2018 Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards crew in the Citico Creek Wilderness, North Fork Citico Trail #98.
Photo by Mason Boring
At the start of the field season, wilderness and river managers, field rangers, and partner organizations come together in regions across the nation to learn new skills, share experiences, and connect with one another as they work together to preserve wilderness character or the outstandingly remarkable values of wild & scenic rivers. These gatherings have various names – wilderness ranger academies, river ranger rendezvous, or the most common, wilderness skills institutes (WSIs).
With limitations on in-person gatherings in many areas due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many of these events have been cancelled since Spring 2020.
Wilderness and wild & scenic river work requires a special scope of skills. These trainings are designed to provide volunteers, agency and partnership staff and others opportunities for growth within these unique skill sets. Each year, courses are selected to provide skills training for all levels of experience, from those new to stewardship to those who have been stewarding wilderness for decades. Training through the institutes is typically provided for free to accepted students, and free camping is available on site for those wishing to take advantage of the facilities. The institutes are an excellent opportunity for connecting with wilderness and wild & scenic rivers stewards across your region both inside and outside of the classroom.
Scroll down to learn more about the various wilderness skills institutes, ranger academies, and rendezvous:
- National Wilderness Skills Institute
- Southern Appalachian Wilderness Skills Institute
- Northern Rockies Wilderness Skills Institute
- Pacific Southwest Interagency Wilderness Ranger Academy
- Rocky Mountain & Southwestern Wilderness Ranger Rendezvous
- Pacific Northwest Wilderness Skills Institute
- Intermountain Wilderness & Trails Workshop
- Great Rivers Wilderness Skills Institute
regional boundaries shown are U.S. Forest Service Regions and do not represent participation boundaries to any training session
Determined to continue on the annual training and networking gatherings in spring 2022, agency personnel and partners have been working together once again to plan and organize another National Wilderness Skills Institute (NWSI). Similar to the 2021 NWSI, the 2022 event took place online through various webinars, interactive sessions, and virtual social gatherings. This event brings wilderness and wild & scenic river stewards together from across the nation to participate in learning sessions as well as opportunities for region-specific discussions and collaboration. The sessions are recorded for those who are unable attend the live events and can supplement current or future local training efforts. The National WSI recently received the 2021 Chief’s Honor award in the Apply Knowledge Globally category. Read more about the award here and access the all the wonderful 2021 NWSI sessions here or the 2022 NWSI sessions here.
The 2023 National Wilderness Skills Institute will be May 23-25.
The Southern Appalachian Wilderness Skills Institute (WSI) is a training partnership between the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the U.S. Forest Service and Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards. Started in 2011, the Institute features two weeks of training hosted each year in the spring at the Cradle of Forestry facility outside of Brevard, North Carolina on the Pisgah Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest. In 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Southern Appalachian WSI has shifted to a virtual training model, hosting a series of webinars in 2020 and 2021, available on the SAWS YouTube channel. In 2022, the training returned to back in person at the Cradle of Forestry. The 2023 Southern Appalachian WSI is May 22-26 and May 30-June 2. To learn more about the 2023 Southern Appalachian WSI, please click here.
Southern Region’s Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion JEDI Partnership Learning Series:
Through a partnership with the Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS), the U.S. Forest Service’s Southern Region is collaboratively hosting a Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Partnership Learning Series for U.S. Forest Service employees, partners, and volunteers. The U.S Forest Service and SAWS hold a strong value for, and commitment to, JEDI, interdependence, and safety in all forms. Similarly, the Southern Region strives to lead positive change to offer opportunities for diverse internal and external audience to expand their knowledge and explore opportunities to make a positive difference.
To learn more about the Southern Region’s JEDI Partnership Learning Series, please click here.
The Northern Rockies Wilderness Skills Institute is a training partnership between multiple partners that include the Selway-Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation, The Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, Society for Wilderness Stewardship, and the U.S. Forest Service. The Institute currently features a week of training hosted each year at the Powell Ranger Station on the Nez Perce – Clearwater National Forest.
2023 NRWSI will be held the week of May 22 in Powell, ID. The planning team is currently pulling together the training sessions and registration will open up in February/March. Please contact Jimmy Gaudry (email@example.com) or Carol Hennessey (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
The California Interagency Wilderness Ranger Academy (WRA) normally occurs the first full week of June every year. The U.S. Forest Service has taken the lead in organizing and funding the WRA for the past 10+ years and more recently has partnered with the Society for Wilderness Stewardship and the Bureau of Land Management. The WRA is one of the most important weeks of the year for the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Wilderness Program. The experience is highly valued by staff, stewardship partners and other agency partners. It provides critical safety training, field skills, and certifications needed by both agency and partner field-going wilderness rangers from novice to very experienced. It is a rare opportunity for knowledge transfer to happen from the experienced rangers and stewardship partners to the new rangers and volunteers, and for higher level issue presentations and discussions for experienced rangers. Engaging and thought-provoking speakers inspire staff as they head out into the wilderness at the beginning of each summer. It is also a week filled with opportunity for informal networking among peers. For more information, read this post about the 2017 Interagency Wilderness Ranger Academy.
The 2023 California Interagency Wilderness Ranger Academy is currently scheduled to take place June 5-9.
If would like to assist with the planning of the 2023 Interagency Wilderness Ranger Academy, please contact Togan Capozza: email@example.com
If would like to assist with the planning of a future Southwestern Wilderness Ranger Rendezvous WSI, please contact Leigh Johnson: firstname.lastname@example.org
If would like to assist with the planning of a future Rocky Mountain Wilderness Ranger Rendezvous WSI, please contact Chelsea Muise: email@example.com
If would like to assist with the planning of a future Pacific Northwest WSI, please contact Nancy Taylor: firstname.lastname@example.org
If would like to assist with the planning of a future Intermountain Wilderness & Trails Workshop, please contact Dan Morris: email@example.com
The Great Rivers WSI gets its name from the region of America through which many rivers flow: the Mississippi, Buffalo, Arkansas, and Eleven-Point to name a few. The U.S. Forest Service and the Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS) are joined together in 2019 to offer shoulder-to-shoulder learning opportunities for agency staff, partners and volunteers to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to steward our country’s most protected landscapes—federally designated Wilderness. The training took place in Russellville, Arkansas at the Dardanelle State Park.
If would like to assist with the planning of a future Great Rivers WSI, please contact Jon Thompson: firstname.lastname@example.org