Yellowstone National Park turned 150 this year, and rangers like Rich Jehle are stewards of the land, preserving it for today — and tomorrow.
"I don't own Yellowstone," Jehle told The Christian Science Monitor. "I'm lucky, because I've been able to work here and make a career out of someplace so spectacular, and hopefully do more good than harm in the long run. But ultimately, this place doesn't belong to me. It belongs to the future, to my kids, and their kids, and the rest of the American public, and the rest of the world."
Yellowstone covers 2.2 million acres across three states, and was the country's first national park. Millions of people visit every year, and Jehle — a ranger for more than three decades — said it's important to "keep a smile on your face, and treat everyone with respect and like you've never heard the question before that you got asked." He likes that his job is "never dull," and enjoys being part of a team that provides "the best visitor service we can so people learn to love their national parks — and hopefully get inspired to preserve them and pass them on to the next generation."
When asked about one moment that stands out in his career, Jehle recalled that in 1988, while living in an apartment in Yellowstone, he heard a knock on the door while he was making hamburgers. It took him a moment to recognize what he was looking at through the glass: a black bear. "I was literally six inches face-to-face with this bear," Jehle told the Monitor. A trap was set, but the bear was never caught, and several weeks later, while walking out his back door at night, Jehle heard a noise. "It's the bear," he said. "I'm sure it was the same bear." He backed away slowly, creeping into the apartment. "Never saw the bear again," he said. "That was one of the most memorable encounters I've had with wildlife in the park."