Forest rangers are responsible for a plethora of different types of work. Of course, there are different classifications of rangers, including interpretive rangers, law enforcement rangers, maintenance rangers, dispatch rangers and various others. The key difference between the different types of rangers is that law enforcement rangers can enforce federal and state laws much like a police officer, while interpretive or other rangers cannot. Aside from that, however, all forest rangers share the common responsibility of protecting the park's resources for future generations and protecting the park's visitors. Here is a more detailed look at the three types of rangers: Management, Education, Law Enforcement.
Rangers have numerous management duties, from man-made things in the park (buildings, monuments, visitor centers, etc.) to the flora and fauna of an area. They oversee the campgrounds and latrines, ensuring they are safe, clean and in working condition. They keep monuments and historic areas safe, preventing and prosecuting thefts. They maintain all the park's buildings, including forestry cabins, which they keep stocked with necessities in case of emergencies or search-and-rescues that require them to stay overnight in the backcountry. They also maintain visitor centers and other more easily accessible buildings. They manage fires that occur in their parks and are often the first responders, and they manage controlled burns to ensure that wildfires occur less frequently. Finally, they help manage the wildlife in the area in various ways, from studying wildlife impact to reintroducing extant animals such as wolves or various types of fish.
Rangers are tasked with educating the public about the natural areas they oversee. Ambassadors for these parks, they promote educational opportunities both within the parks and within the communities near the parks. They spend time with individual visitors who have questions about the flora and fauna of the park or park regulations, they take money at campgrounds and at the entrances to the gates, and they answer questions at the visitor centers. They also run interpretive tours, hikes and programs at the park's venues. Programs run the gamut from information about fire management to story-telling to the history of native peoples who frequented the area. Additionally, forest rangers plan and implement programs and presentations promoting resource management outside of the parks for schools, clubs and other agencies.
Law enforcement forest rangers are like police officers in that they have federal and state law enforcement powers. (Note: Not all rangers are law enforcement rangers.) They can write speeding tickets, and arrest and jail violators of the law. They also enforce all local and national laws, restrictions and regulations regarding wildlife and wildlife conservation, including ensuring fishermen have licenses and prosecuting poachers. And they respond to violations of park laws such as loud campers or speeders, or emergencies such as car and boat accidents or medical emergencies. Additionally, along with non-law enforcement officers, they partake in search-and-rescue missions.