Iowa’s state park rangers — certified peace officers who safeguard the state’s premier outdoor recreational areas — are having to confront an increasingly endangered species: themselves. Budget cuts have severely thinned the ranks of state park rangers over years — to 35 this year from between 45 and 55 in the late 1990s, State Parks Bureau data show. As a result, far fewer park rangers are now serving far more visitors to state parks. An IowaWatch review of state historical data shows that the ratio of park rangers to annual park visits has gone from one ranger per 217,700 visits in 1995 to one ranger per 422,269 visits in 2019. The shortage has gotten more severe this year — the 100th anniversary of Iowa’s state park system — as thousands more visitors flocked to state parks to relieve their COVID-19 isolation.