Buck Tracks Volume 17: Field Notes from Marie Buck, WNPA CEO

Hello Everyone,
It feels like we blinked, and winter is knocking at the door! For me, the change in weather is always a special and exciting time. The change in weather allows us to connect to nature and parks in different ways as well. Sparkles of fall colors still abound as bright spots and, in some places, snow has already fallen, and many of our parks begin to plan holiday and seasonal celebrations with special community and cultural events.
Read on for some important WNPA updates!

NPS and WNPA Board and Staff at ORPI
WNPA staff, board members and NPS staff at Organ Pipe National Monument (courtesy of WNPA/Joshua Elz).

November Board Meeting

The week of November 10, the WNPA Board of Directors convened, with a special field trip to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on November 7. The National Park Service (NPS) staff hosted us with warmth and generosity. Superintendent Scott Stonum and Chief of Interpretation Jessica Pope organized an inspirational and educational presentation and guided tour of the park. We visited many sites including Quitobaquito Springs, which was originally inhabited by the Hia C-ed O’odham and the Tohono O’odham. As one of its many initiatives to earnestly consult with the tribal nation, the park informed us that they are currently seeking to provide signage in the park referring to the springs by the O’odham name, A’al Vaipia. This is just one of the park’s many efforts to foster belonging and take important steps to embrace the principles of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI). In addition to the natural wonders that we had the privilege of observing, we also visited the border wall—an emotional experience for many of us on the field trip, and one that I am sure none of us will forget.

I want to thank all the board members who attended—their generosity of time and spirit is integral to advancing our mission and innovating for the future of our parks. I also want to recognize the amazing and tireless efforts of Julie Tainter, our business support manager, whose organization and attention to detail made this packed week of growing, sharing, and collaboration possible.

New WNPA board members Matt Grams and Ben Myers.

Welcome New Board Members!

I am honored to welcome our three newest board directors: Pat Gonzales-Rogers, Matt Grams, and Ben Myers. Pat currently has a dual appointment at the Yale School of the Environment and the Yale Divinity School, teaching a graduate level class on Tribal Natural Resources and Sovereignty as well as supervising a clinic which serves as consultant to the Yurok Tribe. At the Yale Divinity School, he is carrying out advanced research on cultural and sacred sites. Patrick’s lifelong work in tribal policy and advocacy, environmentalism, and public lands will be invaluable to our mission and advancement of our JEDI principles. Matt is a Managing Director at Deloitte & Touche LLP. He has more than 20 years at Deloitte serving a variety of clients with advisory and audit services and has global experience through an international assignment in Costa Rica. He previously spent eight years in the Army National Guard and has been involved in the community through a school board and as a hike leader in a backpacking club. Matt’s personal and professional commitment to education and outdoor recreation, as well as his extensive interorganizational experience will help WNPA as we work to support our more than 70 park partners throughout the West. Ben found his calling at Trader Joe’s 23 years ago. As Executive Vice President of Strategic Planning, he is currently focused on growth plans that serve neighborhoods and communities across the US. He has a passion for underserved communities and has actively supported diversity and inclusion efforts as well as the Trader Joe’s Food Shares Program that helps feed millions of people in need. Ben is committed to service through personal and professional growth, both his own and supporting others’ development. His passion for community and professional focus on JEDI principles will contribute to the vital strength of our amazing board. Welcome Patrick, Matt, and Ben! Board membership is a tireless commitment, and we are so grateful to all of our board members for their passion and generosity in the spirt of loving and protecting national parks!

End-of-Year Appeal: Empowering Parks

Our end-of-year appeal campaign is underway! This year’s theme is Empowering Parks, representing our important mission to work in partnership with the NPS as we support their diverse resources and communities. It is truly a team effort to encourage new donors and nurture enduring relationships. So far, we have had several donations, and we still have a long way to go! A big thank you to Caroline Lochner, our associate director of Regional Programming and Community Outreach, and Sara Hardigan, our senior development coordinator, for heading up the effort, and to the entire team for coming together to make this campaign successful.

Navajo El Malpais National Monument staff showcase their traditional dress (courtesy of NPS).

Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage Month, a time to honor the sovereignty of tribal nations and the contributions of Indigenous peoples from the beginning of human life on this continent to the present day. Native American history is the nation’s history—deeply intertwined with the land and the peoples of what is now called the American West. So many of our NPS partner parks preserve lands and resources that are sacred to Indigenous peoples. We recognize this significant relationship and the fact that Indigenous people have always been stewards of this beautiful and precious landscape. In all regions of the West, there exist and thrive diverse cultures, communities, and nations with rich and proud histories and brilliant futures.

WNPA Staff at Carlsbad Caverns National Park and Marie Buck at Chiricahua National Monument (Courtesy of WNPA).

November Park Visits

On the road to Carlsbad Caverns National Park to celebrate the Centennial on October 25, Michael Matthews and I enjoyed visits to four more of our partner parks.

Our parks’ diversity always amazes me—they offer such wonderful and rich experiences. Whether it’s my first time visiting or a return, I always learn and feel something profoundly new.
Here are a few highlights of our trip to Fort Bowie National Historic Site, Chiricahua National Monument, Chamizal National Memorial, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Between the five parks, we were able to do several hikes, earning the “I Hike for Health” pin. We enjoyed beautiful fall colors, took a lovely walk in an urban park, and had up-close-and-personal encounters with wildlife, including a black-tailed rattlesnake.  But I have to say the best part was meeting and visiting with the amazing National Park Service and Western National Parks Association staff who care deeply about the visitor experience and work so hard behind the scenes.

It was heartwarming to celebrate Carlsbad Caverns National Park’s Centennial with their NPS staff, the community, and our staff.  A big shout out to the NPS staff members who worked so hard to host this event: Chief of Interpretation Michael Larson, Deputy Superintendent Ephriam D. Dickson III, and Acting Supervisory Ranger Anthony J. Mazzucco.  I also want to thank our WNPA team members, Christine Horvath, Lauren Mooney, Steve Dohm, Victor Martinez, Julie Bodenheimer, Paul McCrackin, and Michael Matthews, for the quick road trip and your willingness to jump in wherever necessary to help the park and the NPS.

I was also able to tour Chiricahua National Monument with Superintendent Matthew Carroll.  He took me on a comprehensive tour including the Faraway Ranch, Massai Point, the campground, the visitor center, and more. It was a beautiful day and an opportunity for us both to hike and soak up the beautiful landscape.  It’s always a privilege to spend time with the NPS staff as they are such knowledgeable stewards of the resource.  Often, these public servants are managing not just one amazing park but others, like Fort Bowie National Historic Site and Coronado National Memorial in the case of Matt.

Your support empowers parks!

Your generous gift of $75 or more provides you with a tax-deductible opportunity to make a meaningful impact. You can help support scientific research, promote recreational activities, foster community connections, and inspire the next generation of park stewards.

To make your contribution, click below or visit www.wnpa.org/donate.

By supporting WNPA, you are helping to empower parks for all time. Supporters like you help to make this important work possible.