One of Pacific West Region’s most respected and revered park rangers, Jim Gale, hung up his flat hat for the last time on October 5th.
Gale served the National Park Service for 32 years, starting at Yellowstone and reaching the pinnacle of his career at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park as chief of interpretation. His work took him to some of the nation’s most treasured public lands – Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska, Indiana Dunes National Seashore, Blue Ridge National Park in Virginia, and Grand Canyon National Park. At Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Gale helped design two major visitor centers following the cataclysmic eruption of 1980.
Entranced by active volcanoes and dedicated to a career in conservation, Gale moved to Hawai‘i with his wife Lora and son Forest and spent the last 12 years at Hawai‘i Volcanoes, where his countless accomplishments continued. He led the design team for the new Kilauea Visitor Center, collaborated with kupuna (Hawaiian elders) on key cultural decisions, and led a team charged with interpreting major events like the 2008 eruption at Halema‘uma‘u crater. His leadership can be seen throughout the park in colorful, wayside exhibits, and has touched untold millions of visitors around the world.
“Jim is who other park rangers aspire to become. He’s extremely positive and consistently supportive and empowering to his staff. He embraces the destination of Hawai‘i, and understands how important Hawai‘i Volcanoes is to both the conservation efforts and the economy of our state. He has been an incredible ambassador for us,” said Superintendent Cindy Orlando. “We are truly going to miss him.”
In addition to achieving a master’s degree in botany from the University of Georgia, Gale earned a prestigious suite of awards during his career, including the highest professional recognition in his field, the Fellow Award from the National Association for Interpretation. He’s the recipient of the U.S. Forest Service Gifford Pinchot Interpreter of the Year Award for Excellence in Interpretation, and the winner of the Freeman Tilden Award for Excellence in Interpretation from Pacific West Region, just to name a few.
Gale will leave Hawai‘i for Utah, where his wife Lora works in planning for the Bureau of Land Management. He plans on hiking the west rim of Zion National Park, camping and enjoying the fall weather from behind the lens of his camera. The first thing he’s not going to do?
“I won’t have to remember all those passwords! I can’t wait not to go through all the emails, and not be tied to a computer,” Gale said. With his last keyboard log off, he’ll be logging on to a life outdoors, enjoying his family and traveling.