Our National Parks are protected and enriched by a small army of volunteers whose time, enthusiasm and energy are put to use in so many ways. During this centennial year of the National Park Service, we would like to recognize the efforts of some of the people who help protect America’s Treasures. Today, thanks to the words of Ian Harvey, Volunteer Ambassador at Mount Rainier National Park, we’re going to learn about a dedicated volunteer by the name of Russ Gibbs.
Russ Gibbs has been a dedicated volunteer at Mount Rainier National Park for the past fifteen years, sharing over 10,000 hours with countless individuals in every aspect of Park operations. Beginning with a spark from a conversation with a Ranger, Russ went from patrolling a seasonally closed section of the park every now and then to being one of the greatest constants in the park’s wildlife monitoring program.
The largest volcano in the Cascade Range in Washington, Mount Rainier is surrounded with thousands upon thousands of acres of lush subalpine meadows, monstrous old growth forests, and glacial tarns. With 97% of the park being a Designated Wilderness Area, that allows for a safe haven for many creatures. If a visitor is lucky, they may come across an animal or two during their visit to the Mountain, but for Russ, seeing an endangered species like the Northern spotted owl is just another day at the office.
Much of Russ’s work is with the Division of Natural and Cultural Resources at Mount Rainier. It’s a measure of Russ’s dependability that he was welcomed into programs that work so closely with endangered species. In addition to spotted owls, Russ works alongside Park wildlife technicians and biologists in surveys and studies of pika, harlequin ducks, and many species of amphibians. In fact, Russ’s role in our many programs has grown to be so significant that he is now a senior member of our crews.
Every year, Russ contributes over 600 hours of service, not only with wildlife surveys, but also through backcountry patrols. These patrols have benefited the park tremendously by providing officials information on flooded buildings, broken gate locks, and heavy snow loading, as well as allowing for a presence in areas that may otherwise go unmonitored during the seemingly endless winters.
Due to funding restraints Park Service-wide, some crucial positions would go unfilled year after year, if it weren’t for the help of volunteers. Since 2005, Russ has been serving a very important role in the spotted owl survey crew in the park. With these surveys, as well as his many numerous others, Russ has collected data that has vastly expanded our knowledge of the residents of our park, and we are years ahead of where we would be without these contributions.
Thanks to Ian Harvey for telling us about the park, and Russ’s work there. We thank him sincerely for his dedication and commitment. Over 2 million visitors come to Mount Rainier National Park each year, and 10,000 of them attempt to reach the summit of the park’s namesake. The work of volunteers like Russ Gibbs is absolutely essential in the operation and preservation of this wonderful western wilderness.