Tribal Rangers: Stewards of the land

Southern Ute Tribal Rangers, Corporal Simon Spencer (left) and Tribal Ranger Jesse Vigil stand alongside one of the department’s heavy-duty trucks. The Rangers patrol every corner of the Southern Ute Reservation in their mission to protect its natural resources.
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum

The Southern Ute Tribal Rangers welcomed a new field officer and promoted another going into 2019.

Simon Spencer has worked in the field as a Tribal Ranger since September of 2016. He recently received the promotion to a supervisory position as Ranger Corporal. Previous to working with the Southern Ute Tribe, Spencer served as a Sergeant, working for ten years with the Jicarilla Apache Nation’s Game and Fish Department in New Mexico.

“I just want to continue the good relationships between departments,” Spencer stated. He views this promotion as a shift from working in the field to spending more time in the office, but maintained that much of what the Rangers do is in the field. “I’ll be out there [in the field] with the Rangers still,” he emphasized.

“Spencer brings around 13 years of law enforcement, with leadership roles from his time working with the Jicarilla tribe. I think it really helps him understand our responsibilities with the [Southern Ute] Tribe, “explained Captain Charles Hamby of the Tribal Rangers, who oversees the department.

Southern Ute tribal member Jesse Vigil recently transitioned from SUPD to serve as a Tribal Ranger. Vigil is one of two tribal members on the Rangers, in addition to three other tribal members who work with Animal Control.

The main reason for taking a position with the Rangers is to spend more time with his family, Vigil emphasized. This job lends itself to more traditional working hours, where officers can more readily dedicate themselves to their personal lives outside of work.

“Before I was at SUPD, I wanted to be a Ranger,” Vigil proclaimed. “I enjoyed the job at SUPD, so it kind of put Rangers on hold.”

Vigil was formerly an SUPD Community Resource Officer (2013-2015), SUPD Patrol Officer (2015-2018) before being promoted to SUPD Acting Sergeant. Vigil moved over to the Rangers in November of 2018. Having worked with SUPD, Vigil was already certified under the Field Training Officer (FTO) requirements.

“He has always wanted to be a Ranger, so when the opening came up we were happy to have him come over,” Hamby stated.

“Vigil knows the membership and the community, and is familiar with all areas of the reservation — which is a definite plus. He knows tribal government. It’s good combination for sure,” expressed Hamby. “As a Captain, I am very fortunate to have this group of guys that I have over here for sure.”

The Rangers have the same parameters as SUPD.

“The Tribal Rangers are tasked with enforcing damage to any of our natural resources,” explained Justice and Regulatory Director Chris Mimmack.

The Natural Resource Enforcement Division operates under the administration of Justice and Regulatory, overseeing the Tribal Rangers and Animal Control programs. The force consists of twelve Rangers, two Animal Control officers and one Animal Control technician.

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