Each year NPS rangers nominate one of their own for the Harry Yount National Park Ranger Award for excellence in “rangering.” This year's winner received his award at a Capitol Hill ceremony this week.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and National Park Service Acting Director Dan Wenk presented Peter Armington from Denali National Park and Preserve with the peer-nominated award at a Capitol Hill ceremony on May 19.
The prestigious Harry Yount Award, named for the 19th-century outdoorsman generally credited as the first park ranger, is presented annually by the National Park Service and made possible by the National Park Foundation through a generous gift from Unilever.
“Pete is the consummate ranger,” said Wenk. “He has demonstrated overwhelming competence in the performance of his duties throughout his 38-year National Park Service career. He has protected park visitors and resources, provided emergency medical support, fought wildland and structural fires, prosecuted poachers, led search and rescue missions, patrolled the backcountry, and helped implement a helicopter rappel and short haul program that revolutionized rescue procedures.”
For Peter Armington from Denali National Park and Preserve, the challenge and joy of the job lies in its diversity and unpredictability. “Rangering is not just a job, it is a way of life, a passion, a raison d’être,” he said. “I feel so fortunate and honored to be chosen as this year’s recipient of the Harry Yount Award. But I also feel uncomfortable. There are hundreds of outstanding United States Park Rangers out there who day in and day out work passionately, not for awards, but to protect the resource of our national parks and those who visit them. They are my mentors, peers, friends, and partners.”
Armington developed a love for the outdoors and national parks while on a family vacation to the Rocky Mountains when he was 13 years old. In high school, he became the first participant in Rocky Mountain National Park’s new Volunteer-in-Parks Program. He went on to work as a ranger or supervisor at Rocky Mountain National Park, Pinnacles National Monument, Yosemite National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Curecanti National Recreation Area, Isle Royale National Park, and Denali National Park and Preserve.
Armington has served as Chief Ranger of Denali National Park and Preserve since 2003. Park Superintendent Paul Anderson praises Armington for the countless contributions he has made benefitting park visitors, employees, partners, and resources.
“During Pete’s tenure at Denali, he has provided the ranger staff with the guidance, tools, and support needed to accomplish more than ever before,” said Anderson. “A classic example is the approach he has taken in regard to poaching. Poaching has always been a serious problem due to the park’s size and remoteness. Pete established wildlife protection patrols which led to a dramatic increase in the number of poaching cases discovered and prosecuted. Restitution fees from those cases help fund additional wildlife protection patrols.”
Visitors to parks across the country who have required rescue by helicopter have benefited from one of Armington's projects:
While working at Grand Teton National Park in the 1980s, Armington helped develop an advanced and revolutionary new helicopter rescue system. Mountain rescues which previously took several days to complete were reduced to just a few hours.
Armington still vividly remembers the first time the system was used to rescue an injured visitor. Two rangers rappelled out of a hovering helicopter within feet of where a critically injured young woman lay after falling 2,000 feet down the Skillet Glacier on Mount Moran. In a race against darkness, the rangers packaged her in a litter and clipped it to the end of a 100-foot long rope suspended beneath the helicopter. It flew her to an awaiting ambulance in a meadow several miles away.
In recognition for his role in developing the rescue system, Armington received the Secretary of the Interior’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to Aviation Safety and the NASAR Hal Foss Award in recognition of significant contributions to search and rescue at the national level.
“I am so thankful for having been able to live and work in remarkable places like Yosemite, the Grand Tetons, and Isle Royale,” said Armington. “Being a ranger has allowed me to reunite lost children with parents, arrest poachers who plunder our resources, help guard presidents, meet the Queen of England, participate in park planning, and be inspired by my surroundings. It has also provided me with my greatest gift—my wife Martha.”