Recipient Biography

Boyd Evison


Boyd Evison (1932-2002) received the Pugsley Medal in 1992.He is considered one of the most influential leaders of the modern National Park Service. His career dedicated to conservation, environmental education, and courageous leadership in the field of natural resource protection, touched the lives of thousands of NPS employees and influenced the overall management of the entire national park system and its service to 280 million annual visitors.

Evison, a native of Washington DC, received his forestry and wildlife management from Colorado A&M in 1954.Later in his career, he received a M.S. in environmental communications at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1968.

He began working seasonally with the NPS in 1952 as a fire control aide in Grand Teton National Park, a park that would capture his heart throughout his life and where he served at the beginning, middle, and end of his professional career.

Evison moved into the permanent ranks of the NPS in 1960 as a park ranger in Petrified Forest National Park. Subsequently he served in Lake Mead National Recreation Area before being accepted into the Department of the Interior's management development program in Washington DC. In D., his roles included those of interpretive planner; division chief for the Division of Environmental Projects, including environmental education; and a senior staff person to the NPS director and the Department of the Interior's assistant secretary for fish, wildlife, and parks.

In 1971, he returned to Grand Teton as assistant superintendent, working with a wide array of community members and influential agency leaders, and developed important local relationships, which served him well later. The Tetons and Jackson Hole became a recurring theme in his life, even though it would be many years before he planted his roots deeply in the Jackson community upon retirement from the NPS.

Evison was too impressive a voice for conservation to remain in a deputy position, so soon after returning to the Tetons, he accepted his own superintendency in Tucson at Saguaro National Monument. He was there only briefly when he was appointed superintendent of the Horace Albright Training Center in Grand Canyon. At Albright, he became well known to many future generations of employees who were exposed to his articulate vision for the place of parks in the nation and the world.

In 1975, Evison moved to Great Smoky Mountains National Park as superintendent. One of the many daunting challenges he faced was that of the European wild boar, a nonnative species living in the park, which was multiplying in such great numbers that the damage to resources was extensive. Evison boldly contracted with hog hunters from out-of-state, which immediately set off a furor of local opposition. His bold action and refusal to back down resulted in the ongoing reduction program that continues to this day. He also led a cutting-edge science program, which was the beginning of his efforts throughout the rest of his career to enhance the use of parks as laboratories for study. Indeed, Evison was one of the first senior managers in the NPS to understand the need for science in parks. 

Evison left the Smokies in 1978 to serve as assistant director for park operations in Washington DC. In 1978,he was offered, and declined, the position of NPS director, choosing instead to go to Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park as superintendent in 1980.In 1985,Evison moved to Alaska where he became regional director and faced the biggest challenge of his career when the Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred. His historic and steadfast support for his superintendents during the cleanup and for years afterwards as resource damage assessments went through the legal process, distinguish him in the annals of NPS history.

Having effectively served six years as regional director in Alaska, Evison left for Denver in 1991 to be closer to aging family members. He was deputy regional director in the Rocky Mountain Region until he was asked to be interim superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park during a period crucial to the completion of the general management plan from 1993to November 1994. During this time, he was instrumental in developing a rationale for setting the use of numbers within the Colorado River Management Plan. He also became personally involved in the issues of air quality and soundscape management, an interest that continued as he participated after retirement in the National Parks Overflight Working Group.

Evison retired from the NPS in 1994, providing time for him and his wife to do the traveling they always enjoyed. But in 1999, the Tetons beckoned yet again, when Evison applied for the position of executive director of the Grand Teton Natural History Association. His resume was impressive and his dedication to a shared mission both proven and lifelong. The Board of Directors offered the position to Evison, and he and his wife returned to Grand Teton and purchased a home in the area, where they lived for the remaining years of his life. Evison had a highly successful but all too brief tenure with the Grand Teton Natural History Association and is credited with expanding scientific and educational outreach opportunities through the work of the association as well as enhancing the long-standing partnership with the NPS, the U.S. Fish &Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service.

Throughout his NPS career and subsequently, Evison was called upon often to lead service-wide and multi-agency initiatives; give guidance in the transition to new management; and respond to emergencies. Some examples include co-chair of the NPS/National Academy re-visit and revision of “Science in the National Parks”; a member of the NPS Inventory and Monitoring Initiative Work Group; Discover Life in America Project (Great Smoky Mountains); Interagency Fire Management Policy Review Team; and a member of the NPS Advisory Board. Few were probably aware the “Park Roads” booklet that provided philosophical guidance to planning park roads for many years was written by Boyd Evison.

Evison received many accolades and prestigious awards throughout his NPS career and professional life, including the Department of the Interior's highest award, the Distinguished Service Award, the National Parks Conservation Association's Mather Award; and the George Melandez Wright Award for lifetime achievement by the George Wright Society.