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National Park Retirees Honor Shelton Johnson With George B. Hartzog Jr. Award


Yosemite Ranger Shelton Johnson is being honored by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees for his work promoting the national parks and encouraging diversity in its visitor ranks.

Yosemite National Park Ranger Shelton Johnson, who gained national attention for his role in the Ken Burns documentary, The National Parks: America's Best Idea, is being honored for his work on behalf of the national parks by the Coalition of National Park Retirees.

The coalition's George Hartzog Award is named after one of the National Park Service’s most distinguished directors, George B. Hartzog, Jr. It is presented by the coalition to the individual or individuals who demonstrate outstanding support for the mission of the National Park System and/or the National Park Service. 

This award is focused on the first two strategic plan goals of the Coalition: 1.) protect and defend the National Park System and the mission of the National Park Service; and 2.) instill public understanding and appreciation of the origins, purpose, and ideals of the National Park System and the National Park Service.

“Ranger Johnson was cited for his pivotal role in the Ken Burn’s documentary, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea and for his life mission of making our national park areas accessible to all Americans," said Rick Smith, who chair's the coalition's Executive Council. "His interpretive programs are among Yosemite’s most popular and well-attended. Millions of viewers of Oprah Winfrey’s day-time talk show watched her camping trip in Yosemite that was the result of an invitation to her by Ranger Johnson.”
Past winners include former NPS historian, Richard West Sellars, for his book, Preserving Nature in the National Parks; Randy Roberson, a West Yellowstone tour operator who has led the way to converting public winter use in Yellowstone to the more environmentally-friendly snow coaches; Congressman Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., then chair of the House Sub-Committee on National Park, Forests and Public Lands, and; Loren Fraser, who served as the main staff person for the National Park Second Century Commission that produced a series of recommendations to help the National Park Service launch its second century of service to the American people in 2016.

Ranger Johnson will be presented the award at an appropriate ceremony in Yosemite National Park where he has worked for the last 17 years.

This is just the latest award Ranger Johnson has received for his interpretive skills and promotion of the national parks. In December 2009 he was recognized for his excellence as a national park interpreter with the Freeman Tilden Award. The award is the highest given by the National Park Service for excellence in interpretation.


Congratulations Ranger Johnson. You are definitely the one who made "America's Best Idea" for me. My family and I visited Yosemite this summer. I'm sorry we missed you. But we loved the Park anyway.

Congratulations Ranger Johnson!  My husband and I saw the documentary on PBS, and were moved by your passion and commitment.  The Buffalo Soldiers came alive for us.  Thank you for your dedication to our precious parks, and for sharing that devotion with such joy. 

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