Does This Make Me Big Brother?

Got an e-mail yesterday from the U.S. Park Ranger in charge of Saguaro National Park West. I had contacted him at the end of Weird Arizona Trip 3 concerning the odd little woman I caught illegally collecting rocks from the Signal Hill area and he was providing me an update on the case. Using the Maxwell Smart-like surveillance photographs and the license-plate number I had sent him, he had been able to track the woman down. She was cited for swiping natural resources.

A friend of mine gave me a hard time for turning the woman in just for collecting a few rocks. But let's face it, she was stealing from a national park. It's theft, punishable under federal law. Not to mention she was robbing an area distinguished by its irreplaceable petroglyphs.

I don't want to sound like somebody's stodgy old grandpa, but if I have to, I will: It's my park, too. And when I go there, I want to see all of it, including the rocks. I mean, what's a national park made of, anyway?

I know I'm going to sound preachy, but it's people like this woman who, through deliberate ignorance, selfishly continue to ruin our national parks. For example, a large number of the 750,000 people who visit the Petrified Forest every year individually slip a small piece of petrified wood in their pants, each one thinking they aren't making any difference. By year's end, somewhere between 12 and 14 tons of the stuff — yes, tons — have vanished via trouser pocket. And you know most of it ends up at the back of a sock drawer.

Besides, as it turns out, this woman wasn't taking just one or two stones. The park ranger who investigated the incident told me they had discovered her house full of rocks. She had been taking them from all over the Tucson area. She surrendered 60 pounds stolen from Saguaro Park alone.

OK, so I'm a tattletale. A park narc, if you will. It's not a pleasant label to be stuck with, but there we are. I just hope there are enough other snitches out there that, by the time I get around to visiting all the national parks, there will still be something left to see.

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