Betty White’s wild side: A salute for the nation’s newest honorary ranger

Betty White is named an honorary Forest Service Ranger. Courtesy USFS.

You’ve got to love it when an American icon like actress Betty White speaks up for something you care about. It’s even better when she gets recognized for her commitment and achieves a dream in the process.

White, a long-time supporter of wilderness, became an honorary Forest Service ranger at the Kennedy Center this week. The agency presented her with a badge and one of its famous Stetson hats. She even got to hug Smokey Bear.

The Forest Service bestowed the honor on her because of her “lifelong dedication to protecting wilderness and wildlife.”

“I am sorry you couldn’t join us before,” U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said. “Judging from your illustrious career, you would have made marvelous contributions to our agency and to the cause of conservation across the United States. Betty, you are a role model for little girls – for all of us – never to give up on our dreams.”

The honorary ranger status turned the spunky comedienne into a softy as plush as the stuffed animal Smokey she took home.

“Wilderness is getting harder and harder to find these days on our beautiful planet and we’re abusing our planet to the point of almost no return,” she said. “In my heart I’ve been a forest ranger all my life, but now I’m official.”

“Everyone at The Wilderness Society salutes Betty White for her passion for protecting our wild places and all who inhabit them,” said Wilderness Society President William H. Meadows. “I desperately want to crack a joke here but I just can’t compete with a professional.”

White didn’t lack for words at the event in Washington D.C., sharing her memories about childhood experiences that gave birth to her love of nature. Riding horseback through California’s High Sierra ranks at the top of her list.

“I cannot thank you enough,” White said. “As excited as I am today, as grateful as I am – I know two people who would be over the moon – my mom and dad.”

Meanwhile, Tidwell noted how much of an influence women have on the agency today: 38-percent of its workforce is female, including rangers, scientists and leaders at every level.

Returning to character, White expressed a desire to engage in a bearnapping by taking Smokey with her when she left the event. Told that wouldn’t quite work, she proffered a second idea.

“I’m going to a wonderful celebration for Tina Fey this evening, and it’s a formal affair,” she told the Kennedy Center crowd. “Do you think it would be alright if I wore my hat?”

She’d also look great wearing our most popular button. “I like it wild!” it screams.

With a lifelong love of wilderness and wildlife, White clearly does.

photo: Betty White is named an honorary Forest Service Ranger. Courtesy USFS.