Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Next up: The Hartzog Award

On Monday, Mount Rainier National Park, the Student Conservation Association, and the Northwest Parks and Public Lands Storm Recovery Coalition received the Cooperative Conservation Award, the Department of the Interior's highest honor for leadership in the area of partnerships. In two weeks, on May 8th, Mount Rainier's volunteer program will receive the George B. Hartzog Jr. Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service, the National Park Service's highest honor. It's an exciting time for Mount Rainier volunteers!

In many ways, I've even more proud of the Hartzog Award than I am of the Cooperative Conservation Award. The latter recognizes those of us who work behind the scenes, the noble politicians and bureaucrats, organizing, directing, fundraising, promoting, and problem-solving. It's a great honor to be recognized for the hard work that has gone into building and implementing a shared vision for our volunteer efforts.

The Hartzog Award, by contrast, recognizes our field team: the 1,724 of you who came out and put in the hard work on the ground, building trails, planting trees, scanning historic images, and working in the park's visitor centers. You are the ones who've been keeping our greenhouse running and helping to rescue people lost on the mountain. You're the ones who've invested weekends to patrol trails at Carbon River and summers to serve as Campground Hosts at Cougar Rock and Ohanapecosh. You're the ones who've been coming out faithfully for twenty years, or who chose to spend four months living in a platform tent last summer, or who took a long weekend to camp out and serve as Meadow Rovers, or who spent a day of your vacation volunteering with the Washington Trails Association, or who squeezed in few hours to help restore the Longmire Campground with your kids on National Public Lands Day. You're the ones who wrote letters to your congressional representatives in support of the park, or invested your money in the SCA or Washington's National Park Fund during tough economic times.

Your George B. Hartzog Jr. Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service is well-deserved, and you deserve to be very proud.

We're still working on the logistics of who will travel to Washington to receive the Hartzog Award on your behalf. The award comes with round-trip travel for two people. We'll make sure that at least one of those is one of you. I wish we could bring all 1,724 of you to Washington D.C. and show all of the politicians and bureaucrats here just what an amazing team you really are.

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