The Little-Known Legacy Of Andy Hutchison: Transforming Law Enforcement In The National Park Service

December 11, 2018

Editor’s note: The following article was written by Paul D. Berkowitz, who, following a long National Park Service career, has written The Case of the Indian Trader: Billy Malone and the National Park Service Investigation at Hubbell Trading Post and Legacy Of The Yosemite Mafia: The Ranger Image And Noble Cause Corruption In The National Park Service

Andy Hutchison was a unique and important figure in the National Park Service. Though he retired in 1992, and passed just this past November, his impact on the NPS and its rangers endures to this day. That impact, made quietly behind the scenes, without fanfare, and for the most part without recognition by the NPS, itself, needs to be shared and more fully understood by those rangers and other employees today who are the direct beneficiaries of Andy’s efforts, amounting to his legacy.

Andrew Edward Hutchison was born December 2, 1934, in Pleasant Mount, Pennsylvania, just a few miles outside of the county seat of Honesdale. Following graduation from high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He had actually been selected to attend the U.S. Naval Academy, but during preliminary training decided against a military career. Instead, he served out the first part of his enlistment aboard a ship assigned to the Korean conflict. He was then transferred as part of the military contingent assigned to the government facilities at Los Alamos, New Mexico. Upon his discharge, Andy remained in New Mexico, taking advantage of his service benefits to enroll at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. After one year, he transferred to Penn State University, graduating in the Spring of 1961 with a degree in zoology. It was while attending Penn State that Andy was introduced by a friend to his future wife, Marilyn Kernoski, who was employed in the editorial offices of the popular children’s publication, Highlights for Children. The romance was on from their first meeting.

Andy finished school with excellent grades, and applied for a government job, hoping for a position with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But his first offer came for a permanent position with the NPS as a GS-5 ranger on the Blue Ridge Parkway. He accepted the offer, entering on duty July 1, 1961. With that job in-hand, Andy and Marilyn made plans for their future together, and were married back home in Pennsylvania on January 6, 1962.

Andy was initially assigned to duties in law enforcement, patrolling the northern portion of the park. In 1963 he received a promotion to GS-7, assigned to the Ashville, North Carolina, area to the south. He served there as a sub-district ranger for two years.

In 1965, Andy obtained a promotion and transfer to Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park, where he served as chief ranger through 1967. He then received another promotion and transfer to serve as chief ranger at the developing Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

It was at Delaware Water Gap that Andy was introduced the both the high-profile political and criminal challenges of law enforcement in the NPS. The Gap was a new park area, and the NPS was tasked with the unpleasant duty of residential evictions associated with government land acquisition activities. The challenge was made all the more stressful by the widespread activities of squatters who would come in behind those evictions to occupy the recently vacated structures. It was during one of those many interactions that Andy was feloniously assaulted by a shotgun wielding squatter, leading to drawn-out standoff. The FBI was eventually called in to investigate, negotiate, and resolve the conflict.

Andy’s next assignment was a bit of a departure. Seizing on his background as a biologist, he transferred to the Park Service’s regional offices in Philadelphia, preparing environmental impact statements and related documents. But the law enforcement bug and a passion for the field rangers of the NPS had taken hold. And so, in a move that would signal the beginning of his own legacy, in 1974, Andy took a transfer to the Washington, D.C. offices of the NPS, to work as part of a two-man operation that would eventually grow into the law enforcement arm of what is now known as the Ranger Activities operation.

There, along with his office-mate Weston “Wes” Kreis, work began on two significant projects that would alter the course of law enforcement operations in the NPS.

First was development of what came to be known as “NPS-9,” the first significant effort at crafting a new set of national “policies and guidelines” (replacing previous ranger “manuals”) affecting the manner in which law enforcement activities were to be undertaken throughout the NPS. This effort was driven in response to the other project that Andy and his office-mate had quietly undertaken in concert with officials in the Department of the Interior … an even more challenging and politically perilous effort to address fundamental deficiencies in the law enforcement authorities granted by Congress to employees of the NPS.

Up to this time, NPS law enforcement authority relied upon an antiquated statute first enacted in 1897, and later slightly modified in 1905, that declared:

All persons employed in the forest reserve and national park service of the United States shall have authority to make arrests for violations of the law and regulations relating to the forest reserves and national parks, and any person so arrested shall be taken before the nearest United States commissioner … (Act of February 6, 1905).

That was basically it. Specific authorities, such as the authority to carry firearms, etc. were merely “inferred” and authorized by opinions rendered from the office of the solicitor (Sep. 9, 1931), and by regulations subsequently promulgated by the agency (36 CFR 2.11(a)). Nothing in statute created requirements to distinguish which employees could exercise law enforcement authority, or even what training or other requirements should be imposed by the NPS upon employees exercising such authority. This approach to law enforcement – in many ways reminiscent of the days of the Old West – had shown itself to be inadequate for the times, as revealed by incidents such as the July 4, 1970, “Yosemite Riot,” and the 1973 murder of Ranger Ken Patrick at Point Reyes National Seashore.

Passage of what is now referred to as the NPS General Authorities Act (16 USC 1a-6) – widely opposed by the NPS, itself – would likely not have occurred without the efforts to which Andy had been a major contributor. The new law rescinded previous authorities that had been liberally granted to any and all employees of the NPS, replacing them with specific, standardized authorities to be exercised within the National Park System by only specially designated (and trained) employees, “consistent with the authority exercised by other Federal personnel having law enforcement responsibilities, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and United States Marshals.”

Notably, and most resisted by senior managers of the NPS, was the authority retained by the Department of the Interior (and not the NPS) to establish and impose training and other standards upon those employees delegated with the new authorities. In so doing, Andy and his office-mate and friend, Wes, helped to transform law enforcement in the NPS, while simultaneously earning for themselves many new and powerful enemies within the agency who had resisted (and now resented) the dramatic change.

With these accomplishments under his belt, in August of 1977, Andy seized upon the opportunity to escape from D.C. and assume duties at the developing Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Brunswick, Georgia, as the new NPS superintendent assigned to the base. As a measure of the respect that he had personally earned with officials in the Department of the Interior, Andy was also asked to represent the Department, itself, at the training center.

It was in this capacity that Andy made yet another notable contribution to NPS law enforcement, resisting NPS efforts to offer only the most minimal, virtually “token” (80-100 hour) training curriculum for its rangers, and instead adopt the same basic, months-long program utilized by the rest of the agencies in attendance at the new facility. As a 1975 graduate of the FBI National Academy, Andy recognized the huge training deficiency that existed for most rangers working in the field. And so, in his own charming and frequently disarming way, Andy fought to assure that the rangers attending the basic law enforcement training at FLETC would not only be trained as professionals, but would also be readily seen, treated, and recognized as professionals by their counterparts in the other agencies in attendance there.

Finally, Andy was also instrumental in securing training slots for rangers in the basic Criminal Investigator School at FLETC, setting the stage for development of the Park Service’s own investigative capability, with its own cadre special agents. Andy served as the NPS/DOI agency representative at FLETC for ten years. It was during this period that he experienced his first major health issues, suffering a heart attack just a year or two before receiving his final transfer “back to the field” where he longed to finish his career.

Overcoming the stigma as a “law enforcement” guy, and with the support of an old friend who was the Alaska regional director, in 1987 Andy secured his final transfer to become superintendent at Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. He and his wife, Marilyn, remained there until retirement in 1992. It was the perfect place for Andy to finally escape the daily stress of the many battles he had waged in support of his fellow rangers. There, according his wife, Marilyn, “He had the best time. It was all good. Every bit of it.”

Andy and Marilyn eventually settled on 35 acres of property near Rapidan, Virgina, where they built their dream retirement home, with their own pond stocked with fish where the local children could come to try their luck. In these final years, during periods of deteriorating health associated with congestive heart failure, Andy would enjoy the wildlife that frequented the area, both at his home and at a local park. He also took the time to write a delightful children’s book (as of yet unpublished), “Raven’s World,” with the “first-hand” account told by Andy’s favorite black cat (Raven), of experiences wandering around the property and interacting with the other creatures (and humans) in the area. The story ends with Raven declaring, “The world pretty much stays the same. It’s only the way you look at it that makes it fascinating.”

In the last of many love letters written to Marilyn just weeks before he died, Andy articulated his own final wishes, explaining, “If things go really bad, and I don’t expect that … here are a few of my wishes…. After cremation, spread my ashes under the poplar tree in my park so that I remain a part of nature.” And though, according to Marilyn, Andy was not an outwardly religious man, he did close his letter with a nod to his own sense of spirituality, adding, “God bless all of you.”

Those of us who worked with Andy and were able to call him a friend, were indeed blessed to know him. The employees of the NPS – and particular its force of rangers – were most certainly blessed to have had Andy working for them, with them, and on their behalf. His is a legacy that should not be forgotten.

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