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Wilderness Steward Program
Dear Wilderness Enthusiast,
Thank you for your interest in the Mt. Hood National Forest’s Wilderness Stewardship program. The seed for the Wilderness Stewardship Program was sown in the development of the Wilderness Protection Plan for the Mt. Hood, Salmon-Huckleberry and Hatfield Wildernesses. In 1999, the Forest proposed a plan to implement wilderness wide use restrictions that would have cut wilderness use by more than half. More than 600 people responded to that proposal and encouraged the Forest to consider a less restrictive approach that protected resources and educated the public.
Several key groups volunteered to help implement a new alternative that focused on public stewardship of these special lands. More information about the Wilderness Protection Plan is available on the Forest website or can be obtained from this office. But the heart of the implementation actions in that plan is the Wilderness Stewardship Program.
What is a Wilderness Steward?
A Wilderness Steward is anyone who can help us maintain, protect and restore the wilderness character in these three wildernesses. Specific activities can include:
What experience do I need?
The level of experience needed, depends on the steward activity you are interested in pursuing. Field going stewards should have some backpacking experience. Those making groups presentations should feel comfortable speaking in front of a crowd. For most activities, we will provide training to stewards so they feel comfortable with their duties. The best experience you can bring to the program is enthusiasm, flexibility, people skills, and a love of wilderness.
Training is required for Wilderness Stewards. One evening session covers Wilderness values, the Wilderness Protection Plan, and job expectations of various steward activities. Field going stewards are required to attend a Saturday session that includes safety training, radio use, and role playing a series of likely public encounters. Specific training for some steward duties such as data collection, data entry, etc. are also provided although it is helpful to have some experience with the equipment (compass or computer, etc.)
What kind of commitment must I make?
All Stewards should be able to attend the required training sessions. Because of the amount of steward training provided, we would prefer that stewards make a commitment of the equivalent of at least 4-6 weekends. This can include a combination of steward activities. For example, some summer weekends in the field, and some group presentations in the off-season. It is important that folks make realistic estimates about their ability to participate.
It is possible and preferable for wilderness stewards to take their spouse, friend, or family members with them to the field. So instead of cutting into time spent with family and friends, it can be a delightful experience for all of you. The others with you would not be signed up as stewards unless they went through the training, but it is a good safety precaution. You have the option of pairing up with an experienced steward for your first field session, or any field session where family or friends are not available to accompany you. It may also be possible to do some steward work from your home, such as some data entry, or desk-top publishing, etc.
What do I need to be a steward?
Field-going stewards should have the usual equipment needed to stay in the backcountry (good boots, tent, pack, bag, stove, etc.). We provide stewards with standard steward clothing consisting of a longsleeve t-shirt, ball cap, volunteer badge, and name tag. We provide field going stewards with radios for communication and maps. We provide any other special equipment that might be needed for your steward duties.
What do I get out of being a Wilderness Steward?
Wilderness stewards can meet great new people, hike in pristine wilderness settings, expand young minds to the wonders of wilderness, and change the ecological course of nature by planting new seedlings in impacted sites. You may also have to deal with someone acting like a jerk, hike through rainstorms and mud, make a wilderness presentation to extremely bored teenagers, or witness the impacts of “leave a huge trace” behavior. From the experiences our existing wilderness stewards have had, the benefits far outweigh the down-sides. The feedback from the public is great. We plan to publicize your activities in news releases, our web-site, and in presentations to other organizations and Forests interested in Wilderness Stewardship. The largest public benefit of Wilderness Stewardship is that we can minimize the need for limiting use in some areas if we can alter the behavior of users and restore impacted sites.
The work done by Wilderness Stewards is invaluable. With declining budgets and increasing populations, the Forest Service cannot manage these Wildernesses alone. In addition to the tangible value of hours worked, visitor contacts made, data collected, sites restored, etc., there is the intangible gain of educating existing and future wilderness users, increasing the visibility of wilderness protection, and the collaborative benefits of organized groups working together. To recognize the contributions wilderness stewards make, we give non-monetary awards for your efforts, that are scaled based on the number of hours volunteered. These volunteer awards can include annual Forest Passes that are required at many trailheads and recreation sites throughout the Northwest Region, additional steward clothing components such as fleece vests, books, and other items.
How do I become a Wilderness Steward?
If you are interested in becoming a wilderness steward, you need to do two things:
There will be training opportunities throughout the summer - schedule is TBA, contact the USFS Zigzag ranger station in Sandy for more details.
More Application Information
For more information on current training sessions, please see the USFS wilderness steward web page.
For more information on Wilderness Steward Program you may call: