If you're heading out to one of our national parks, heat stroke and rattlesnakes are the least of your worries.

Coyotes are a big problem--not the canids, but the human beings who smuggle people north across the Mexican border and leave them to wander toward capture or, too often, death. Then there are the drug smugglers who find even the city-bordered Saguaro West a convenient corridor for their travels.

And let's not forget the urbanites who are abducted, dragged out into the desert and murdered. Their families and friends haven't forgotten.

Now, I'm not suggesting that you should don a bullet-proof vest if you want to hike up to Wasson Peak or tramp around Organ Pipe National Monument. But our parks are hardly the refuges they used to be, and rangers are now less stewards of the wilderness than cops among the cactus.

Tim Vanderpool reports on our area's dangerous national parks in this week's feature. He also files a story on shady dealings in Northern Arizona, where ranchers, state officials and other "stakeholders" are meeting in secret to determine the fate of an endangered antelope species. You and I are barred from these gatherings, which raises the question: Do we have more to fear from criminals rampaging through the parks, or the ostensibly good citizens and bureaucrats who believe the public interest to be synonymous with self-interest?