Bettendorf native Chris Flesch has been named as the new Yellowstone National Park chief of Visitor and Resource Protection (VRP).
A 17-year veteran of the National Park Service (NPS), Mr. Flesch became Yellowstone’s 19th chief ranger effective May 1.
“We’re pleased to have Chris join our senior leadership team as chief ranger,” Superintendent Cam Sholly said in a news release. “He has shown incredible leadership acumen throughout his career and is one of the best problem solvers and collaborators I’ve worked with.”
In his new role, Mr. Flesch will oversee more than 275 employees responsible for public safety and visitor service functions within the park, including law enforcement and emergency medical services (EMS), search and rescue, wildland and structural fire, dispatch, fee collection, special use permitting, corrals and backcountry operations. The division boasts a budget of more than $14 million.
The former Quad Citian earned his Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Arizona State University and graduated from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in 2013.
He credits childhood visits to Yellowstone National Park in the 1980s with inspiring him to become a park ranger – including a visit more than 30 years ago in which he earned the Junior Ranger badge.
As a concession employee at Old Faithful in the summer of 2002, Mr. Flesch gained a deep appreciation for the work of law enforcement and EMS staff, the release said. In 2004, he began his NPS career as a Yellowstone seasonal law enforcement ranger after completing seasonal law enforcement training at Northern Arizona University.
After multiple Yellowstone assignments, Mr. Flesch served as the Hall’s Crossing district ranger at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. He later returned to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem as the law enforcement specialist, and became acting chief ranger at Grand Teton National Park.
Since 2019, Mr. Flesch has served as deputy chief ranger at Yellowstone, where he also served as the park’s COVID-19 incident commander while also providing oversight to law enforcement and EMS, search and rescue, and wildland and structural fire programs.
“It is a true honor and privilege to be selected as the next chief ranger of Yellowstone National Park,” he said in the release. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to serve as the chief ranger during the milestone 150 anniversary year and look forward to continuing to advance the park’s strategic priorities while also working to ensure the health and safety of all our visitors and employees.”