My Fantasy Reality Show – Ranger 2.0

I have never played Fantasy Football and would not know how to start. I do watch some reality shows on TV (American Idol, The Amazing Race, America’s Got Talent, The Voice, Survivor) and that has led to my own fantasies about a new reality show, Ranger 2.0 .

The premise is to take unemployed young people from diverse backgrounds, drop them into an old Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) or Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) Camp and have them learn the varied skills of park and forest rangers – firefighting, maintenance, trail construction, law enforcement, research and interpretation. Refurbishing the camp would be the first job they undertake. Take them each week on special outings to compete and earn special rewards. Give scholarships to those who win their weekly events or send them on special excursions to put telemetry equipment on wolves or bears.

The camp managers and drill instructors would be veterans of foreign service (Rangers, Seals, Special Forces, Recon Marines) and park/forest rangers with deep experience in diverse settings. The show would do what reality TV does so well, blend the personal stories of troubled individuals with the frustrations, conversations and grumbling that goes with any communal work camp. The transformation would be celebrated near the end with the best of the camp being hired as professional park and forest rangers.

The entire show would blend the history of the CCC and YCC camps with the modern challenge of managing forests, parks and protected areas. It would help the audience understand forest fuels accumulation, the hazards of beetle kill areas, the dangers of wildfire and the ways global climate change will have impact on public lands.

The human side of this could explore the challenge of veterans returning from war to civilian jobs as they provide discipline and structured basic training for the camp. It would share the amazing diversity of experiences of a ranger who moves quickly from mundane maintenance to varied emergency responses. It would expose the importance of interpreting thoughtfully to the public about everything imaginable from dogs off leash to the dangers of risky behavior around charismatic megafauna like bears and moose.

National Park Service photo

It could be used as a way to build a better understanding of diverse audiences about the importance of public lands and the ability of these unique jobs to transform people. CCC, YCC, Young Adult Conservation Corps and Americorps have each held very important value for people who went through those programs. They could be brought into camp to share their stories from the earlier programs (we have missed that chance for the CCC, but not the others). When I worked as a Park Ranger in an old CCC shelter converted into a Visitor Center in the 1970s, I listened to great stories from elderly men who had built the camp forty years earlier. Some of these programs are still working in parks, forests and communities and continue the legacy of transformation.

OK, so it is a fantasy. I watch episodes in my head and wonder how you would get this to be an idea that someone in TV would pursue. I’ll keep thinking about it. If you know a big time producer, pitch the idea for me. I even know where several vintage CCC and YCC camps still exist and need another adaptive reuse. When do we start?

– Tim Merriman

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