaia forbid, photographing it.”

Although there was a small toilet on the bus, it was inadequate for the number of seniors, and also difficult for people with impaired movement. Nevertheless, the Nazi Park Service representatives refused to allow the bus to make any bathroom stops during that long drive.

Vaillancourt was terribly upset as she spoke about the government’s excessive force. “We’ve become a country of fear, guns and control. It was like they brought out the armed forces. Nobody was saying, ‘we’re sorry,’ it was all like. . . .” At this point, Vaillancourt ran out of words, and simply pounded her fist against her forearm to illustrate the brute force the Nazi Park Service displayed.

The tour guide, Gordon Hodgson, was even more vehement in his disdain for the Nazi Park Service. He accused the rangers of using “Gestapo tactics.” In an interview with the Livingston Enterprise, a local Yellowstone newspaper, Hodgson elaborated on that theme. “The national parks belong to the people. It isn’t right.”

Second Amendment

No, Mr. Hodgson, it isn’t right. In a way, though, we should feel very grateful that the shutdown allowed us to see that our federal government no longer sees itself as the People’s servant but, instead, believes itself to be their master. Incidentally, the danger that a government will forget itself is precisely why the Founders gave pride of place to the Second Amendment. Our right to bear arms is useful for protecting our homes and our person, and it definitely encompasses recreational shooting, but the main purpose is to protect people from their own government should it take a turn toward tyranny.

(This post originally appeared in slightly different form at Mr. Conservative.)