Dr. Walt Loope, long time friend of the National Park Service, has retired after 37 years of federal service. Walt began his career as a seasonal ranger at Canyonlands National Park in Utah from 1972-1977 where he worked at all three districts of the park. He was the second ranger to ever serve at the remote Maze District, succeeding a ranger who had been in the position for just a month. From 1978 to 1982 he served as range conservationist on the White River National Forest in western Colorado and on the Manti-LaSal National Forest in Utah.
In 1982 he became the first Resource Management Specialist at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, a position he held until 1993. Due to the reorganization of the Department of the Interior in 1993 Walt was transferred to the US Geological Survey, Munising Biological Station, with his office collocated at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
At Pictured Rocks NL he took a great interest in the Grand Sable Dunes. He involved fellow researchers in understanding the ecological requirements of Pitcher's thistle, a plant on the federal list of threatened species. This led him to the discovery of buried soils on the dunes, a clear sign that the dunes had been forested for a lengthy period, and later he described how the level of Lake Superior influenced the movement of wind-blown sand that buried the plant communities on top of the dunes. Walt recognized the rare plant communities of the dunes and was instrumental in getting Grand Sable Dunes designated as a Research Natural Area.
Walt studied many other ecological principles within and surrounding the Great Lakes National Parks including fire history, soil survey, plant inventories, and ancient landforms. His knowledge and friendly manner are always very helpful to park management as valued resources for critical decision making.
Walt and his wife Lora, aquatic ecologist for Pictured Rocks NL, will remain in Munising where they have lived for 30 years and raised two children (Henry and Hannah). Walt will continue much of his work as USGS Research Ecologist Emeritus. Park staff members look forward to still having Walt around and listening to him expound upon ecological processes.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore staff, along with Walt's friends, family, and colleagues, will celebrate his career at a retirement party on February 23. Walt officially retired on February 2.