Lifetime Service Award

Robert Paul Rigtrup
Robert Paul Rigtrup

The Public Lands Foundation grants to Robert Paul Rigtrup, posthumously, its Outstanding Lifetime Service Award.  The Foundation provides this award to deserving members who have perpetuated and enhanced the proud tradition of public service.  Paul exemplifies that tradition through a lifetime of service in managing and protecting the public lands.

Paul Rigtrup was a teacher, a trainer, and a manager of training programs for over 40 years.  For 28 of those years the Bureau of Land Management employed him.  He played a unique and major role in the establishment, evolution, and growth of resource management training in the Bureau of Land Management.  His work directly benefited the lives and careers of hundreds of BLM employees.  He laid the groundwork for the modern training programs of the BLM and the National Training Center that BLM has today in Phoenix.

Robert Paul Rigtrup was born and raised in Idaho.  He served in the Navy at the end of World War II, and graduated from the University of Idaho in 1949.  He joined BLM as a Training Officer in the Washington Office in 1956.

His BLM career included Operation Manager and Land Office Manager positions in Cheyenne, Juneau, and Billings; Chief, Branch of Manpower Development, and Lands and Minerals Staff Specialist at the Denver Service Center, and finally the Manager of the Phoenix Training Center from 1972 – 1984.

In 1966, Paul was instrumental in launching the concept of a lands and minerals training program for the BLM.  At the time, there were no training programs, either inside or outside the BLM, to adequately prepare employees for the complexities of BLM’s realty and minerals work.  The Phoenix District Office was selected as the location for the School and in 1972; Paul became the second Manager of the Lands and Minerals School.

Over the next 12 years, he transformed the Lands Minerals School into the Phoenix Training Center.  He initiated training programs for the Bureau’s range, wildlife, forestry, watershed and recreation programs, and brought in BLM’s best resource specialists to teach them.  He further expanded the curriculum to include a variety of technical and administrative training courses.  Land law examiner courses were developed and, since most of the BLM’s land law examiners were women; the best-qualified women were chosen to teach them.

His personality permeated throughout the Training Center and provided a relaxed atmosphere conducive to learning.  He treated the trainees, staff, and visiting instructors as family.  He knew most people’s names, and many times their background and goals as well.  He had a very positive impact on the careers of hundreds of people in the BLM, including many who became leaders in the agency. After retiring in 1984, Paul continued to teach public land history courses for federal agencies.  He led the initiative to establish the PLF Archives and served as the first Manager of the Archives.

The Public Lands Foundation is honored to recognize Paul with this Outstanding Lifetime Service Award.

The award was made posthumously at the Foundation’s Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona in September, 2005.