The term "ranger" probably has its origins in the North American wars of the 18th and 19th centuries. At the time, the land was heavily forested and armies developed special combat units of woodsmen and marksmen to carry out reconnaissance as well as surprise and diversionary raids. In Canada, knowledgeable woodsmen were the fur trappers and COUREURS DE BOIS, who later showed industrialists and government officials the locations of valuable forest stands. Most of these men were capable of withstanding long periods of isolation and had learned from NATIVE PEOPLE the art of survival in the FOREST.
With the birth of a large-scale FORESTRY industry, many supervisors and high-ranking administrators were drawn from the ranks of self-taught foresters. The need to replace them upon retirement ultimately led, beginning in the 1920s, to the creation in Canada of forest-ranger schools. In Canada, the first was established in the province of Québec in 1923). These schools provided specialized training, first at the secondary-school level and later at the technical-school and university levels (seeFORESTRY EDUCATION). The Maritimes Forest Ranger School in New Brunswick was the last of these institutions to use the term "forest ranger." The school is now known as the Maritime College of Forest Technology.
In the US system of national forests, rangers control administrative units of up to 200 000 ha and manage all renewable RESOURCES within the unit. In Canada, as a result of the changing nature and specialization of forestry work, the term "ranger" has been superseded by more precise designations (eg, forester, forest technician, wildlife manager). The role and responsibilities of forest rangers or wardens have changed greatly over the years, but films and television persist in portraying the ranger as the amiable protector of the forest and its inhabitants. Youth interested in forestry are encouraged to learn about it by groups such as the Junior Forest Wardens in western Canada, the 4-H CLUBS in Québec, the Ontario Ranger program and the forestry associations that are found in most provinces.