The Maine Forest Rangers have been around since 1891. But it’s only in the past several months that they’ve stepped into the public arena of social media and gained an enthusiastic fan base.

And the rangers have Facebook to thank.

Since joining Facebook on Jan. 15, the Maine Forest Rangers have recruited nearly 2,300 fans, and now frequently get virtual applause for their posts. They’ve simply embraced the social media with a familiarity and zest not expected of woods dwellers. But, hey, they like sharing their daring missions, helicopter rescues, and the work they do protecting Maine’s vast forestland.

This week the Rangers are using their new Google map posted on the site to show illegal dumps sites around Maine in order to educate their Facebook friends about where they will be cleaning Saturday for this year’s Landowner Appreciation Day. The result is that the third-annual forest cleanup on Maine’s vast private forestland has begun before the day has started.

“Facebook is new to us as an agency. But we started in February. And we now get people Facebook messaging us complaints and to give us feedback. People will say, ‘Now I know where to go when I have a problem with dumping,’ ” said Lt. Jeff Currier, who manages the rangers’ Facebook site.

“We have been around in one form or another since 1891. But we have not been in the public eye. We have 57 rangers and a fleet of aircraft. We want the public to know what we’re doing. With Facebook, we’re now interacting with them.”

Other government and outdoor groups working on the Landowner Appreciation Day cleanup on Saturday are hoping an awareness spreads about the illegal dumping of tires, refrigerators and household waste that occurs frequently on private land. Last year, 136 sites were cleaned of 980 tires and nearly 100 tons of waste on the cleanup day.

And the illegal dumping that has gone on for decades threatens the widespread public access on private land allowed here, a unique privilege in Maine.

“It doesn’t take much for a landowner to get frustrated and angry when they see their land being abused, and post it,” said Mark Latti, landowner relations coordinator with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

But with the spirited, even playful posts the rangers share daily on Facebook, it’s hard to imagine this crime won’t draw more attention in the future. Maybe it is the forest rangers’ enthusiasm for their work expressed through the social media site that gets them fans. Just several months after creating the site, they expressed how grateful they were for the interest in their missions, with this post:

“When we established this Facebook, we said that it would be neat if we had a hundred followers. That did not take long, so then we said 500 likes would be awesome. Now that we have reached 2,000, we are humbled. To think that 2,000 people have taken interest in our mission is beyond our highest expectations.”

On a social media site famous for Facebragging, post boasting and virtual memoirs, the rangers appreciation is refreshing.

But then, it may be why this year they have recruited clean-up crews even before their annual landowner appreciation day has begun.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: Flemingpph