BY LAUREN RAY
Visual Information Specialist
Valles Caldera National Preserve
Editor’s Note: Ranger Lauren Ray joined the Valles Caldera National Preserve team a year ago after spending time at Buffalo National River, the first national river in the United States. The Los Alamos Reporter supports World Ranger Day – even if a day late publishing Ranger Lauren’s report.
There is a lot more to the title “park ranger” than many people may realize. Even though most National Park Service personnel wear the same green and gray uniform, we perform a variety of different jobs and tasks that cooperatively uphold our agency’s mission: “The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world.”
This #WorldRangerDay, we are shining a light on a few of Valles Caldera’s rangers and the work they do. Interested in working for the National Park Service? Learn more about career opportunities at https://www.nps.gov/aboutus/workwithus.htm.
Ranger Lynda, an Education Technician at Valles Caldera National Preserve, stands on the front porch at the Ranger Station. Photo Courtesy NPS
Ranger Linda’s job involves greeting visitors in the Entrance Station, providing interpretive programs, and coordinating classroom visits, field trips, and distance learning opportunities for local schools. Lynda says that her favorite part of her job is welcoming people into a space where they may feel uncomfortable or uninvited and empowering them with the message that they belong.
“The outdoors can be intimidating. Just being present as an Afro-Indigenous park ranger has truly made spaces more welcoming for kids. They see my hair, and their faces light up because it looks like their hair. When we consider representation in outdoor spaces, I’m honored to be a catalyst in a visitor’s experience in a National Park. It normalizes Black, Brown, and Indigenous people’s belonging in this space,” Lynda said.
Ranger Nick takes a selfie with four other rangers in a vast grassland, all wearing high-visibility vests. Photo Courtesy NPS
Ranger Nick is an Archeologist at Valles Caldera. He and the Cultural Resources team study the long legacy of human use and occupation at Valles Caldera. They also consult with the park’s 38 associated Tribes and Pueblos to ensure that traditional knowledge of this landscape is incorporated into park management decisions.
Nick says, “What I love most about my job is that every day holds the potential for learning and discovery. That could be documenting an archaeological site in the backcountry or learning new things about the caldera’s history from historic records, books, and reports. There’s always more to learn about this amazing place!”
Ranger Johnny (center) is a Maintenance Worker at Valles Caldera. Photo Courtesy NPS
Ranger Johnny helps to maintain the road system in the park, which encompasses more than 40 miles of gravel roads! He loves talking to people about the park and sharing stories about the things he’s seen in his 21 years of working here. One of Johnny’s favorite office views comes every fall during the elk rut—he loves watching the bull elk spar in the montane grasslands
Ranger Sarah is the Botanist at Valles Caldera National Preserve. Photo Courtesy NPS
Ranger Sarah, a Botanist, and her team study plant communities in the park and collect data that inform long-term resource management decisions. They also monitor vegetation recovery after disturbances like wildfires and floods. Her favorite part of the job is protecting and stewarding Valles Caldera’s natural resources through science and adaptive management. And wearing cool hats. And getting paid to look at plants.
Ranger Aaron stands before an aspen grove. Photo Courtesy NPS
Ranger Aaron is a seasonal Maintenance Worker at Valles Caldera. He keeps public facilities clean and functional, performs trail maintenance and general groundskeeping, and is a reliable handyman. His favorite part about working at Valles Caldera is being part of a tight-knit team that works together on a variety of projects that keep the park and its facilities running smoothly.
Ranger Brenda works on permits at her computer. Photo Courtesy NPS
Ranger Brenda is Valles Caldera’s Fee Program Supervisor and Special Use Permits Coordinator. If you’re an avid hunter, angler, or commercial guide, you’ve undoubtedly corresponded with Brenda during the permitting and authorization process. She says that her favorite part of her job is assisting and interacting with the public. One of her fondest memories is helping to coordinate the filming of the series “Longmire” at Valles Caldera. She says that the cast and crew were great to work with, and she still has an autographed photo of the lead actor, Robert Taylor, on a shelf in her office.
Ranger Kai kneels in the grass and smiles while holding a trout in her hands. Photo Courtesy NPS
Ranger Kai is a seasonal Biological Science Technician at Valles Caldera. She and the rest of the wildlife crew monitor the health, habitat, and movements of a range of animal species—from large mammals like mountain lions and black bears all the way down to fish, amphibians, and insects. Her favorite part of the job? Working with the incredible variety of fauna that Valles Caldera supports – but mountain lions will forever be her favorite.
World Ranger Day is celebrated around the world on July 31st each year on the anniversary of the founding of The International Ranger Federation (IRF), an organization that supports the work of rangers as the key protectors of parks and conservation. World Ranger Day will also be a day to remember the many rangers who have been injured or killed in the line of duty while protecting national and state parks.