DOINews: NPS: Bil Vandergraff Receives 2014 Harry Yount Award

Last edited 09/05/2019

Bil Vandergraff -- 2014 recipient of the National Park Service's Harry Yount Award
Grand Canyon Ranger Bil Vandergraff is the 2014 recipient of the Harry Yount Award, the National Park Service's highest ranger honor. Photo by NPS.

Deep in the Grand Canyon, “One L Bil” is the go to guy for any situation. Renowned for his extensive skills, calm demeanor, and institutional knowledge, Park Ranger Bil Vandergraff has been involved in more than 2,000 search-and-rescue missions in the park.

Yesterday, he was named the 2014 recipient of the National Park Service's highest ranger honor – the Harry Yount Award.

“With 25 years of experience in the Grand Canyon, chances are, no matter what it is, Bil has been there and seen it before,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “Park visitors are in good hands with this extremely dedicated and capable public servant on watch.”

“This week, National Park Week, we are encouraging everyone to Find Your Park,” said Vandergraff. “I found my park 25 years ago and never left. I've had many good days working and patrolling in the remote backcountry of this remarkable place. I am happy that I have been able to play a small role in the long and honorable tradition of protecting our national parks and its visitors.”

Vandergraff's search-and-rescue proficiency is legendary. Many times he has concurrently managed multiple search-and-rescue and backcountry operations and done so safely and effectively. His subject-matter expertise and engaging manner, along with his encyclopedic knowledge of the park's trails, routes, and resources, have made him a successful incident responder and manager, as well as trainer and mentor.

For several years, he was an integral part of the park's aviation program, as both a helicopter manager and short-haul spotter on more than 500 flights. He worked with the helitack crews to integrate search-and-rescue coordination into risk-management decisions to make all hazard operations safer and more efficient.

His contributions extend beyond park boundaries. He co-developed the National Park Service Search Management Action Plan, which provides all parks with a concise easy-to-follow model of best practices. He is also a respected instructor who has taught more than 20 search-and-rescue courses throughout the country. He has traveled across the nation to assist with search-and-rescue operations and has gone as far as Bolivia to help with a mission.

The Harry Yount Award is named after the first known national park ranger. Like Yount, who patrolled the wilds of Yellowstone in the 19th century, Vandergraff's natural qualities, skill, and drive enable him to excel in the art and science of rangering. Vandergraff will receive the award at a ceremony hosted by the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America's national parks, in Washington, D.C., in June.

By: Kathy Kupper, NPS

April 22, 2015

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