NATIONAL PARK or NATIONAL FOREST or...
Where Am I?
National Park or National Forest; park ranger or forest ranger...Is there a difference between these often confused names? The answer is yes. Although many visitors are not aware of it, national parks and national forests have very different purposes; together they provide us all with a wide spectrum of uses. National Park Service sites such as Buffalo National River emphasize preservation of pristine areas. They focus on protecting natural and historic resources "unimpaired for future generations." Park rangers work for the National Park Service (NPS) under the Department of Interior.
National forests are managed under the concept of "multiple use". National forests provide Americans with a wide variety of services and commodities, including lumber, cattle grazing, mineral products and recreation with and without vehicles. The national forests are managed by forest rangers with the US Forest Service (USFS) under the Department of Agriculture.
Arkansas also has many lakes created by the dams built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Army is one of the armed services under the Department of Defense. Within the Army is the Directorate of Civil Works. The Civil Works programs include water resource development activities such as flood control, navigation, recreation, and infrastructure and environmental stewardship. The Little Rock District of the US Army Corps of Engineers administers the Arkansas areas.
Park Rangers for both the US Army Corps of Engineers and National Park Service wear uniforms of gray shirts and green pants. US Forest Service rangers usually wear khaki shirts and green pants. Shoulder patches and badges will be different.
Because they have different purposes, the agencies will administer even similar areas with very different rules. For example, national forests may provide trails for mountain bikes or off road vehicles; Buffalo National River does not. The Corps lakes allow motorized watercraft while Buffalo National River severely restricts motor use.
Buffalo National River adjoins Ozark National Forest so visitors need to pay attention to where they are. A legal activity in a forest may get you cited before a court of law in a park.
In addition to the above federal agencies, the state of Arkansas manages land bordering the park as Wildlife Management Areas (WMA). The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission(AGFC) manages all the fish and wildlife resources of Arkansas while providing maximum enjoyment for the people. The agency oversees the protection, conservation and preservation of various species of fish and wildlife in Arkansas through habitat management, fish stocking, hunting and fishing regulations, and education programs.
Buffalo National River itself is a designated Wildlife Management Area under the AGFC so hunting and fishing are permitted within the park under Arkansas regulations. Hunting and fishing guidebooks are available at visitor centers and online at the AGFC's website.
Last updated: April 10, 2015