HDNR Student Addresses Ranger-Climber Conflict in Rocky Mountain National Park

Connecting your passions with your vocation is rare, but is a luxury often provided to Human Dimensions of Natural Resources students such as Honors student Kami Bakken. This summer, Bakken interned at Rocky Mountain National Park as a climbing ranger. The purpose of her position was to create a connection between rangers and rock climbers and educate them on their impact on the area and how they can be respectful of the area.

Bakken hiking up to a bouldering site in Rocky Mountain National Park with her crash pad.

“I would grab my crash pad, hike up there and basically just boulder with all of the people up there. I was there to create a community with them and make an interaction with the rangers and them because there’s always been that rift. Our goal with this project was to close that rift and communicate together and feel more of a collaborative connection,” Bakken said about her daily tasks as a climbing ranger.

She worked to find ways to create open communication and collaboration between the rangers and the rock climbers. Much of what she applied to this internship was skills she’d learned from her classes in HDNR.

Bakken spent her time at sites educating boulderers on practices to keep the area usable and enjoyable for everyone.

“I did a podcast in my honors class for [HDNR Assistant Professor] Jen Solomon about the impacts of climbing areas in Rocky and how to conserve them. That was perfect for getting my internship because I had a lot of background information. It influenced me a lot to go for the internship because it’s kind of an intense internship,” Bakken explained.

Her internship taught her effective and positive approaches to protected area management and conservation. One thing she leaned about conservation from practicing it, is that it is not easy, “Failure is a part of the process. It’s so important to understand why that was a failure and to keep going.” Lessons learned during her experience help her understand the process of making and enforcing natural resource policy.

Bakken credits her success in securing the internship to her past experience and knowledge about the area she was interested in. Her advice to fellow students? “Build up your experience. The experience I had beforehand really contributed to how I did in my internship this summer.” She explains that there are many opportunities within Warner College of Natural Resources can really set an individual apart in the intern selection process.