Wildlife (2014)

Wildlife (2014)

hello, my name is andrew gertge and i’ma park ranger in glacier bay national park and preserve, a spectacular park in southeastalaska. this is my fourth season with the park service already, and third in alaska.i’m an interpretive ranger, which means i give programs to thousands of people, thousandsof visitors to our park on large cruise ships and on smaller tour boats, and even on hikesand walks here in our spectacularly beautiful

Wildlife (2014)

Wildlife (2014), temperate rainforest. you know, i haven’talways been a park ranger. in fact, my undergraduate degree was in economics and french and i wasin very much on an international trade and commerce track. i lived in large cities ineast asia, north america, and in europe. but national parks have always been importantto me. i grew up in colorado and montana and

many of my fondest childhood memories tookplace in national parks. rocky mountain park and yellowstone, in particular. and i alsofell in love with a man for the first time in one of our national parks. so clearly they’reimportant places to me, as well. but it wasn’t until living in east asia, this real compact,concrete experience that i realized just how vital our national parks are for me. beingable to work in the wildlands of alaska has not only helped me recover from living inthese large urban areas that really numbed me to the core, but i have never felt morealive anywhere else. i have also found that my co-workers here at glacier bay have beensome of the most incredible inclusive and affirming community that i have ever experienced,as well. now i’m fully aware that in alaska

and working for the federal government ingeneral, we are still working toward full equality. yet working alongside such remarkablepeople in such powerful places makes it all worthwhile for me. these places continuallyteach me more about adventure, and about perspective, and beauty and about hope. and that is whatexcites me about the future. and that is why i work for the national park service, in alaskaat glacier bay national park and preserve. my name is samantha richert. and i am thecurator at klondike gold rush national historical park in skagway, alaska. i chose to work forthe national park service because it’s the number one public history agency in the unitedstates and i think that public history is a really important part of us being bettercitizens. sometimes working in a diverse group

means that we have to work harder to understandeach other and that is challenging but it is also very rewarding when we can see theworld from other people’s perspectives. i moved to a very welcoming community thati’m very fond of, but i had to leave behind a very close knit group of friends that ithink of as my queer family in seattle to take this job, and that’s been difficult.i would designate the harvey milk national historical site, and i would use that siteto talk about shared experience that many gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queerpeople have which is leaving their home communities and moving to an urban setting so that theycan find a very supporting community. and that experience is something that i thinkkind of unique to us.

hi i’m ranger tim rains and i’m a mediaspecialist for denali national park and preserve, as well as the program coordinator for the denaliartist-in-residence program and the denali arts program. i work for the national parkservice because it’s an opportunity to share my love of these wild places with others,through photography, music, writing, and the arts. i remember as a kid visiting yosemitenational park with my family, and we attended an evening ranger program held at the curryvillage amphitheater. the ranger was showing a video montage ofdifferent natural highlights at yosemite all set to the sounds of violins and piano. therewas one image in particular that stuck with me through the years. it was early morning.half dome was reflected on the waters of mirror

lake i remember thinking that i wanted tocreate that art. i wanted to share that story. it was several years ago that i had my firstopportunity to share that story. i was hired as an interpretive park ranger at glacierbay park and preserve in southeast alaska. there i would board the tour boats and thecruise ships, and i would talk about glaciers, bears, whales, and wilderness. and it wasan amazing first season. however, it was early in my second season that i got a phone callfrom my mom, and she was telling me that she was having heart problems. and as the ideaof what that meant sank in i realized that here is this woman who had taken me to allthese different national parks, who had been influential in my decision to become a nationalpark ranger, and yet she didn’t know me

for who i truly was. there was a secret thati kept from her for almost my entire life, and i kept that secret from the rest of myfamily, from my co-workers and from my friends. and i began to struggle with that. there camea point in time when i woke up in the middle of the night and i could no longer feel themagic of glacier bay. and up until that point places like glacier bay and yosemite had alwaysbeen somewhere where i could go where the magic of nature still lives and thrives. aplace where i could get in touch with a sense of who i am and my spirituality. and to nolonger feel that? that was devastating. so i began to talk. and luckily for me i hadthat strong support network of co-workers and friends, and began to explore some ofthose issues. at the same time that was going

on i was also building my programs for theseason. i realized that there was a commonality between the two, that there was a shared message.that we all visit these places with someone we love. be it your mother, your father, yoursister, maybe it’s your extended family, a close group of friends, or that specialsomeone. and i began to share that message with the visitors, and the response i gotwas huge. there was this great outpouring of support and they began to share their storiesof what it was like to visit these national parkswith the people that they loved. now over the course of the season through the strongsupport of my co-workers and my friends and the visitors, i was finally able to utterthe words “yes, i am a gay man” for the

first time. and although it may have takenme 32 years to say it, what a beautiful place to say it for the first time. now as luckwould have it that following season i landed my dream job in denali national park and preserve.once again, i was in a place that spoke without words. i found myself in this vast intensewilderness, and for the first time in my life i had that opportunityto be in a place of solitude where i could explore the idea of what does it mean to bea gay man? what does it mean to be a gay man in rural alaska? there’s something powerfulabout the idea that places like this have been set aside that someone like me who’sstruggling can be in a place of solitude, and can have that opportunity to begin toheal.

now i live in a remote community just outsidethe park. there are about 400 people or so in the wintertime and about 2 to 3,000 peoplein the summertime. the closest city fairbanks is about two hours away. so it is definitelyremote. however, i am not alone. there are other gay men here. when i talk to them aboutwhat it means to live in this community, the general attitude is that it is a live andlet live society. however, when i first arrived i didn’t want to talk about being gay. ididn’t want to let people to know. because i was afraid i wouldn’t be able to fit in.i was afraid i wouldn’t make friends. i was afraid that i wouldn’t be able to makethose necessary contacts to finish my projects. however, i found that once thatonce i started talking about it the opposite

was true. i ended up meeting all these greatnew people. and i was able to focus on my work more. and my life has actually been farricher for it. when i was growing up i didn’t want to be labeled as gay. and so i avoidedall the common stereotypes. i watched my lisp. i watched to make sure my hand wasn’t limp.i used phrases like “that’s gay” to refer to something that didn’t belong eventhough it hurt inside. and when it came to career choices i made sure i didn’t go intographic design, or interior decorating, or the arts. cause i didn’t want to be pushedor labeled into that culture. however, when i met other gay men in the park service theyheld firefighter jobs, law enforcement. and i realized they were accepted for who theywere and that i would be accepted for who i was.

part of working for the national park serviceis wearing the uniform. and that means you get to wear that iconic ranger hat. when youput that hat on it comes with a certain amount of responsibility. you’re being asked to takecare of one of the greatest legacies of the american public. that idea of the nationalparks is one that is not subject to prejudice, and that’s when diversity becomes a strength.because it doesn’t matter who you are, what background you come from, or how you liveyour life, for the people who love and visit these places there is someone else out therelike you who will listen to your message and see that if you can be a part of this idea,they can be a part of this idea, as well. although i do have the support of my co-workersand my friends it is still difficult to be

a gay man in today’s society because thereality is that i don’t have the same rights as others. and i recognize that there arestill steps that need to be taken to ensure the equality of all lgbt americans. however,i am proud to wear the hat, as much as i am proud of who i am. i do believe that i havethe full support of the national park service. they set a high bar of who we can be. andthey’re also an active voice for change. at the end of the day when i’m out hikingand photographing this wilderness, and i’m watching this sunset over the alaskan range,i know in my heart that places like denali and glacier bay have shaped the man that iam today. and i am forever grateful for that. this is a beautiful place to be, to live,to work, and ultimately, to love.


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