Gus Martinez

Deputy Chief Ranger, Operations
Yosemite National Park

Responsibilities: Martinez supervises law enforcement, emergency medical programs, search and rescue operations, a medical clinic (in partnership with the U.S. Public Health Service), and the only fully staffed jail in a national park.

Years in current position: 1

Years with the Park Service: 30

Gus Martinez_NPSCareer path: The National Park Service hired Martinez in 1986 as a “generalist ranger” in Yosemite — which entailed putting out wildfires, doing trail maintenance work, and patrolling the backcountry — before hiring him as a full-time law enforcement ranger. Martinez worked in various capacities at other national parks, including Point Reyes National Seashore, Big Bend National Park, Padre Island National Seashore, and Glacier Bay National Park, before returning to Yosemite last year.

What makes my park special: “This park has wilderness values. The John Muir and Pacific Crest Trails both go through our high country. In Yosemite Valley, there’s Half Dome, El Capitan, and tremendous hanging waterfalls. It’s inspiring. You can challenge yourself climbing big walls, go backcountry skiing and winter camping. Then there’s the O’Shaughnessy Dam: it’s an engineering marvel and provides water and power to San Francisco. It’s a 100-year-old system surrounded by controversy, but it’s also part of California’s history.”

Typical day: Attending planning meetings and communicating across park departments. “I look at and hear complaints to determine trends, then I try figure out how to do things better and more securely. I still patrol now and again, and I’m still a fire officer, so I’m always ready. I make a point to keep up my skills and fitness, which also helps with credibility. It might be quiet in the morning but a long night if there’s a search.” Martinez also conducts outreach programs to underserved populations and talks with visiting students about how they can be good citizens and protect national parks and other special places.

Biggest challenge: “Managing the increase in visitations and traffic at current staffing levels and with limited funding. People are parking in meadows. Campgrounds are getting hammered. It bothers me that visitors get stuck in a line of traffic then have to wait three to four hours for a parking spot. People love coming, and most don’t complain, but we need to provide a better experience.”

Best part of the job: “Getting in the field! My role is to protect resources here, but I also enjoy talking to people — especially young people. I want to share my joy and love of the park and get them inspired.”

Advice for visitors: “Plan ahead. Make reservations at campgrounds as soon as they are available. If you’re visiting for the day, come before 9:00am and leave after 7:00pm to avoid the worst traffic. If you’re hiking, respect the elevation. Get a topographic map and look at the contours, not just your GPS. Most people get in trouble because they overextend themselves.”

Favorite national park: “That’s like picking a favorite child! Wherever I’m at. Yosemite right now.”

Learn more about our national parks! View historic photos, listen to audio on how the film, "Our National Parks: America's Best Idea," was created, and learn about activities and events the park system offers.