Tigran’s Travels with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke

Buddy Bison Student Ambassador with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke at Channel Islands National Park. Photo courtesy of Vahagn Nahabedian.

Our Buddy Bison Student Ambassador, Tigran Nahabedian, was recently invited to give a special tour of Channel Islands National Park to the new Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke. In addition to learning about the wildlife and history of the islands, Tigran and Secretary Zinke discussed the importance of our nation’s parks and ways to improve them for the future. Read about Tigran’s account of their meeting below:

“On April 17, 2017 Commander Ryan Zinke came to Channel Islands National Park to learn about the islands, wildlife, history, its use and to talk about how he is going to make the parks a better place. Commander Zinke has the authority and power to help the national parks because he is the Secretary of the Interior. I became interested in Commander Zinke when he was nominated to become Secretary of the Interior and I started to research him, I read his book American Commander and everything I could find about him on the internet. He was the Commander of Seal Team Six, a congressman from Montana and he enjoys hunting and fishing.

I wrote him a letter in January before he was confirmed as Secretary of the Interior and said that I was very excited he was going to solve the deferred maintenance issue in our parks. Deferred maintenance is when something falls into disrepair like a dock or a road and the park managers say we will fix it later because we do not have the money now. It is a huge problem with over 12 billion dollars in needed repairs.

Our national parks are as American as our national flag. Just consider Mount Rushmore, the Statue of Liberty, Fort McHenry and the flag that inspired the Star Spangled Banner, the Liberty Bell, and the battlefields that shaped this nation: all of these places are national parks.

Secretary Zinke wrote me a letter and invited me to give him a tour of Channel Islands National Park.

We left from Santa Barbara and went to Prisoner’s Harbor on Santa Cruz Island. We saw dolphins and sea lions on the crossing and I spent the trip across the channel talking to the Secretary, his wife, his staff, rangers and other visitors. I was one of the only people outside of his staff that knew he was going to the islands and it was really special to me because it was National Park Week.

I was able to talk to the Secretary about the recovery of the island fox, the fastest recovery of a mammal under the Endangered Species Act. I gave him a fox photograph to remind him that when we put our minds to solving a problem we can achieve great things with strong partnerships.

We also discussed the deferred maintenance issue, and I showed him pictures from the Channel Islands National Park and Tule Spring Fossil Beds National Monument. Tule Springs is a new National Monument and for years people have dumped trash on the monument lands. The Secretary agreed that this is an easy problem to solve and must be solved.

I left the Islands and returned home feeling that the National Parks are in good hands and confident that the Secretary will help the parks to the best of his ability. His role model is Theodore Roosevelt, and he is fond of quoting the Roosevelt Arch at Yellowstone that the parks are for the ‘Benefit and Enjoyment of the People.’ I am looking forward to working with him again in the future. As Secretary Zinke says, ‘We all rise and fall on the same tide.'”

Extra Desert Please

Our Buddy Bison Student Ambassador, Tigran Nahabedian, knows that winter can be an exceptional time to visit national parks! Tigran and his family recently took me on an adventure to several national park units in Arizona. Read about some of Tigran’s trip highlights below:

Buddy Bison loves adventure and we had some great adventures this winter in Arizona, where my grandmother lives. I love Arizona and Arizona is a great place for junior rangers. They even have their own Junior Archeologist booklet that lets you collect rockers. We packed our bags and after many hours of traveling, found ourselves in Organ Pipe Cactus National Park.

We didn’t know much about Organ Pipe Cactus National Park before we got there and we weren’t alone. A ranger told us a story of a superintendent that missed the park and drove into Mexico. We pitched our tent and that night heard javelinas outside the tent. We learned that javelinas are peccaries, not pigs.

The next day we got a junior ranger booklet and went on a very bumpy scenic drive. Along the way, we stopped every time we saw water to look for tracks and we saw some good ones including a mountain lion! The mountain lion had been spotted in the area and this one had BIG paws.  I love all the desert vegetation but at this park all the wildlife was out at night. Buddy wouldn’t have enjoyed eating there—not much grass and lots of thorns.

Buddy and I were recognized from the Subaru Share the Love commercials. Everyone had nice things to say and were very supportive.

Next we went to Coronado National Monument and my mom got to wear a full suit of armor. It took two people to help her put it on and take it off. Can you imagine having to wear that every day?

Another great park near Sierra Vista is Kartchner Caverns State Park. This is a must-visit cave and offers one of my favorite cave tours. You must see Kubla Khan because it is enormous!   

One of the highlights of the trip was visiting the Petrified Forest National Park. There is so much more than I expected. The petrified wood is beautiful and I saw some amazing pieces. What I didn’t expect were all of the Native American cultural sites and I particularly liked the incredible petroglyphs. 

Also, we visited three national monuments that I really enjoyed—Walnut Canyon, Sunset Volcano Crater and Wupatki. These three monuments are really close together and I think they should combine them to make a single national park. The number of cliff dwellings at Walnut Canyon was incredible. At Sunset Volcano Crater, I saw an interesting squirrel with long rabbit-like ears called the Abert’s squirrel. Wupatki had many clay-colored pueblos and I was fortunate to meet Astronaut Bo Bobko there.

The last park we visited was the Grand Canyon National Park. This was the first visit for my mom and she loved it. Grand Canyon never disappoints. When you visit there in winter, I would recommend going to El Tovar Lodge to enjoy a nice cup of hot chocolate.

Some people wouldn’t consider camping in the snow but it can be a ton of fun! Just remember to dress in layers, have warm sleeping bags, and bring your fuzzy Buddy Bison.

(Above photo courtesy of Vahagn Nahabedian.)

Ambassador Tigran: Channel Islands’ Hero

Tigran Nahabedian, our first Buddy Bison Student Ambassador, does more than just go on adventures with me! Find out what he did below!

“The Channel Islands National Park (CHIS) and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary are important to me because they changed my life. I first visited and became a junior ranger when I was five years old. For the last two years, I have volunteered with the National Park Service and was honored to represent Let’s Move! Outside and Every Kid in a Park. Because of this, I met the National Park Trust (NPT) and became their first Buddy Bison Student Ambassador. As an ambassador I really wanted to help CHIS because it was where my journey began. I joined the Channel Islands Park Foundation and told NPT how I wanted to do something for “my” park. They said they could help but I never expected how much they would do!

Give Parks a Helping Hand: Tigran Shows Us How

Tigran Nahabedian, our first Buddy Bison Student Ambassador, wants you to “give parks a helping hand!” Tigran has always been a dependable volunteer at his local park, Channel Islands National Park, but this year has been a special year for all National Park Service volunteers. NPS has challenged volunteers to work 201.6 hours during the Centennial year! Tigran has already gifted 100 hours of his time for this special cause:

“I love our national parks and the challenge is very important to me because I’m trying to get more kids to the parks.

Recently, I started working in the Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center. I get to hand out Junior Ranger booklets (nothing makes me as happy as seeing smiling kids when I award them their Junior Ranger badges). I work at a touch table and let visitors handle whale baleen, kelp holdfasts, shark eggs and a really cool Chumash clapping stick. At the tide pool tank, I get to help teach people about the sea creatures and pass out squid to visitors so they can feed the fish.

You can volunteer at your national parks too. You can lend a helping hand in beach cleanups, or help maintain trails and take people on hikes, or maybe even scuba dive for a park like my dad.”

Want to know more about his park experiences? You can follow Tigran: @JrRangerTigran. Thank you Tigran for being a terrific park steward!

Buddy Bison Celebrates KTP Day Underwater with Sylvia Earle

Across the country, Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Tigran Nahabedian, pictured to the left with Dr. Sylvia Earle, traveled with 45 students to Channel Islands National Park (as part of Channel Islands Park Foundation Island Academies program) to celebrate Kids to Parks Day and the Centennial BioBlitz. Dr. Earle, an American marine biologist, renowned oceanographer, and National Geographic Explorer in Residence, participated in a live dive – with Buddy Bison(!) and talked about the importance of our oceans and the responsibility that we all have to protect them. I was ecstatic to join her for the dive as we both explored the incredible underwater kelp forests. We even met a few other marine friends along the journey. On top of all that, the live dive was streamed to the National Mall so kids and families on the east coast could come along for the adventure.

You can follow Tigran through social media on Twitter and Instagram (@JrRangerTigran). You can also follow my adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@NationalParkTrust).