Glacier National Park Ranger Honored as Best in the Nation

Thursday, June 10 2010 14:48   People of the West
Could you imagine a job where on any given day you might handle a wild cougar, rescue someone from the top of a mountain, fight a wildland fire, treat a heart attack victim, teach a winter survival class, or hike with an 80-pound pack through some of the most spectacular scenery in the world?

Those tasks are just some of the many duties performed by Glacier National Park Ranger Scott Emmerich. In recognition of a career of extraordinary accomplishments, Emmerich received the 2010 Harry Yount National Park Ranger Award for excellence in rangering during a Capitol Hill ceremony June 8.

2010 Harry Yount Award winner
The annual award is bestowed on a park ranger whose overall impact and record have promoted a high degree of awareness and appreciation for the ranger profession. The award, made possible by the National Park Foundation through a generous gift from Unilever, is named after the 19th-century outdoorsman considered the first park ranger.

"Much like the majestic scenery and abundant wildlife found in the park, Scott Emmerich is a constant in Glacier," said National Park Service (NPS) Deputy Director Mickey Fearn. "Every day for more than 20 years, Scott has performed tasks, big and small, seen and unseen, that protect the park's resources and visitors."

This is the second time a ranger from Glacier National Park has been selected as the recipient of the Harry Yount Award. In 2008, Lake McDonald District Ranger Gary Moses became the first ranger at Glacier to receive the award.

Glacier National Park Superintendent Chas Cartwright said of Emmerich: "He has high standards for everything he does and expects the same from every person he works with. He's the epitome of the ranger profession. He's a ‘ranger's ranger' who continues to set the bar high for the NPS. Emmerich's contributions to the North Fork, Glacier, the NPS and the country are exceptional. He's a jack of all trades; a wildlife biologist at heart, a counselor, mediator, interpreter, educator, friend and leader. He is the perfect ranger to carry forward the Harry Yount tradition."

Emmerich has worked at Glacier since 1989. He currently serves as the North Fork District Ranger overseeing nine employees, a quarter million acres of land, 170 miles of trail, four rustic campgrounds, an entrance station, four lakes, 28 miles of a wild and scenic river, 18 miles of international border, a 20-mile section of the Continental Divide, 39 miles of roadway, 13 backcountry campgrounds and several historic buildings and cabins.

Emmerich truly embraces every element of ranger life. His duties include visitor and resource protection, backcountry management, wildlife management, maintenance, safety, visitor education, and fee collection. He works and lives in an off-grid, rustic, and remote section of Glacier National Park. His wife Jan Knox also works for the NPS as Glacier's Chief of Concessions Management.

Scott Emmerich, Glacier National Park ranger
As a wildlife manager, Emmerich has worked hand-in-hand with researchers capturing, collaring, and tracking cougars, wolves, grizzly bears, black bears, coyotes, elk, and deer. He recalls his most memorable wildlife experience was holding, as gently as possible, an agitated 110-pound cougar by the tail while biologists administered a tranquilizer.

An accomplished rescue ranger and park medic, Emmerich has assisted people with medical emergencies and those who have gotten lost or injured while hiking, rock climbing, boating, swimming or skiing. To this day he has vivid memories of arriving first on scene of a remote, mountainous single engine plane crash in Yosemite that killed two people and severely burned four others.

He constantly strives to improve the park's emergency medical services (EMS), search and rescue capabilities and law enforcement operations through training, practice sessions and partnerships. He's established outstanding working relationships with the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Border Patrol, Flathead County, local game wardens, and state biologists. Emmerich teaches winter survival courses, law enforcement tactics, first aid, and CPR.

Emmerich is a frequent guest speaker at schools and civic meetings and believes strongly in community involvement with his roles in hunter education, youth soccer, the American Heart Association, the Advanced Life-Support Emergency Rescue Team (A.L.E.R.T.) air ambulance program and the Columbia Falls, Mont., School Board.

When asked about his proudest career accomplishments, Emmerich touts the achievements of his staff and volunteers. "They are the most amazing and dedicated team a person could ever hope to assemble," he said. The opportunities he's had to work with and train young rangers just starting their careers are especially meaningful.

In accepting the award, Emmerich emphasized that "no one ranger is worthy of such an honor. It's a team of people who help build and support every ranger who's graced a National Park Service uniform - it starts with your family and encompasses teachers, peers, friends and leaders in your life. On behalf of the team of people who supported me and gave me every opportunity to succeed in my life and this profession, I thank you for the honor of accepting the Harry Yount Award 2010."