The U.S. Interior Department, for only the second time in history, has awarded its Distinguished Service Award to a woman - the National Park Service's Rocky Mountain Regional Director Lorraine Mintzmyer.

In that post, Mintzmyer oversees 41 national parks and scores of park service areas in Utah and six other states.The 29-year National Park Service veteran is the second woman ever to receive the Interior Department's highest award.

But officials said Mintzmyer is used to trailblazing.

In her career climb, she was the first woman to be program coordinator for a multistate region, superintendent of a major park area, deputy regional director and regional director.

The service has only 10 regions in the nation.

Interior Secretary Donald Hodel said Mintzmyer "has implemented several innovative programs that were of extraordinary benefit to the park visitors and park resources in general."

She has been head of the Rocky Mountain Region since April 8, 1980. In that tenure, she has earned praise for upgrading park concessions and revitalizing the Interagency Grizzly Bear Team, a move the service credits for helping increase the threatened bear population in Yellowstone National Park.

The management area includes Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

In Utah, the region encompasses all five national parks, six national monuments, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Golden Spike National Historic Site.