Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve’s chief of operations, Gary Youngblood, was recently named the National Park Service Alaska Region recipient of the Harry Yount Award for 2007.
Youngblood is a 1973 graduate of Statesboro High School and is a 1978 graduate of Utah State University. He is the son of Dot Youngblood of Statesboro and the late Courtney Youngblood. He and Julia, his wife of 30 years, currently reside in Bettles.
Youngblood’s 25-year career with the National Park Service reflects ideals that the award recognizes and honors. The Harry Yount Award is made possible by the National Park Foundation. This National Park Service and the National Park Foundation award not only recognizes and honors outstanding national park rangers, but seeks to:
- encourage high standards of performance,
- foster an especially responsive attitude towards public service,
- enhance the public's appreciation of the Park Ranger profession and
- build esprit de corps and further the spirit of the art and science of "rangering".
"This award honors rangers who have formed the cornerstone of every park organization," said Marcia Blaszak, Alaska regional director. "Gary is a stellar example of professionalism, perseverance, competence, creativity, resourcefulness and integrity. We are fortunate to have his skills and dedication in our region and in the National Park Service."
Youngblood represents a tradition of rangers that, in present day terms, would be considered the classic old time ranger generalist. He has worked in the field, by choice, his entire career and chose to be a seasonal ranger for nearly 15 years in order to remain in the field and close to the visitor and the natural and cultural resources. Youngblood currently works at Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve as the chief of operations in one of the most remote parts of Alaska and the second largest park in the national park system.
Youngblood first worked in Yellowstone, where he held a number of jobs in remote but high use areas of the park. He then moved to Everglades National Park, where he held a number of supervisory positions. He moved to Alaska in 2004 to work at GAAR in Bettles (population 30).
During his tenure at GAAR, he has turned park operations into a model safety program that has resulted in a perfect record since he arrived. Youngblood’s work with local communities has taken the park to a new level of cooperation and organization.
Soon after his arrival in Bettles, the visitor contact station, Ranger offices, search and rescue cache and all communications burned to the ground in the middle of the winter. Youngblood immediately put emergency plans into place and got a temporary contact station into place so that the Bettles field station was operational that summer.
This past summer, two lives were saved after a plane crash at the Bettles float pond, largely because of Youngblood’s proactive approach to the entire operation. Youngblood and his staff, as well as local residents, were ready and organized for emergencies and able to respond to the situation in a very professional and timely manner. The remoteness of the area complicated the challenge of rescue immensely. Youngblood's leadership, hard work, experience and attention to detail helped save these two lives.There are seven regional Harry Yount Award recipients nationwide in the National Park Service. The regional awards were recognized by National Park Service Director Mary Bomar in Washington, D.C., earlier this month. One of the seven regional award recipients will also be selected as the national recipient of the national Harry Yount Award. That recipient will by announced during National Park Week on May 1, 2007. These recipients embody the highest and best traditions and values of the NPS.