Bandelier’s Chief Ranger Tom Betts Named Regional Winner of Park Service’s Top Ranger Honor

Chief Ranger Tom Betts


Bandelier’s Chief Ranger Tom Betts, a 34-year veteran ranger for the National Park Service (NPS), has been named Intermountain Region recipient of the Harry Yount Award.

The annual award, named after the first U.S. national park ranger, recognizes excellence in the field of “rangering.” Betts and seven other regional recipients are now the finalists for the national Harry Yount Award, which will be presented in June in Washington, DC.

Betts, himself the son of an NPS ranger, grew up in national parks from Rocky Mountain to Yosemite to Grand Teton. He became chief ranger at Bandelier National Monument in 2009. His Park Service career began in 1980 as a volunteer ski ranger at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. As a seasonal law enforcement ranger, he also saw service at Crater Lake, Lake Clark National Park & Preserve in Alaska, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

His duty stations as a permanent law enforcement ranger have included Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Before coming to Bandelier, he was a district ranger and chief pilot at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve in Alaska, where he logged more than 3,000 hours of flight time in the bush.

“When I think about what it is to be a ranger in the National Park Service, I think of Tom Betts,” Bandelier Superintendent Jason Lott said. “From rangering on horseback at Yellowstone to cross-country skis at Lake Clark, Tom’s done it all. He’s living the Park Service dream.”

As a regional recipient, Betts receives a cash award of $1,250 and a custom-designed plaque with a metal engraving of Harry Yount (1839-1924), who in 1880-81 served a short but distinguished stint as the first and only “gamekeeper” of Yellowstone National Park, protecting the first park’s wildlife against undue slaughter and poaching.

The other regional recipients are: Stephens Harper, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve, AK (Alaska region); Melissa Moses, Buffalo National River, AR (Midwest); Rory Moore, Antietam National Battlefield, MD (National Capital); Michelle Schonzeit, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, PA/NJ (Northeast); Aaron Smith, Yosemite National Park, CA (Pacific West); David Horner, Virgin Islands National Park, VI (Southeast), and Glen Dodson, NPS Law Enforcement Training Center, GA (Washington Office).

“To be considered in the same group as the other award winners – and I worked with a bunch of them – is quite an honor. They are folks that I really respect,” Betts said.

The Harry Yount Award program is sponsored by the NPS Washington Office’s Division of Law Enforcement, Security and Emergency Services, in partnership with the National Park Foundation.

About the National Park Service: More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 401 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at


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