Name: Ronald Nagata
Education: University of Hawaii
Job: Resource manager, Haleakala National Park
More than 20 years later, the nearly 28,000-acre park has more than 50 miles of protective fencing due largely to Nagata, now the park's resource manager.
"Ron Nagata was the catalyst in turning around the disastrous long-term decline of park ecosystems," said park Superintendent Donald Reeser. "His knowledge, determination and successes have been contagious."
Nagata was recently selected for the Director's Award for National Resource Management for the Pacific West Field Area.
Nagata said he became interested in working for a national park as a youngster watching the television series "Lassie." The father in the series was a park ranger.
"I looked at that and I said, 'That's a pretty neat job. I'd like to be a forest ranger,'" Nagata said.
Nagata said unfortunately, there was no forestry program offered at the University of Hawaii. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in physical geography and continued to pursue his interest in preserving park lands as a volunteer.
Hugo Huntzinger, then parks superintendent, hired Nagata as a back country ranger, after noticing his work as a volunteer. Nagata later took courses to become a resource manager.
Reeser said Nagata and his staff used innovative techniques to protect the park. One of them involved the "Judas" goat technique, maintaining a few radio-collared goats that enable rangers to detect and eliminate goats mingling with them.
Nagata's staff also developed devices at fences in ravines that would open for large rocks to wash through during rains, then automatically close.
Reeser credits Nagata with responding quickly and effectively to remove wild rabbits in the Hosmer Grove area.
"If Nagata had not been responsive, Maui would have a formidable forest and agricultural pest to deal with today," Reeser said.