Resource Manager Mark Gallagher has been at the forefront of conservation efforts in Yosemite since the late 70s. A quiet and humble person by nature, Mark has an incredible capacity to share the spotlight. When you talk to him, you’re more likely to find out about the amazing efforts of the people around him rather than his own substantial accomplishments. However, that doesn’t stop him from quietly and humbly making a big difference in Yosemite.
When he isn’t out enjoying the park in his personal time, Mark and Assistant Resource Manager, Debora Sanches, are involved in a wide array of environmental projects and programs within the park, from managing recycling and composting programs, to investigating alternative fuels and transportation options, or setting up green-purchasing guidelines.
Here’s a chance to get to know Mark a little better:
Mark (front) in 2010 with some of the recycling crew.
YIF: What first brought you to Yosemite? When did you first visit? When did you move to the area?
Mark: I first came to Yosemite in 1977 on a road trip after college. I heard it was a beautiful place and wanted to see it myself. Oddly enough on the day we were leaving the park we stopped at El Cap Meadow to take some photos and I remember saying that this would be a great place to live! I came back for a summer job in 1979 and never left.
YIF: What different jobs have you done in the park over the years?
Mark: I started out as Supervisor of Recycling and “picked up” additional duties throughout the years. I’d like to think I built my “empire” taking on jobs that others did not want.
Mark working behind the counter at the original recycling stand
YIF: What inspired you to focus on conservation?
Mark: Garrett DeBell influenced me early in my career to get involved with resource issues in Yosemite. Garrett was passionate about the environment and worked a great deal with the prominent environmentalist David Brower before and after his tenure as a Yosemite Park & Curry Co. Environmental Consultant. That really gave me my start.
YIF: GreenPath, the environmental management program for concession company Delaware North at Yosemite got its start in the park. Tell us about how you got started with GreenPath.
Mark: Simple… I was asked by management to get involved. It made sense, as Resource Manager the work I was doing fit right into what we were trying to accomplish with GreenPath. There were many of us that were originally involved with starting GreenPath in Yosemite, and several are still here (Yolanda Cheley, Dan Lyle, Brett Archer, Vicki McMichael). I saw early on that with a larger diverse group you could get more accomplished than with a few individuals pushing for change. Vicki McMichael & John Huey deserve the credit for developing our environmental management system we call GreenPath.
Mark with then-Manager of Interpretation Julie Miller celebrating Earth Day
YIF: During your time in the park, Yosemite has taken some big strides toward protecting the environment. What are some of the steps that you have felt most proud of, or which have been most meaningful to you?
Mark: Being part of Yosemite National Park’s Bear Council & working with National Park Service Wildlife staff has been meaningful to me. There were some grim years for bears between 1996 & 1998. It took an intense effort by NPS, Delaware North, Yosemite Association & many others to turn the tide on bear incidents. Together they made huge strides towards protecting Yosemite’s bears.
YIF: Which jobs stand out in your mind as being particularly interesting/fun/rewarding? Why?
Mark: Integrated pest management (IPM) and working with trees is most interesting to me, because the people I work with share their knowledge, and there is so much to know about these subjects. The restoration projects that we have done in the High Sierra Camps and different areas in Yosemite Valley to define trails and rehabilitate areas that have been trampled have been the most fun and rewarding at the same time. It’s satisfying because of the volunteers I work with and knowing that the restoration work that was accomplished will probably outlive me.
YIF: From a personal perspective, what are some of your favorite things to do in the park?
Mark: I enjoy hiking, fishing and X-C skiing.
What first drew you to fly fishing? Is it the same thing that keeps you excited about it now?
Mark: I always enjoyed fishing. As far as fly fishing. My wife, Noreen, bought me my first rod. She likes to think she taught me how to fish. She says that I’m passionate about the sport. Don’t tell her…. it really is an addiction! I like fly fishing because you never master all aspects of the sport. There is always something to learn.
YIF: Do you have a favorite spot that you’re willing to share with us? Where is it and why is it your favorite?
Mark: The Merced River is a beautiful place to fish, and was one of my favorites in Yosemite. Unfortunately, with the last few years of drought, the water temperature has gotten much warmer and it’s really impacted the fish and the fishing. Right now, my favorite spot to fish is the Pit River in Northern California. When I dream of fishing I dream of fishing “The Pit”!