Scot Elder, manager for Lone Mesa and Mancos state parks, was recognized as Colorado's 2014 Ranger of the Year during the Colorado Parks and Wildlife commission meeting Aug. 7 in Durango.
Elder was one of five CPW rangers nominated by their peers. The award was established in 1986.
Fellow CPW ranger Matt Thorpe told the story of how they had to use some trickery to get Elder to the meeting.
"We said we needed him there to do security, and he bought it," he said.
"I was totally surprised and honored to have that level of support," Elder said Tuesday at his Dolores headquarters. "It was an emotional and overwhelming moment."
Bosses and fellow rangers cited Elder's efficient management of two state parks with a limited budget and staff.
"Commitment to continual improvement, diplomacy and public service is the common thread of all award recipients over the past 30 years," said CPW director Bob Broscheid, before inviting Elder to the podium.
Elder also stepped up his workload during the recent merger of Colorado State Parks and the Division of Wildlife to ensure a smooth transition.
"Meshing the policies and missions of two different agencies was a gigantic effort, but it is paying off," Elder said.
Bringing wildlife biologists and ecologists together with a park manager's mission of recreation has helped to protect the natural resources long-term.
"That expertise is invaluable, and I've learned a great deal about habitat and successful wildlife management," Elder said. "Having those specialists on the wildlife side helps us make more informed decisions."
Elder operates out of a small visitor center in Dolores, overseeing the 12,000-acre Lone Mesa State Park, 32-site campground in Mancos, the prime fishery of Jackson Lake, trails and an array of activities.
The Dolores office also handles hunting and fishing licenses, OHV and boat registrations and interpretive programs for the region.
Elder is a modest man, and is quick to credit his dedicated volunteer staff and seasonal workers for the success that led to the award.
"I'm on a broader team, and I share it with each of them," he said. "They keep this place running and deserve recognition for contributing to our mission."
Elder began his career as a volunteer on the Front Range in the early '90s and was a park law enforcement officer at Boyd Lake State Park in Loveland. He always imagined himself living in a small town like Dolores with his wife, Brooke.
"Professionally, being part of a rural community in Colorado means something special and different." he said. "It's a unique opportunity that you don't see in higher population centers."
As a result of the parks' remoteness, Elder, the only full-time employee at the office, maintains his wildland firefighter, search management, and ice rescue certifications.