GLEN JEAN, WV (WOAY) – Two park rangers from Iceland just spent a week at New River Gorge National River learning about park management and the U.S. national park system. Their visit is a part of a partnership program with the US State Department, Washington NPS Legislative Affairs and the National Park Service. The Icelandic ministry is working with the National Park Service to share resources, ideas, polices, management strategies, ranger activities, and safety and risk management tools. The NPS is known throughout the world as a leader in park management and was asked to provide guidance to Iceland in their development and management of their national parks. In developing this partnership, Superintendent Lizzie Watts traveled to Iceland to be a keynote speaker at the Icelandic Environmental Conference for the ministry of Iceland. She also meet park managers throughout Iceland to share ideas, best practices, and techniques. Ms. Watts stated” it was a once in a lifetime experience to work with Icelandic Ministry, US Embassy staff and the Icelandic Park Managers and staff to share ideas, experiences and learn about the unique and remarkable country and people of Iceland”.
The two Icelandic rangers, Linda Björk Hallgrimsdottir from Snæfellsjökull National Park and Sigurður Óskar Jónsson from Vatnajökull National Park, spent the week traveling through the park and training with NPS rangers from all career fields while learning about our national park system. Their tour started out on Monday with presentations from the park management team and representatives from each division. For the remainder of the week they have learned about interpretation and education, visitor services, visitor safety and management, park operations, permits, partnerships, river safety operations, natural resource protection, and trail sustainability and access. They were joined on Monday and Tuesday by the NPS International Volunteers in Parks Coordinator, Linda Bennett. Prior to their arrival in West Virginia, the two rangers spent a week learning about park operations at Olympic National Park in Washington. After returning from New River Gorge they will share their new knowledge and experiences with other rangers in Iceland.
Both rangers said that this was an amazing experience and very helpful for them to learn about how we manage national parks in the United States. They both learned new skills and had new experiences that they will take back and share with other Icelandic park rangers. One thing that LindaBjörk Hallgrimsdottir would bring back to Iceland with her was how meeting park rangers from such vastly different places made her realize how much we all have in common and how rangers from all over the world care so deeply for the special places that they are entrusted to preserve.
This program was also an extremely valuable experience for the rangers at New River Gorge National River. It offered a unique opportunity to learn about how national parks are managed in other parts of the world and the challenges they face, but most of all to be a part of the larger world wide park ranger team.
photo caption: Icelandic rangers with New River Gorge staff on the New River; NPS