Maine's forest rangers may soon be allowed to carry sidearms, pending the outcome of a bill currently under consideration in the state's legislature.
The Bangor Daily Newsreports that forestry officials have long been supportive of such a measure, citing the rangers' need for personal safety on the job. Forest rangers do not just fight wildfires; they also have the jurisdiction to arrest lawbreakers and investigate illegal activities such as timber theft and unauthorized burns on state property. Under current Maine law, forest rangers may only carry non-lethal weapons such as pepper spray.
The bill's opponents, which include some landowners and the state's large timber industry, argue that the weapons are unnecessary and told Maine's WCSH 6 news station that forest rangers should be concentrating on "protecting the forest, not being police officers."
Maine governor Paul LePage has convened a special task force to study the ripple effects of arming the rangers. The bill is currently tabled in the legislature pending dispute over how the state would pay for proper firearm training.