Friends Of The Little Bighorn Battlefield

The Next Generation In The Study Of Custer's Last Stand

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Denice Swanke


New Superintendent Little Bighorn Battlefield September 2012

Denice Swanke, a 21-year veteran of federal service in the Department of the Interior, has been named superintendent of Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in southeastern Montana. Swanke, now a legislative affairs specialist in the National Park Service’s Washington Office, replaces Kate Hammond, who recently was named superintendent of Valley Forge Historical Park. She reports for duty at Little Bighorn Battlefield on Oct. 15.

John Wessels, Intermountain Region director for the National Park Service (NPS), noted Swanke’s strong background in park planning, communication and cooperation as a national parks liaison on policy and legislation. “Denice brings especially useful skills and experience to the task of outreach and community relations in managing one of our nation’s most important and most cherished historic sites,” Wessels said.

Swanke’s career has included stints in three national parks and with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. She has worked since 2010 in the NPS’s Washington Office of Legislative and Congressional Affairs, where she is the liaison to Congress for the NPS’s Alaska and Pacific West regions. She also has been primary legislative contact on several service-wide issues, including national park overflights, tourism and energy.

“I am honored to join the Little Bighorn Battlefield team, and am excited about working with park staff and the monument’s local communities and partners,” Swanke said. “I look forward especially to engaging all those who care about the park in the long-term protection and appreciation of this critical and historic resource.”

Swanke began her federal career at Zion National Park in 1991. Two years later, she moved to Moab, UT to work for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management at the Moab Interagency Fire Center, and later, as a physical scientist.

In 2003, Swanke and her husband, Steve, relocated to Yellowstone National Park working at Lake Village. Her initial assignment was with the Yellowstone Center for Resources. She later joined the Yellowstone management assistant’s office and managed the park’s winter-use activities. In 2008, she transferred to Grand Canyon National Park’s Office of Planning and Compliance in Flagstaff, AZ. There Swanke worked on management of park overflights, animal stock management and the development of Grand Canyon’s “foundation document,” a planning statement of the park’s purpose, significance, key resources and interpretive themes. She also helped plan new park science and resource management facilities.

Swanke earned a Bachelor of Science degree in earth sciences at Western Oregon University in Monmouth. She earned her master’s in public administration from the University of Montana in Missoula. Her husband retired from the Park Service as a deputy chief ranger at Yellowstone in 2007, and they have a home in Paradise Valley, MT.

NOTE: I wish to thank Gus Sanchez and David Harrington for their dedication and hard work while serving as acting superintendents after Kate Hammond. The Friends membership were lucky to have met both of them during our anniversary weekend in June.

After David finishes passing the superintendent's chair to Denice, he rides off into NPS retirement sunset. He and his wife, Jana deserve many great years of relaxation and travels to Custer events. Hope to see both of you again, real soon.

Gus is not retiring just yet. Whatever endeavors he pursues in the NPS, I know he will do his best and serve well. Good luck in the next Park.

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