Giving Back to the Heroes of the National Park Service

Emily KaminNPF Blog

There are over 400 units in the National Park System, ranging from battlefields and monuments to parks, lakeshores, recreation areas, and more. They can be found in almost every state and U.S. territory. And the one thing they all have in common? A well-trained and passionate staff of protectors – the unsung heroes of the National Park System – our park rangers in gray and green!

The park system is run by more than 20,000 employees, including the park rangers that we know and love, as well as behind-the-scenes employees like administrative and finance staff, scientists, curators, and archeologists, among many others. The public entrusts these staffers with the task of protecting our treasured lands, guiding visitors, and making sure that the park system runs smoothly.

The National Park Foundation helps equip National Park Service employees with updated tools and training in their fields. One way we do this is by providing Albright-Wirth grants for unique professional development opportunities. These grants offer employees the chance to build specialized technical skills in support of their jobs at the parks, their species and ecosystems, and the surrounding communities.

Protecting Species


In 2018, Robert Cherry, a wildlife biologist at Blue Ridge Parkway, used his grant to study native bat species and to learn how to best handle and protect this vital member of the park’s ecosystem.

And in 2019, a staff person at Crater Lake National Park will travel to their sister park, Slovenia’s Triglav National Park, to learn about aquatic ecology.

Preparing for Emergencies

Two NPS employees training for emergency rescues in a canyon.
Brian Hayes

Other staff used their Albright-Wirth grants to receive special training to provide safety for park visitors and ensure that they would be ready to respond to an emergency. William Butler, a backcountry ranger at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, took a 23-day Advanced Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification course. A group of rangers at Everglades National Park took an Emergency Dispatch training, while another group attended a conference for police, fire, and medical dispatch. In 2019, nearly $20,000 of funding will provide fire and aviation training and EMT certification for another set of NPS employees.

Since 2009, NPF has helped to administer over $1 million in funding through the Albright-Wirth grants, which has helped countless NPS employees refine and develop their expertise.

Learning From our Friends Abroad

NPS employee Moss Rudley training in Scotland

In 2018, the National Park Foundation enabled superintendents of three U.S. national parks to travel overseas to learn about best practices in park management from their colleagues at three foreign parks. Moss Rudley, superintendent of the Historic Preservation Training Center, gained insight into Scotland’s apprentice programs which he will use as he develops a Traditional Trades Apprentice program at his center. Kevin Schneider, superintendent of Acadia National Park, visited Wilson's Promontory National Park in Australia and observed how their incident command system responds to heavy rains. Katmai National Park & Preserve’s superintendent learned about approaches to wildlife management at South Africa’s Kruger National Park.

Getting Teachers in the Field

Ranger talking to group about park
National Park Service

The National Park Foundation’s professional development support doesn’t stop with National Park Service employees! We also help classroom teachers connect with and learn from the best in the National Park System by funding the Teacher-Ranger-Teacher Program (TRT), which trains educators on how to use national parks as classrooms.

In 2018, fourteen teachers participated in the TRT program at 19 national parks. Each of these teachers completed online courses, participated in 35 hours of training at a park, and spent 160 hours working on a lesson plan. One TRT found her time at Manzanar National Historic Site to be so informative, she rewrote her whole curriculum for 4th grade California history. According to her, “[she] expected it to be great, but it was life-changing.”

National Park Service employees do so much for us and we are happy to be able to give back to them. Donate today to help us invest in one of our park system’s greatest assets – its employees!


I'm interested in any tree planting or land protection volunteering or organizing opportunities you might be aware of. I'm sure you're aware that a landmark study recently published found that contrary to earlier beliefs, planting trees in great enough numbers could be a huge help in the fight against climate change and I want to participate somehow in that effort. Any information you could direct me to would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

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