Officers in every other branch of natural resources law enforcement in Maine are trained annually and armed.

They carry to protect themselves, and others as they go about enforcing Maine's laws.

Forest Rangers enforce Maine's laws too, and even though their jurisdiction is the state's timberland, they're often investigating serious crimes such as theft and arson.

Maine's Forest Rangers want to have the right to carry firearms, and a bill put forth by Representative Larry Dunphy is gaining momentum in the state legislature.

In a 24-11 vote the measure passed in the state Senate yesterday, and passed in the House earlier this month.

The Senate rejected a proposed amendment to the bill that would have created "conservation officers." That would have meant a handful of the rangers would be trained and armed and they would handle the criminal investigations leaving the remaining rangers to enforce just the civil violations.

LD 297 has garnered a great deal of public support, while critics say it's unnecessary to arm the rangers.

The measure still faces final votes in the House and Senate.