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.Congratulations to the 2014 recipient of the Harry Yount National Park Ranger Award!
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.
Last updated: August 1, 2017