Harry Yount Award

"They are a fine, earnest, intelligent, and public spirited body of men, these rangers. Though small in number, their influence is large. Many and long are the duties heaped upon their shoulders. If a trail is to be blazed, it is 'send a ranger.' If an animal is floundering in the snow, a ranger is sent to pull him out; if a bear is in the hotel, if a fire threatens a forest, if someone is to be saved, it is 'send a ranger.' If a Dude wants to know the why, if a Sagebrusher is puzzled about a road, it is 'ask the ranger.' Everything the ranger knows, he will tell you, except about himself."

- Stephen T. Mather
First Director, National Park Service

In the tradition of Harry Yount, the National Park Service honors rangers who have the skills to perform a wide scope of ranger duties - protecting resources and serving visitors.

The 2014 award recipient is:


Bil Vandergraff, Backcountry Ranger
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Vandergraff is a living legend among his peers. In his 25-year career, Vandergraff has hiked 10,000 miles of the Grand Canyon backcountry, spent 3,000 days helping visitors below the canyon's rim, and assisted with more than 2,000 search and rescue operations.

His commitment and connection to the resource he protects are highly valued. Employees throughout the park seek his perspective and advice on topics ranging from, but not limited to, park planning, historical perspectives, technical rescues, running the river rapids, and event planning.

"There are rangers who become legendary in certain national parks; the rangers whose tales and adventures are passed down to the next generation of rangers," said Michael Nash, Grand Canyon's chief ranger. "In the vast canyons of the Grand Canyon that ranger is 'One L Bil.'"

Vandergraff began his career at Grand Canyon National Park in 1992 as a seasonal law enforcement ranger. He's been a permanent backcountry ranger for the past 21 years. His peers highly prize Vandergraff's encyclopedic knowledge of the park and say that he's been an indispensable mentor to dozens of backcountry rangers over the years.

His contribution to search and rescue response extends well beyond his park. He is often called on to assist with incidents across the country and even beyond U.S. borders; in Bolivia he assisted the FBI and Bolivia National Police Rescue Team. He co-authored an article, "Wilderness Search Strategy and Tactics." He also co-authored a search management plan, now used as a guide across the county. He has been an instructor for more than 20 training classes across the country.

As part of the park's aviation team, Vandergraff has completed more than 500 flights in the park, half of which were search and rescue missions. Serving as helicopter manager and short-haul spotter, he helped develop a mentor program and a short-haul training course for the Grand Canyon Flight Crew. Vandergraff served nationally for two years as chair of the National Park Service Short Haul Committee.

A rangers' ranger, Vandergraff has dedicated his life to helping others.

Previous awardees:
2013: Tom Betts
2012: Brandon Torres
2011: Lisa Hendy
2010: Scott Emmerich
2009: Peter Armington
2008: Gary Moses
2007: Gordon Wissinger
2006:Todd Swain

Harry Yount: Yellowstone's first and only gamekeeper

"After building a winter cabin in the park in 1880, he became one of the first white men known to spend time on a year-round basis in Yellowstone. Independent and resourceful, able to subsist on his own without close supervision, and having a familiarity and knowledge of the natural processes surrounding him, Harry Yount has become an archetypal model for the National Park Ranger."

Enigmatic Icon: The Life and Times of Harry Yount