In the 21st century, technology is changing what being a park ranger looks like. Your support funds the innovative 21st Century Ranger program, helping interns receive invaluable training in several areas associated with wilderness management. Thanks to you, the experience they gain in the field places these interns in a position to move into managerial roles either in Glacier National Park or other land management agencies and organizations.
We recently caught up with Glacier’s 21st Century Rangers of 2018 to learn more about the experiences your gifts made possible.
Catching Up With The Interns From 2018
We recently caught up with the 21st Century Rangers from 2018, Whitney Guillard and Lora Funk. Both interns have transitioned into continuing jobs with Glacier National Park.
Where are you from, and what’s your educational background?
Whitney Guillard (WG): I have a bachelor’s degree in Outdoor Recreation Leadership and Management and an associate degree in art and design from Northern Michigan University. NMU is located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which is where I’m from originally. This was my fourth season at Glacier, but I worked one season at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan before coming here. The area of Michigan I was working in was beautiful and I’d highly recommend visiting, but I wanted to see a bit more of the country and work at a National Park in the mountains somewhere. I applied to a variety of parks all over the country. Glacier was one of the first job offers I got in the spring, and it fit the bill of having some pretty awesome mountains with work I was interested in. I accepted the position and haven’t left since.
What was a typical day like for you, starting when you arrived to work and ending when you got home for the day?
Lora Funk (LF): I would say the beauty of this position is that there is no typical day. Throughout the season one might have found me patrolling the North Fork with the volunteer river rangers, packing stock in the Camas drainage, assisting in fire logistics, educating boaters about Aquatic Invasive Species, or chatting with thru-hikers on the trail in the Belly River. Half of my time was spent in the permitting stations of Apgar, and the other half was in backcountry training or practicing wilderness management skills. There are so many roles involved with Glacier’s backcountry and I was able scratch the surface by shadowing experienced rangers of various departments.
WG: As a 21st Century Ranger, I was given a significant number of opportunities to expand my knowledge and skills in the backcountry and gain a wider understanding of park operations in different divisions. As a result of having a more flexible schedule, I was able to attend a couple of new training opportunities: stock training and river ranger training. During stock training I was able to learn about backcountry horse and mule use in Glacier, practice my horseback riding skills, and learn the basics of packing with mules. As a result of attending this training, I was able to do to a horseback patrol in the Belly River valley with one of the backcountry rangers stationed there and help the packer with the mules when he was bringing in supplies for a trail crew hitch. River ranger training involved learning safe practices of swift water rafting: rescue techniques, practicing reading the river channels and currents, what to do if you have to flip a raft on your own, swift water crossing techniques on foot, and other safety practices. I did a river patrol with the Walton backcountry ranger and intern, where we collected “Limits of Acceptable Change” data that gets passed on to the Forest Service to inform their management policies on the Flathead River.
How did your job affect someone’s day and/or the visitor experience?
LF: I would like to believe that my role in the 21st Century Ranger position improved the day of a visitor or fellow NPS employee. Throughout the season I was able to float among the various park districts; if a ranger needed a second hand or more coverage in an area, they could call on me. Such assistance helps the visitor experience: now they can use a new hitchrail for their stock or have the most up-to-date information regarding trail conditions on a snowy mountain pass. I hope I can continue to help better the experience for the people of Glacier as I tackle issues and questions more effectively with the knowledge I gained from my time as a 21st Century Ranger.
WG: Each week, I spent two days staffing the Two Medicine Ranger Station and two days in the field. Having two backcountry patrol days per week allowed me to collaborate with backcountry rangers and other staff in different districts around the park, as well as further assist in my own district. Glacier has portions of two long-distance national scenic trails running through it: the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) and the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT). I spent 14 patrol days on portions of the CDT or PNT, and contacted about 17 thru-hikers while on trail. I also wrote numerous backcountry permits for thru-hikers while working in the Two Medicine Ranger Station.
What was your favorite thing about working in Glacier National Park?
LF: My favorite part about working in Glacier is the mountains. Whether I am looking up from the shores of Lake McDonald or peak to peak from Mount Siyeh, it’s a very special privilege to live and work in such an amazing landscape. I feel very lucky that this love of the mountains is something I get to share with visitors on a daily basis, who might be seeing theses ranges for the first time, or with coworkers, whose appreciation has only grown over the decades they’ve worked here.
Why do you think the 21st Century Ranger program is so important?
WG: I’ve had the privilege of working in some beautiful places. These public lands have made my life, and countless others, so much richer. Seeing a sow grizzly and her cub roam a mountain pass, or watching first light illuminate the Rocky Mountain front range are experiences that can’t be duplicated. I’m glad I can do my part to preserve these areas and facilitate other visitors’ enjoyment of them.
LF: I believe an internship like this is a fantastic opportunity for an NPS employee to expand on their experience and hone their craft for a better career in public land management. Getting the chance to work with various groups in the park made me feel more connected to the community around Glacier made of NPS employees, volunteers, partners and visitors.
What are you up to now, and how has this internship impacted you?
LF: Currently, I am the lead position for the Backcountry Permit Office’s Aquatic Invasive Species inspection and permitting program. The 21st Century Ranger position gave me opportunities to practice goal setting and task management in a professional setting, which are very important skills to take into a lead position like the one I am in now. The position was also a great start to becoming more of an “all-around ranger,” or the ranger who has the ability to take on any project because of a well-rounded skill set. I was able to train with rangers and volunteers that have spent much or most of their lives in Glacier. Learning field expertise and the history of the park’s management will allow me to serve Glacier and its visitors in a much better capacity.
Fostering The Next Generation of Park Leadership
The 21st Century Ranger program provides interns with valuable experience in the field and in the office in Glacier National Park. The resulting combination of metrics, technology, management, visitor interaction and field work creates long-term benefits for both the intern and the park.
“Investing in a person early in their career helps foster long-term commitment to Glacier and the mission of the National Park Service,” Lora says. “I feel honored to have had this chance to learn and develop as a park ranger, and I am very thankful to the Conservancy and the donors for making this dream job a reality.”