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A Tribute to a Ranger

What is a Ranger?

Words Spoken at the Memorial Service For Rocky Mountain NP Ranger Jeff Christensen who died on a routine patrol in August 2005

Good morning. My name is Mark Magnuson. I'm the chief ranger here in RMNP. I've had the privilege and the honor to know and work with Jeff these past five years. Dale and Chris, as a father of two boys myself, I can't begin to comprehend the sorrow and loss that you feel.

"These past few days, I've attempted to field many questions from the media, and others, about our mission as park rangers, why we often travel alone in the mountains, deserts, and forests. I feel my efforts to explain have too often been inadequate.
"So with help from a dear friend and fellow park ranger, I've put together some thoughts that I hope will help to convey just who we are, what we do, and why.

"We are rangers. We walk the last of the wild lands, patrolling the interface between man and nature. Ours is the world of the sun and sky, cloud and storm. Ours is the world of flower and tree, rock and mountain. We rest by the waterfall and cool our feet in the deep pools of the glen. The elk and deer, the coyote and fox, our silent companions. The hawk and eagle follow us by day, the owl leads us by night.

"We are rangers. We travel alone, silent caretakers of a world fast disappearing. It is not our job, rather it is our honor, to behold that which nature has bestowed upon us. It is not our job, rather it is our privilege, to play some small part in preserving this beauty for our children and their children beyond them. We travel alone, there are few of us, and the task which lays before us is enormous. Some say we face risk, even unnecessary risk, but in our hearts we know that it is nothing compared to the loss of the wilderness. It is nothing compared to the loss of the bear, the cougar, and the wolf. We risk all to protect that which endures beyond our individual selves, that which we love beyond all else.

"We are rangers. We treat our fellow man with respect. We understand those who seek solitude in the wild places. We are teachers, to those who wish to tread for the first time on ground made of dirt rather than concrete. We watch in delight at the smile of the visitor who first substitutes the canyons of skyscrapers for that of massive cliffs.
"We feel the excitement of the family who first hears the bugle of the elk, the child who sees the bighorn ram, and the grandmother who reviews her life While sitting by the flowing stream.

"We are rangers. We keep those who would harm the land as well as those who would harm their fellow man at bay. We care for the sick, search for the lost, assist those who cannot assist themselves. Sometimes we bring home those who would not otherwise return.

"Jeff Christiansen was a ranger. He was one of us. We could not feel more honored. Jeff knew who he was. 'If I ever die while at work in the mountains, do not cry for me because you will know that I died doing what I love.' Those were Jeff's precious words, given as a gift to his parents. Those of us who walk the last of the wild lands will not cry for him. We will see him as the sun rises above the peaks. We will hear him as the wind in the trees. We will taste the cold mountain water cascading in the streams and remember him. We will know when the coyote calls that it is Jeff, reminding us all that we are rangers.

"John Muir said 'Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares drop off like autumn leaves.’ We will listen to these words and we will do their bidding. Jeff, we do not say good-bye, for the ranger in you will live forever.”

--Mark Magnuson, Chief Ranger, Rocky Mountain National Park


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