Award Honorees

Congratulations to our award honorees.

Alfred Runte, PhD
photo of alfred runte
2021 Stewart L. Udall Award

Author, professor, and researcher Alfred Runte, PhD, received the 2021 Stewart L. Udall Award from Western National Parks Association (WNPA). His long-standing work studying National Park Service (NPS) was fueled by his dedication to higher learning and academia.

For four years as a young adult, Runte served in NPS as an interpretive ranger at Yosemite National Park. He completed a master’s thesis studying the National Park System at Illinois State University and a PhD in American environmental history at UC Santa Barbara. This led to his significant time contributing to the same school’s environmental studies program and a well-recognized career teaching at five higher learning institutions.

Runte wrote National Parks: The American Experience in 1979, renowned as a definitive study of the national parks concept. In 2021, more than one hundred thousand copies of Runte’s books were in circulation, and many appear in WNPA stores across the West.

His research surrounding the relationships of NPS with the rest of the world is significant and has led to numerous media appearances, including Nightline, the Today show, 48 Hours, and the History and Travel Channels. Notably, he was featured in all six episodes of the popular Ken Burns PBS series, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, where he was consulted for research and shared credit for its impact. As a significant voice for NPS, Runte has been and continues to be a tireless champion of the NPS message across a variety of media.

Dr. Ana Houseal
photo of Dr. Ana Houseal
2020 Stewart L. Udall Award

Editors of the book America’s Largest Classroom: What We Learn from Our National Parks, Dr. Ana Houseal and Dr. Jessica Thompson, received the Western National Park Association’s (WNPA) 2020 Stewart L. Udall Award.

One of the first of its kind, the book offers a wide range of innovative case studies illustrating how youth are learning in America’s best outdoor classroom: national parks. It also emphasizes reaching more diverse groups of students. These experiences lead students to be resilient, expand their interests, and work toward high aspirations.

The book contains 21 chapters written by more than 40 authors. It addresses the powerful, experiential learning of STEM, social studies, history, and culture through national parks. It was recognized with a Silver Award from the National Nonfiction Book Competition in July 2020.

Houseal and Thompson also created an issue of Parks Stewardship Forum containing both articles from the book and new articles in collaboration with Whiskeytown Environmental School’s Ellen Petrick. The forum is an online, interdisciplinary, open-access, and peer-reviewed journal published by the University of California Institute for Parks, People, and Biodiversity and the George Wright Forum.

Both the book and journal’s legacy will generate university courses related to environmental education and use in the professional fields of conservation and interpretation of public lands. Because of its profiling of projects involving K–12 students, they will also support organizations interested in improving STEM education and experiences for youth. Thanks to Houseal and Thompson’s work, these publications will continue providing insight into the education that national parks provide for years to come.

Dr. Jessica Thompson
photo of Dr. Jessica Thompson
2020 Stewart L. Udall Award

Editors of the book America’s Largest Classroom: What We Learn from Our National Parks, Dr. Jessica Thompson and Dr. Ana Houseal, received the Western National Park Association’s (WNPA) 2020 Stewart L. Udall Award.

One of the first of its kind, the book offers a wide range of innovative case studies illustrating how youth are learning in America’s best outdoor classroom: national parks. It also emphasizes reaching more diverse groups of students. These experiences lead students to be resilient, expand their interests, and work toward high aspirations.

The book contains 21 chapters written by more than 40 authors. It addresses the powerful, experiential learning of STEM, social studies, history, and culture through national parks. It was recognized with a Silver Award from the National Nonfiction Book Competition in July 2020.

Thompson and Houseal also created an issue of Parks Stewardship Forum containing both articles from the book and new articles in collaboration with Whiskeytown Environmental School’s Ellen Petrick. The forum is an online, interdisciplinary, open-access, and peer-reviewed journal published by the University of California Institute for Parks, People, and Biodiversity and the George Wright Forum.

Both the book and journal’s legacy will generate university courses related to environmental education and use in the professional fields of conservation and interpretation of public lands. Because of its profiling of projects involving K–12 students, they will also support organizations interested in improving STEM education and experiences for youth. Thanks to Thompson and Houseal’s work, these publications will continue providing insight into the education that national parks provide for years to come.

Monique VanLandingham
photo of monique van landingham
2020 Edward B. Danson Award

Monique VanLandingham was awarded the Edward B. Danson Award in 2020 for her loyalty to Western National Parks Association (WNPA) and other cooperating associations. She is also recognized for her role as a critical link in National Park Service (NPS) policy and communications, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Her position as a program manager for Cooperating Associations and Partnerships in NPS’ Washington, DC, office involves coordinating parks and their partners within NPS and working through challenges and conflicts. She provides clarity when confusion arises, interprets what she has heard in the field, and communicates to agency leaders. In all her endeavors, VanLandingham is concise, accurate, and always strives to follow through on every situation in which she is involved.

During the pandemic, VanLandingham worked closely with the cooperating association community, most notably WNPA and Eastern National, to understand the impacts of COVID-19 on parks, park visitors and cooperating associations. She was instrumental in coordinating official communication from the NPS acting director to regional leadership and spreading awareness across the agency about the gravity of the pandemic. Her initiative helped lead the parks through the unprecedented times NPS faced in 2020.

VanLandingham’s work providing communications and ethics guidance to park leaders is felt in the positive changes that can be seen across NPS. Under her influence, park superintendents became more actively involved in their partnerships with cooperating associations. Updated language and new expectations of the parks in their relationships with their partners are the direct results of VanLandingham’s unwavering support of WNPA and cooperating associations alike.

Dr. Gary M. Fellers
2019 Email W. Haury Award

The late Dr. Gary M. Fellers received the Emil W. Haury Award in 2019 from Western National Parks Association (WNPA).

Fellers’s research across a wide scope of subjects influenced the current understanding of conservation practices and sampling methods. His work benefits National Park Service (NPS) and conservationists alike.

The Natural Research Award was awarded to Fellers from the Pacific West Region of NPS in 2004. His research encompassed a range of issues such as cattle grazing, invasive plants and animals, wildfire, and threatened and endangered species.

Fellers researched the Point Reyes mountain beaver after a wildland fire burned 40 percent of the known range of the isolated subspecies. His findings formed the basis of a new protection program at Point Reyes National Seashore, which helped foster a better understanding of natural resources.

His work radio-tracking red-legged frogs found that the frogs travel from breeding ponds to streams. This revealed the importance of preserving stream habitat. In collaboration with other biologists, he documented the decline of amphibian species in the Sierra Nevada and the Cascade Range and identified causes for those declines. Innovative methods for sampling developed by Fellers have become standard in national parks, including the detection of bats by their vocalizations rather than by mist-netting.

The continuation of Fellers’s work has expanded the understanding of bat roosting ecology and changed the conservation approach for amphibians. Fellers passed away in November of 2019 and is remembered for his long career of outstanding work as a member of NPS, National Biological Service, and the Biological Resources Discipline of the US Geological Survey.

Kevin R. Mohr
photo of jim cook presenting an award to Kevin Mohr
2019 Edward B. Danson Award

The recipient of the 2019 Western National Parks Association’s (WNPA) Edward B. Danson Award, Kevin R. Mohr, has proven himself a loyal supporter of WNPA since joining Washita Battlefield National Historic Site (NHS).

Mohr started working with National Park Service (NPS) in 2007, first at Carlsbad Caverns National Park and, later, at Everglades National Park. In September 2014, he arrived at Washita Battlefield NHS as chief of interpretation and operations.

WNPA awarded Mohr a project grant in 2015 to create a kiosk for Washita Battlefield NHS’s visitor center that addressed critical accessibility deficiencies in the existing exhibits. The resulting project relied on multisensory display techniques and audio-haptic interactivity to create an accessible, portable, and engaging kiosk. It presented information via a combination of the touch-sensitive screen, tactile graphics, braille, and visual images. The project received the NPS Interpretive Design Project Achievement Accessibility Award in 2017.

In partnership with Dr. Michael Jordan of Texas Tech University, Mohr was awarded a WNPA research grant that resulted in the discovery of a historic ledger art drawing. This drawing, depicting an element of the Battle of the Washita from the Cheyenne perspective, was incorporated into the park’s brochure under Mohr’s direction.

He also collaborated with WNPA and created new retail logos and merchandise celebrating the Washita Battlefield NHS’ 150th commemoration. The 150th commemorative newspaper featured a full-page advertisement designed by WNPA and directed by Mohr. Additionally, he organized a collaboration with USDA Forest Service, which shares facilities with Washita Battlefield NHS, resulting in Smokey Bear merchandise sold through WNPA.

Mohr coordinated with the WNPA team, continuing discussions of merchandise, logos, sales, and the Aid to Parks program at Washita Battlefield NHS. During his time with the park, Mohr continually worked to strengthen the relationship between organizations and supported WNPA at every turn.

 

Kurt Repanshek
photo of jim cook presenting an award to Kurt Repanshek
2019 Stewart L. Udall Award

Kurt Repanshek, the founder of the popular National Parks Traveler (NPT), was awarded the Stewart L. Udall Award by Western National Parks Association (WNPA) in 2019 for his web magazine’s outstanding coverage of the National Park Service (NPS). Since its creation in 2005, the NPT has become the top-rated, editorially independent online publication devoted to the National Park System and NPS.

In 2019, the NPT boasted an annual readership of three million. At that time, more than a quarter million Facebook users eagerly looked to it for daily news, feature articles, and thoughtful commentary about the people, parks, and challenges of NPS. In February of 2019, NPT introduced a new weekly podcast series with thirty-three thousand downloads and counting.

The coverage of the magazine revolved around a myriad of national park issues. Most notably, it broke the story of vandalism and tree loss at Joshua Tree National Park, which was cited by CNN, the Washington Post, and other national media. The magazine has never shied away from controversy in its reporting, providing candor and fairness in the stories it reports.

Outside of the magazine, Repanshek is the author of several park service–related books published over the past two decades. He transitioned the magazine to a nonprofit enterprise before his retirement to ensure the continuation of its mission to “nourish, unite, and inform a national community of national park enthusiasts and lovers of parks.” His work over the years provides an insight into the national parks and carries the park message to audiences across the country.