Award recipients recognized for contributions to WNPA and national parks
Tucson, Arizona (December 16, 2022)—On November 9, 2022, Western National Parks Association (WNPA) announced the recipients of its annual awards. For more than 30 years, WNPA has recognized individuals and organizations who make exceptional contributions to national parks and increase awareness of WNPA’s mission.
“With climate change reminders ever present, it is more important than ever to celebrate those who protect and bring awareness to our majestic, irreplaceable outdoor spaces, and those who strive to ensure their accessibility into the future,” said Marie Buck, chief executive officer of WNPA, which has been a nonprofit education partner of the National Park Service (NPS) since 1938. “This year’s impressive award winners have spent decades making a difference—or are just embarking as ambassadors of our parks. We congratulate and thank them as they help us advance the important mission of our national park system.”
Steven A. LeBlanc, archaeologist, researcher, and renowned author, received the Emil W. Haury Lifetime Achievement Award for 50-plus years of study in the ancestral Puebloan culture of the American Southwest. Known for his pathbreaking conclusion that violence and strife played vital roles in the region, LeBlanc is the author of two books influential to the study of archaeology and the understanding of cultures across the globe: Explanation in Archaeology: An Explicitly Scientific Approach and Prehistoric Warfare in the American Southwest. LeBlanc created a foundation to protect and research surviving Mimbres cultural sites in New Mexico and also established the Mimbres Archive, which has cataloged more than ten thousand ceramics. LeBlanc’s examination of tree-ring data to determine the collapse of two linked cultures, and his revolutionary use of DNA technology to study ancient peoples, illustrate just two highlights of his trailblazing archaeological career. LeBlanc’s fingerprints can be seen on myriad projects: in his contributions to more than a hundred books, through the preservation of crucial archaeological sites and artifacts viewable at national parks and museums, in thousands of citations of scholarly work, and as subject matter in countless classrooms. He has held positions at the Southwest Museum, University of New Mexico’s Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, and the Peabody Museum at Harvard.
The Emil W. Haury Lifetime Achievement Award honors individuals who have made a significant and lasting contribution to scholarly research in the national parks and monuments over the course of a career or lifetime. Haury, a preeminent archaeologist and anthropologist, devoted his career to chronicling the prehistory of the Southwest, compiling the most complete cultural history of any region in North America. He is most famous for his work at Snaketown, a Hohokam site in Arizona. Haury was the first to claim that the Hohokam were descendants of the Paleoindian Cochise culture. In 1938, he was instrumental in founding the Southwest Monuments Association, renamed Western National Parks Association in 2002. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Park System Advisory Board, Haury died in Tucson, Arizona, in 1992.
Callum Cintron, an anthropology and natural resources student at Oregon State University, received the Ernest Quintana and Marty Sterkel Education Scholarship. A transgender person with a disability, Cintron is most concerned with issues of safety and accessibility in the country’s parks and is determined to ensure that public lands—especially national parks—are accessible to everyone. They have worked as a volunteer apprentice at Partnership for the National Trail System and helped plan the group’s National Trails Workshop in 2022. As an active member on the DEI committee, which works to foster “an inclusive, diverse, equitable and accessible culture throughout the National Trail System,” Cintron’s work has also helped elevate Indigenous knowledge and stewardship. They embody the values that the Ernest Quintana and Marty Sterkel Education Scholarship was founded on: supporting those who aim to increase diversity in the workforce of the National Park Service and similar land management and resource agencies.
The Ernest Quintana and Marty Sterkel Education Scholarship was established at WNPA in 2016 by retired NPS leader and former WNPA board member Ernie Quintana and his friend and NPS colleague Marty Sterkel. The scholarship’s goal is to support individuals whose intended use of the scholarship and career goals will increase diversity in the workforce of the NPS and similar land management or resource agencies. The scholarship provides for college tuition and internships in areas of study relevant to parks management, conservation, and other special study opportunities targeting the same goal. WNPA hopes to inspire individuals from all backgrounds to consider careers serving as NPS and other similar resource professionals. The Ernest Quintana and Marty Sterkel Education Scholarship aims to change the lives of diverse young people and change the future of our public lands.
Rianne Kravitz, the first recipient of the James E. Cook Nature’s Classroom Grant, is a teacher at Developing Virtue Secondary School, a private Buddhist boarding school in Ukiah, California. She plans to use the grant to fund a trip to Pinnacles National Park for eight girls who have never been camping. They will spend two days with park rangers and the Ventana Wildlife Society, helping researchers monitor the endangered California condor, maintain the birds’ natural habitat, and identify challenges to condor survival. As they learn responsible stewardship, the group also will spend time beautifying the park with cleanup activities and trail maintenance, practicing the habit of “leaving no trace.” Upon return, participants will share their experience and knowledge with fellow classmates and the community. As part of their own conservation efforts at the school, students will build a monarch butterfly habitat. The goal, according to Kravitz, is to instill a love of nature, which needs protecting. Kravitz’s vision mirrors the WNPA’s mission of introducing young people to national treasures in the hopes that they will be inspired to protect them for future generations.
The James E. Cook Nature’s Classroom Grant, named in honor of Western National Parks Association’s chief executive officer from 2011 to 2022, was established to increase access to national parks for underrepresented K–12 youth. It provides funding for educators to bring national parks to the classroom and the classroom to national parks. During Cook’s tenure, WNPA incorporated the principles of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in its mandate, and worked to make our partner parks more accessible, more welcoming, and more inclusive of all peoples and their stories to represent the full breadth of experiences related to these important lands. Based on the premise of inclusivity, WNPA strives to cultivate a passion for parks in youth, as well as a greater appreciation and understanding of our natural and cultural heritage, to foster the next generation of park advocates.
WNPA helps make the national park experience possible for everyone. As a nonprofit education partner of the NPS, WNPA supports parks across the West, developing products, services, and programs that enhance the visitor experience, understanding, and appreciation of national parks. Since 1938, WNPA has worked to connect new generations to parks in meaningful ways, all with one simple goal: create advocates who want to preserve and protect these special places for everyone, for all time. Learn more at www.wnpa.org.
By: Melissa Crytzer Fry