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U.S. Department of the Interior
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Ms. Rene Ohms

One Person at a Small Park Can Make a Big Difference, Jewel Cave National Monument, National Park Service, South Dakota

Point of Contact

Ms. Rene Ohms
(307) 467-5283 x212


Ms. Rene Ohms, Physical Science Technician at Jewel Cave National Monument, coordinated efforts that led to the park's success in becoming a member of the Climate Friendly Parks Program (CFP).  Because of Ms. Ohms' efforts, the park was able to complete greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories and develop a modified environmental management system (MEMS) and CFP Plan, in order to attain CFP status.  Jewel Cave was the first park to successfully complete a MEMS/CFP Plan.  Ms. Ohms also shared her lessons learned with other parks in the Black Hills area by coordinating and leading two CFP workshops, helping these parks make their way toward CFP status.


Jewel Cave National Monument is a small park with a small staff and visitation of less than 100,000.  However, that small size belies the impact that one person can have on a park's sustainability operation.  Physical Science Technician Rene Ohms has provided outstanding leadership of the park's efforts toward compliance with Executive Orders 13423 and 13514 and addressing Call to Action Goals.  Rene's innovative ideas to save energy and recycle more items have inspired other employees to join the effort to incorporate sustainability in all park projects since 2010. Rene Ohms with local students during Green Team Day at Jewel Cave.
The Jewel Cave National Monument "Green Team" was established in 2010, and Rene became the first chair.  Through her leadership, by example, and with innovation, park employees began to integrate energy conservation and sustainability ideas into all park operations.  Probably the most remarkable aspect of Rene's leadership of the "Green Team" has been the subtle, yet apparent, sea-change in how park employees view the importance of these issues.  As a result, the park planning team for some key projects (Visitor Center parking lot and ticketing kiosk replacement, and Visitor Center bookstore and theater addition) has incorporated sustainability techniques into the design features as they coordinated with the Denver Service Center (DSC).  This included planning for recycling of the old parking lot asphalt and ensuring sustainable design features were incorporated into the ticket kiosk being designed by the DSC's A&E contractor.  Significant project cost savings have resulted in the project which is due for construction in 2013.  Worn out cave tour aluminum stair treads were recycled.  Hot water heaters were analyzed for use and taken off line when not needed, resulting in energy and cost savings.  Rene led the evaluation of alternative LED cave tour lights.  These energy saving lights were determined to be feasible and a PMIS project was submitted to replace the existing, inefficient incandescent lights.  Rene led the effort to replace fluorescent light bulbs in the two 28-story cave elevators with T8 LED lights, saving energy. These accomplishments are all the more remarkable when considering the Green Team's initial budget was only six dollars!

In FY12, Rene oversaw the completion of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Inventories from 2008-2011 through the use of the Climate Leadership in Parks (CLIP) Tool, completing Milestone 2 of the Climate Friendly Parks Program (CFP) (addressing EO 13514, Call to Action Goal 23 "Go Green").  The data was compiled and entered into the CLIP Tool through the use of a Volunteer-in-Park who also assisted several other parks in the Black Hills area with their GHG Inventories, which is a daunting task.  Rene helped coordinate and instructed at two CFP Workshops for Jewel Cave and eight other Midwest Region and Intermountain Region parks in the Black Hills.  The parks were grouped according to each park's Sustainability Challenges.  The workshops were a great success and in the spirit of a "rising tide lifts all boats", helped all the parks in the Black Hills (AGFO, BADL, DETO, FOLA, MIMI, MORU, SCBL, and WICA) get closer to achieving their CFP status by completing Milestone 2.

Rene led the effort to complete a Modified Environmental Management System (MEMS) and Climate Friendly Parks Plan, which is Milestone 4 of the CFP process, and the last hurdle toward CFP status.  Jewel Cave was the first park to successfully complete a MEMS/CFP Plan as there was no existing template to use.  Employees were pleased to learn that Jewel Cave was recently notified of its success in becoming a Climate Friendly Park.

Through her low-key, steady and consistent approach, Rene Ohms has led the way in helping Jewel Cave "Go Green" for several years.  She is a demonstrated sustainability champion and agent of change at Jewel Cave National Monument.  Rene inspires and motivates other park employees to help meet agency and park goals in addressing sustainability and Climate Change, one small step at a time.  Through her actions and her leadership, she reminds and reassures us that one person can indeed make a big difference.

Results and Achievements

Through Rene Ohms' leadership of the park's Green Team, significant results have been obtained.

  • Created a Green Team e-Newsletter and distributed it to all employees.  Developed and presented Green Team training for new employee orientation.
  • The Green Team's accomplishments were highlighted in the park newspaper for the past two years. 
  • Initiated an all-employee energy usage contest, and awarded prizes to the resident(s) with the lowest per-capita energy consumption.  Park housing electrical usage was metered for a 2-month period and those not living in park housing could also participate by bringing in their power bills from home.  Winners received a reusable water bottle and a solar phone charger.  While this effort was more successful in educating employees than it was in reducing energy consumption, it successfully raised energy use awareness among park employees.  (EO 13423, Call to Action Goal 23 “Go Green”, submitted as a “Best Practice” on “My Green Parks” website).
  • Presented a hands-on, “Green Team Day” environmental education program on recycling and water quality to the “Adopt a Class” program for the Custer, SD Middle School Class of 2016 (Call to Action Goal 15 “A Class Act”).
  • Developed and implemented a park specific Environmental Purchasing PowerPoint training session for all purchase card holders and an Environmental Purchasing Plan (EO 13423, Call to Action Goal 23 “Go Green”).
  • Led the park to completion of all CFP Milestones, resulting in Jewel Cave NM attaining CFP certification in Feb. 2013 (EO 13514, Call to Action Goal 23 “Go Green”).
  • Led the effort to recycle more items, especially remarkable in that the local area does not offer recycling services.  Rene and the Green Team contacted the senders of unwanted mailings like catalogs coming to long-gone former employees, and stopped further deliveries, reducing the amount of waste paper significantly (EO 13514, Call to Action Goal 23 “Go Green”).


Rene Ohms has been a "force multiplier" by inspiring other park employees to greater awareness and involvement in sustainability and energy conservation efforts.  Employees have aggressively incorporated sustainability into project designs, begun carpooling, and found ways to reduce energy use.  In addition, Rene and the Green Team have provided in-person and on-line training for park employees in the Green Team's role and function, and in Environmental Purchasing.  Articles about Jewel Cave's progress have appeared in the Midwest Region Sustainable News In Parks (SNIPS) Newsletter of Jan. 2013 and a Case Study for Jewel Cave will appear in the upcoming NPS 2012 Annual Environmental Report.  Two "Best Practices" were submitted to the My Green Parks website for reducing unwanted mail and the employee energy conservation contest.