National Park Service: The First 75 Years
Biographical Vignettes
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Elizabeth Titus

                                          by John Reynolds

Elizabeth Titus
(Courtesy of Mary Bell, Student Conservation Association)

Elizabeth C. Titus — but never call her that! It is always Liz. Maybe it is because Elizabeth takes too long to say, and does not fit this fireball lady with sparkling eyes, laughter, joy in her voice, and enough persistence to found a movement that brings young people and the natural world together year after year.

Born April 3, 1933, Liz was raised on Long Island . . . and a 100-square-mile "camp" in the wilderness of central Canada every summer. She recalls. "We would be dropped off the train at a whistle stop and met by Indian guides. After three days of hiking, canoeing and portaging we'd arrive at Dad's log cabin."

She grew up living by three basic precepts:

Land is a trust ...we are all one with the earth.
Take care of everything.
If you feel something meeds to be done, do it.

Her background and ideas jelled and grew at Vassar College, where she began a course in Conservation of Natural Resources so she "could be outdoors." She wanted more than Vassar could offer. With the help of an enthusiastic department head, Vassar created an interdisciplinary major for her . . . and then allowed her to let her do her thesis on her idea for a student conservation corps. Liz met Stephen Mather's daughter, enlisted her as a supporter, and was soon explaining her idea to former National Park Service Director Horace Albright. Fresh out of college, as idealistic then as she is now, she convinced Horace in a flash. They picked Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Olympic, and Mt. Rainier as the places to start.

The first Student Conservation Association programs began in 1957 in Olympic and Grand Teton. They totaled 54 high school, college, and graduate students. Three years later, the movement spread to Zion and Cedar Breaks. Now, more than 30 years later, it is more vibrant than ever. More than 1,600 participants a year work in the outdoors in more than 250 areas. It has grown to include the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service as well as state agencies and the USSR. George Hartzog modified the idea to start the Volunteers-in-Parks program. Senator Henry M. Jackson modified it to start the Youth Conservation Corps and the Young Adult Conservation Corps programs. Any of us who have managed a park know the value of what this dynamo of spirit, love, and laughter has done for the people and natural environment of her country.

Liz loves the National Park Service, and it loves her. She was made an honorary park ranger in 1989 — we hope she doesn't mind that it was only 30 years late!

From National Park Service: The First 75 Years


Last Modified: March 27 2017 03:00:00 pm EDT

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