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Paying Tribute to "The Thin Green Line"

7/17/2007

Australian ranger Sean Wellmore has given us a heartfelt view into the lives of rangers all around the world.

To many people, a Forest Ranger or Park Ranger is a "Smokey the Bear" person in a green suit who picks up trash, collects admission fees and tries to quiet a few rowdies in the campground. That's just the tip of the iceberg. The actual wide diversity of activities of what rangers actually do and the passion that drives them to their work is captured in a brand new 82-minute DVD "The Thin Green Line," produced by Australian Park Ranger Sean Willmore.

In 2004, Willmore sold his car, got a second mortgage on his home, and took a leave of absence from his job as a ranger to travel around the world for 14 months to record the lives of fellow rangers. Selecting from video of his travels, Willmore has captured on-camera the dedication of rangers, who earn precious little money but serve with commitment to protect the world's natural reserves and manage the humans who venture into them — the story of a true global family.

One of the things that we learn is that being a ranger these days is more about people management than wildlife management. From courageous African anti-poaching patrols and being chased by elephants, to dangerous mountain rescues, convincing impoverished wood cutters to leave a park in India, conducting environmental education classes, relocating nuisance bears, leading nature walks to see mountain gorillas, coping with a protests of fishermen in the Galapagos Islands, and fighting forest fires, rangers around the world share their lives, and their deep feelings about conservation and nature as we learn the realities about what they actually do on a daily basis.

Chief Ranger of Bwindi National Park in Uganda, John Makombo, captures the spirit of the rangers so well when he says: "We are just one family. Struggling for one thing … keeping the spirit of conservation and the spirit of wildlife in their minds, at their heart and everywhere they go."

This new DVD is available online from www.thingreenline.info with a cost of $25, plus $4 postage and handling. Some nice wildlife footage is mixed with heart-warming interviews and are aided by an enjoyable background musical score, but there is one interview that will stir up some controversy among rangers as well as others.

Visiting the Galapagos, Wellmore motors out to interview eco-activist (some say eco-terrorist) Paul Watson on his Sea Shepard Society vessel, "The Cleveland Amory."

One of the original founders of Greenpeace, Watson found the group too pacifist and left (or was expelled) to found the Sea Shepard Society in 1977, as well as Earth First! and several other eco-groups. Since then he has developed a reputation for operating under his own laws, including, ramming whaling ships on the open ocean, and the scuttling of two ships in an Icelandic harbor. Most recently he tried to take over the Sierra Club, but failed in his power quest and resigned from the board when the Sierra Club launched a program to promote sport hunting.

All the other rangers in Wellmore's documentary work for governments and enforce laws. Watson is a vigilante who makes up his own. If he is part of the ranger family, he is the black sheep, and it would have been good to explain this to give context to viewers if Watson is going to be presented as part of the "ranger world family."

There is going to be a simultaneous showing of the DVD in up to 50 countries on July 31, which is International Ranger Day. Profits from the sale of the DVD go to support families of rangers killed in the line of duty and other ranger/conservation programs.