Private Preservation Category:

Tauck World Discovery Yellowstone Guest-Volunteer Program: Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho

Yellowstone, the world's first national park, today hosts 3 million visitors annually. Tauck World Discovery has created and operates a unique program through which more than 5,000 vacationers to date voluntarily donated nearly 10,000 hours of labor valued at more than $160,000 to help preserve and protect park assets. In this manner, Tauck has used the very human visitation that inevitably causes some adverse impact to natural and historic resources and turned it into a positive force for preservation, at the same time building visitor understanding, appreciation, and pride.

Yellowstone National Park helped create our national preservation ethic. It was established by the federal government in 1872, only seven years after the end of the Civil War. In 1978 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park contains 1,106 historic structures, 13 historic districts, five National Historic Landmarks, and more than 1,000 known archeological sites. Including the iconic "Old Faithful," there are more than 300 geysers in Yellowstone, or two-thirds of all known to exist on Earth. Its 3,470 square miles in the states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho also are home to a large concentration of free-roaming wildlife and more than 1,000 plant species.

Visitation has grown by 50 percent since 1980 and in 2003 numbered about three million people. In 2003, Tauck World Discovery, an 80-year-old escorted tour operator, launched its Yellowstone Guest-Volunteer Program. The program allows guests to voluntarily provide about two hours of labor to various park rehabilitation and preservation projects. In three years, 5,148 guest volunteers have donated 9,376 hours of labor under the supervision of park personnel. The value of the donated labor to date is estimated at $162,326. Tauck underwrites the vast majority of program-related expenses through either its corporate giving program or the Tauck family foundation, or a combination of the two funding sources. Expenses include the program coordinator's salary, all tools, materials and supplies, and a souvenir T-shirt for each volunteer. Costs through 2005 were $77,500. The program will resume in May 2006 with the new season of Yellowstone tours.

Among the projects are controlling rain runoff drainage problems; constructing walkways; sanding and staining historic buildings and backcountry cabins; sanding and staining amphitheaters; sanding and staining site rails and fences; sanding and staining picnic tables; staining bumper logs and log curbing; staining lamp posts; painting fire hydrants; grounds work; broken asphalt removal; noxious weed control; and other beautification and rehabilitation efforts throughout the park.

An anonymous on-line survey conducted among 600 of the guest volunteers found that 86 percent said that volunteering enhanced their tour experience, and 94 percent said they would volunteer again if given the opportunity.

One such traveler, Mrs. M. Rosen, noted: “The experience was wonderful and our group had a good time doing the project. It was nice to do something for the national parks, so that those come to visit them later can view their beauty, history, and splendor as we did. Thank you for allowing me the experience of giving back to this great country in which we live.”

Award recipients:

Robin Tauck, President and CEO, Tauck World Discovery; Arthur Tauck, Chairman of the Board, Tauck World Discovery.

Tauck guest-volunteers have completely scraped and restrained four amphitheaters within Yellowstone. This photo, illustrating the “before” and  “after” value of the guest-volunteer’s hard work, underscores the need for preventative maintenance.
Two young guest volunteers at Yellowstone participate in staining a historic cabin.
The Tauck program is a true “win-win” proposition. Yellowstone National park benefits in obvious ways, but the program also has deep meaning to its participants. In a survey of guest-volunteers, 86% said that volunteering enhanced their Tauck vacation, and 94% said they would volunteer again if given the opportunity.