National Park Service (NPS)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park hires first-ever female chief ranger

Smokey Mountains seen from tenneesse
The Great Smoky Mountains seen from Tennessee. Photo: Patrick Gorski/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has hired its first-ever female chief ranger to look after its 522,419 acres of protected land on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, CNN reports.

Details: In April, Tennessee native Lisa Hendy will become chief ranger of the most visited national park in the United States, leaving her current chief ranger position at Big Bend National Park in Texas. Chief rangers are in charge of law enforcement within the park, emergency medical services, the land's fire protocol, and search and rescue operations.

National parks scramble to repair damage caused during shutdown

Joshua Trees and a U.S. National Park Service car and officer.
A U.S. Park Ranger at Joshua Tree National Park. Photo: Will Lester/MediaNews Group/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin via Getty Images

National parks are rushing to clean up trash and repair damage caused by visitors who created unauthorized trails and vandalized natural structures during the 35-day government shutdown, as another potential shutdown looms on Feb. 15, the AP reports.

Why it matters: Conservationists say damage to sensitive lands can take decades to recover — especially for vandalized Joshua trees, which are essential to the namesake national park's ecosystem and were cut down by visitors who drove into restricted areas while the park was unguarded. Even before the damage caused during the shutdown, national parks were dealing with approximately $12 billion worth of a maintenance backlog, a figure that is now set to grow.