There’s a number of ways to protect national forest lands.

One is to start young.

On Saturday a crowd of conservationists-to-be descended on the Craig Thomas Visitor and Discovery Center for Junior Ranger Day to try out for a chance at joining Teton park’s Junior Ranger corps.

The process? Grueling. The reward? A lifetime of pride knowing that you, as a kid — probably somewhere between 4 and 8 years old, though all ages are invited — earned your Junior Ranger badge and took a pledge to protect Grand Teton National Park and all the flora and fauna that call it home.

One group of rangers in the making, a reunited Saturday locals group from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s ski school made up of four kiddos from Fireflies Preschool, arrived around 10 a.m. to begin their personal Junior Ranger process. They had some choices to make.

With 10 activities to choose from, five were required to win their badge, and, if they wanted, the preschoolers, Cora Remlinger, Pierce Kelley, Coulter Moore and Palmer Rooney, could have spent all five learning about bears in various capacities. Learning to discharge bear spray at a charging megafauna? Cleaning up a picnic on a timer to get out of a hungry grizzly’s way? Both were on the list, but once the group got the lowdown on what they needed to do to receive their badge, the decision was more or less made for them.

Junior Ranger Day

Gwen Ripps, 6, tops out while learning the ropes of climbing from Grand Teton National Park Chief of Interpretation Vickie Mates.

“I wanna ride in the police cars!” said 5-year-old Wills Moore, Coulter’s brother, before taking off running for one of the National Park Service’s patrol cars.

Yes, besides opportunities to learn about Teton park’s flora and fauna, there were also big machines to clamber into, including rangers’ patrol cars, ambulances and Teton Interagency Fire’s wildland fire trucks. Wills found his way onto the patrol cars’ megaphone, Pierce asked if she could try on the ranger’s handcuffs, Cora wanted to sit in the trunk — what she called “the cage” — and Coulter, of course, wanted to know “where the bad guys sit.”

“Are you gonna catch somebody?” she asked. “Are some in the park? Are some in the jail right now?”

The ranger explained that she caught bad guys for a living and gave each a sticker before they took off for the next machine, the fire truck.

“I have so many photos of my kids in big machines,” Amanda Moore said as she followed the pack of rangers-in-training through the parking lot.

Bill Mayer, Teton Interagency Fire’s assistant fire management officer, was responsible for the machines, both at Junior Ranger Day and during the park’s busy fire season. He said showing the fire trucks to the kids was a welcome break before spending the summer fighting fires across the Mountain West.

“It’s great to just get them excited about it and let them see the trucks, maybe do some education about wildland firefighting,” Mayer said.

When asked if most of the kids asked him about wildland firefighting, Mayer laughed.

“Most of them are just excited to see the truck,” he said.

The stickers the preschoolers picked up for climbing in the patrol cars and Mayer’s fire trucks and patrol cars weren’t the only ones they snagged Saturday morning. They also nabbed tags for practicing discharging bear spray, painting a reusable grocery store bag and visiting with the Teton Raptor Center’s bald eagles and red-tailed hawks.

VIDEO: Watch 2-year-old Hannah Haigh take on a charging grizzly bear during Junior Ranger Day in Grand Teton National Park.

With their requisite five stickers collected Cora, Pierce, Palmer, Coulter and Wills all took the pledge, raising their right hands and repeating after the ranger in charge.

“As a junior ranger, I promise to learn about and protect Grand Teton National Park and all wild places,” they said.

For those who were still working on their r’s, saying the pledge was a little harder.

It came out more like “As a junior wanger, I pwomise to learn and pwotect Gwand Teton National Park and all wild places.”

Junior Ranger Day will return in 2020, but conservationists in the making can become Junior Rangers at any point through the year. Visit TinyURL.com/tetonrangerday for information.

Contact Billy Arnold at 732-7062 or entertainment@jhnewsandguide.com.

Scene Editor Billy Arnold covers arts and entertainment. He apprenticed as a sound engineer at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio before making his way to Jackson, where he has become a low-key fan of country music.

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