Turner native Alana-Marie Pulkkinen has always loved the outdoors. As she put it, “My favorite activities as a child consisted of hunting, fishing, camping and four wheeling – pretty much anything that had to do with the outdoors. It was my playground.” 
 
So it’s no surprise that her outdoor passion would find her working in one of the most beautiful and popular national parks in the nation, Yellowstone, and on foot and horse patrol as a back country ranger, no less.
 
The Leavitt Area High School graduate has been moving toward a career in the outdoors since leaving the area to attend Washington County Community College in Calais, with its special Adventure Recreation program. But let her tell you.
 
Name: Alana-Marie Pulkkinen

Age: 24

Hometown: Turner

Occupation: Federal law enforcement officer with the National Park Service.

Before being hired to work in Yellowstone National Park, you attended the Washington County Community College’s Adventure Recreation and Tourism program. Can you talk a little bit about what drew you to WCCC and to the program? When I was in the process of applying for and finding colleges, WCCC caught my attention because of the size, location and programs they offered. They offered the Adventure Recreation and Tourism program, which was very unique. The program caught my eye due to the fact it is very outdoors-oriented and I have always wanted to work outdoors in some capacity. With the program and associate’s degree in adventure recreation, I knew it would open so many doors with the experience, knowledge and certifications I received. I actually found out about the program when my mom told me she had found a possible option for what I was looking for online through WCCC’s website. I looked into it myself after she told me about the program, spoke with the school and then applied to WCCC online.

For people who may not be familiar with the program, can you talk a little bit about what the Adventure Recreation and Tourism program offers? The . . . program has a multitude of different skills that go along with it. The program offers hands-on training, practical outdoor skills and classroom time. There are a variety of certifications that you can obtain through this program, including but not limited to rock climbing, canoeing, white water kayaking, Leave No Trace and sailing. It is an intensive program that allows you to be hands-on and learn extremely practical skills and information that you can use on a daily basis, especially if you are involved in the outdoor world.

What hobbies and activities growing up made you interested in being a ranger? Growing up, I always enjoyed being outside doing anything I could. . . . When I was younger, my interest was actually shifted toward being in the military before I decided to go into federal law enforcement. Due to some health issues I was not able to pursue the military dream, and I shortly thereafter discovered that being a park ranger/game warden was everything I could ask for in a career and more.

You grew up and graduated in Maine. What shifted your gaze to Colorado? The main thing . . . was the job field. On the East Coast, there’s not really much opportunity for jobs like mine. Out West is known for the amount of protected land, and therefore my job interest was focused in that direction. I originally went to Colorado my last semester of college at Unity College when I was getting my bachelor’s degree, to attend the Seasonal Law Enforcement Academy.

Can you talk a little bit about the academy? I learned an array of different skills in the academy. I was trained in different law enforcement techniques, firearms, physical fitness, driving skills and the laws, such as the federal codes. This academy was the stepping stone into my career with federal service. You have to go to an academy before being able to be commissioned as a federal law enforcement officer. I graduated from the academy on April 28, 2017 and began my first season at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon.

What are you doing for work in Colorado? I currently finished up my second season with the National Park Service. I was stationed in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. I worked as a federal law enforcement park ranger there. I was specifically a back country ranger. As a back country ranger my duties differ a bit from that of a front country ranger. I spent most of my time patrolling in the woods and back country of Yellowstone, either on foot or by horseback. I did everything from boundary/poaching patrol, to campsite inspections, permit checks and road patrol.

What are your goals in terms of your work? Hoping to stay in Colorado, or are you looking to head back to Maine at some point? My goals moving forward are to continue for another two seasons until I can gain permanent status. Once I have permanent status, I can then work all year round and find the place that I want to have my career. I am hoping to stay out West in this general area (Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Idaho). The main reason is because as I mentioned before, it is pretty hard to get a job like this on the East Coast. At some point, maybe when I go to retire, I would look into coming back to Maine.

What are some of your hobbies outside of work? It sounds like a lot of your hobbies overlap with your job, but is there anything else you would want people to know about you? They include traveling, snowboarding, alpine skiing, working with horses and other stock, and relaxing while reading a good book. A lot of my hobbies are included in my job and I am grateful for that.

Alana-Marie Pulkkinen

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