Save the Date for WSI 2024!
Founded in 2011, the Wilderness Skills Institute (WSI) brings together wilderness stewards from federal agencies, partners, and volunteers across the southeast to learn shoulder-to-shoulder the skills and knowledge necessary to care for America’s enduring resource, wilderness. The Southern Appalachian Wilderness Skills Institute is a partnership between the U.S. Forest Service, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), and Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS). It is free for students to attend.
We are so excited to announce the courses for WSI 2024 in Transylvania County, NC on the Pisgah National Forest at the Cradle of Forestry.
This year’s WSI will be May 20-24 and May 28-31. Course offerings include:
- Crosscut Saw A/B
- Wilderness First Aid and CPR
- Wilderness Ranger and Trail Technician Workshop
- Advanced Trail Techniques: Stonework
- Introduction to Horse Packing
- Wilderness Management Fundamentals
- Trail Layout & Design
- Land Navigation and Orienteering
- Southern Appalachian Ecosystems
Champions of Wilderness: Our Esteemed Sponsors
We extend our heartfelt gratitude to our generous sponsors whose support has fueled the success of the Southern Appalachian’s Wilderness Skills Institute. Your commitment to empowering outdoor enthusiasts and fostering a deeper connection to wilderness and wild public lands is truly commendable. Thank you for being instrumental in making this transformative experience possible for all attendees.
WSI Course Descriptions
Week One: May 20th – 24th
Crosscut Saw A/B
Instructors: Scotty Bowman, SAWS; Kim Waites, Wild Alabama; and TBD | Level Beginner/Intermediate | Max participants: 25
The USDA Forest Service “National Sawyer Training: Development of Thinking Sawyers” course outlines and describes the operational procedures for the use of saws by Forest Service employees, volunteers, and cooperators. These operational procedures are considered best practices that are designed to protect sawyers from accidental injury or death during saw operations.
- All sawyers must be trained, evaluated, and certified through an approved training program, in accordance with FSM 2358.
- To engage in sawing activities, sawyers must acquire and maintain a USDA Forest Service National Sawyer Certification card and First Aid/CPR Certification.
- The National Sawyer Certification card has a 3-year expiration date and can be subject to review at any time before it expires.
The “Development of Thinking Sawyers” course is designed to provide employees, volunteers, and cooperators who are basic to intermediate crosscut saw users with the technical knowledge to use these tools safely and effectively.
At the completion of training, a qualified sawyer evaluator will conduct a field evaluation to determine whether a student demonstrates:
- Safe saw handling skills.
- Basic knowledge of course content.
- Recall the guiding documents associated with the Forest Service National Saw Program and its policies.
- Recognize the levels of sawyer certification.
- List the three key safety concepts.
- Identify the required personal protective equipment (PPE) and its proper fit.
- Identify and discuss how human factors affect sawyer operations.
- Identify and discuss components of the objective, hazards, leans/binds, escape path, cut plan (OHLEC) size-up process.
- Discuss operational complexity and its relationship to a sawyer’s knowledge and skill.
- Explain the importance of saw team communication.
- The field evaluation will identify the level of certification at which each student is authorized to perform saw work based on the student’s ability to apply learned knowledge and skill in front of an approved sawyer evaluator.
Wilderness First Aid/CPR/Stop the Bleed/Blood Borne Pathogens
Instructor: Elizabeth Walker, E&B Health and Safety LLC | Level Beginner/Intermediate | Max participants: 20
This entry-level course is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts and newcomers to the outdoor industry. The 16-hour instruction covers patient assessment and how to provide basic care for sick or injured patients. Students will participate in hands-on scenarios in addition to classroom lectures and activities. This course is recommended for crosscut saw course participants as well as all other WSI participants. This course is scheduled for Monday and Tuesday (May 20th and 21st).
Wilderness Ranger and Trail Technician Workshop
Instructors: Miranda Hagemann, USFS; Natalie Muglia, USFS; Rebekah Morrisson, SAWS; Leandra Taylor, SAWS; Joe Ruppe, NC LNT; Adam Kunce, USFS; Kristina Macaulay, SAWS; Kristy Ealdwine, SAWS; and Matt Abel, USFS | Level Beginner | Max participants: 30
The Wilderness and Trails Tech Course provides participants with both classroom-based instruction and field experience in key skillsets for the successful summer field season in wilderness and beyond. Participants will successfully acquire professional development in seven conservation skillsets:
- National Wilderness Preservation System introduction
- Trail maintenance basic introduction
- Leave No Trace trainer course
- Authority of the resource approach to visitor encounters
- How to report an emergency on national forests
- Introduction to solitude and recreation site monitoring data collection
- Introduction to USFS trail condition survey assessment tool
There is a lot of important information to pack into the week, but we’ll be sure to leave participants with handouts, resources, and plenty of opportunity to ask questions and get our hands dirty doing the work. The National Wilderness Preservation System introduction will cover a brief history of the Wilderness Act of 1964 and an introduction of wilderness characteristics of which federal land management agencies base their decision making and key management decisions on. Next, participants will head to the field to gain hands-on experience in Basic Trail Maintenance concepts such as USFS Trail Condition Standards, corridor clearing, bench restoration, water drainage maintenance, and basic field tool maintenance. Next, participants will learn the 7 Leave No Trace principles accompanied by a session on how to use the Authority of the Resource during your encounters with the public. Lastly, three key monitoring and assessment programs will be introduced to participants including solitude monitoring, recreation site monitoring, and condition survey assessments. Participants will have the opportunity to practice data collection practices on personal devices.
A schedule of field and non-field days will be circulated in advance. Participants should bring water, snacks, lunch, PPE (hard hat, work gloves, safety glasses), pants, and closed-toed boots to each day. Expect both classroom and field days.
Advanced Trail Technique: Stonework
Instructor: Artie Hidalgo, Jolly Rovers Trail Crew and Tom Lamb, GATC | Level Intermediate | Max participants: 18
Back by popular demand! WSI will host an introduction to the concepts of trail stonework. This course will include an introduction to trail layout, water management and the use of draglines. This workshop is almost exclusively hands-on. Participants will have plenty of time to practice all of the skills discussed in order to complete a trail project on site. We will explore topics including:
- Safety and tools use
- Project site planning
- Site analysis
- Dessing and shaping stones
- Compaction, displacement, erosion
Participants should bring water, snacks, lunch, PPE (hard hat, work gloves, safety glasses, ear protection, N-95 masks, outdoor work shirts, pants, and close-toed boots. Bring clothes that are appropriate for a variety of weather including heavy rain.
WSI Course Descriptions
Week Two: May 28th – 31st
Introduction to Horse Packing
Instructor: Tom Thomas, Back Country Horsemen of America | Level Beginner/Intermediate | Max participants: 25
Introduction to Horse Packing is back! This entry-level course is ideal for seasoned equestrians and packing enthusiasts alike. No experience is necessary to participate. Introduction to Horse Packing is grounded in Leave No Trace and practiced throughout the course. Participants are strongly encouraged to camp with instructors and pack animals at Wolf Horse Camp. Introduction to Horse Packing will be led by 5-6 expert packers. Course material will include:
- How to mannie and pack up a mule string
- How to lead a mule string
- Rope use and various knots
- How to use and mannie up different panniers
- How to use various hitches as well as how to tie the pack together
- Animal maintenance and basic fist aid, safety, and health regulations
- Pack saddles and tools
- Horse and mule etiquette as well as what the difference is between a horse and a mule
- Daily demonstrations of why the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a human
- Common vocabulary in the horse packing world
Participants are required to bring work boots, pants, and PPE (hard hat, work gloves, safety glasses). No horse packing equipment is required for this course, the instructors will bring all the equipment and supplies.
Wilderness Management Fundamentals
Instructor: Pete Irvine, Virens; Jill Gottesman, The Wilderness Society; Christina Boston, USFS; and Scotty Bowman, SAWS | Intermediate | Max participants: 30
This course will teach many of the foundations of federally designated wilderness including history, important figures, key concepts and the Wilderness Act of 1964. Sessions will be held outside when possible and include interactive exercises. All participants will leave with a foundational understanding of wilderness management. The course will have sessions on:
- Wilderness character
- Minimum requirements analysis
- Leave No Trace
- Wilderness Stewardship Performance
- Wilderness Character Monitoring
Trail Layout and Design
Instructor: Morgan Sommerville, ATC and John Stephens | Level Intermediate/Advanced | Max participants: 12
The objective of this course is to build a better knowledge base of trail design and layout throughout the wilderness and trails community. This course includes an exploration of sustainable trail design, trail rehabilitation vs. realignment, along with indoor exercises in topographic layout planning, and field exercises to ground truth theoretical designs. Participants will come away with confidence in the use of clinometers, flagging potential routes, and in conveying intent to trail crews or contractors. Participants will learn about:
- Trail design features
- How to apply the above to the trail design planning process to meet management objectives
Participants must bring water, snack, lunch, boots, and pants. Rain gear recommended.
Land Navigation and Orienteering
Instructor: Tom Lamb, GATC and Murray Lamb, GATC | Level Beginner/Intermediate | Max participants: 20
Most people today rely on GPS to navigate in the forest. When out of service, out of power, or out of equipment, GPS does not work. With well-developed navigation skills, one should never be truly lost. In this course we will learn to:
- Read and use a paper map
- Learn to use a compass
- Learn to read terrain features on a map
- Safely move through the forest
- Pinpoint any location
- Learn to plan and navigate along the path of lease resistance
Participants must bring water, snack, lunch, boots, and pants. Rain gear and long sleeve shirts are recommended.
Southern Appalachian Ecosystems
Instructor: Matt Drury, ATC; Gary Kauffman, USFS; and TBD | Level Beginner/Intermediate | Max participants: 15
This new course to WSI will teach participants about the flora and fauna of the Southern Appalachian ecosystem. Participants will learn:
- To use plant and tree identification tools
- Put identification tools to use in the field
- Non-native and invasive species identification (NNIS), mangement, and treatment
- Unique and interesting facts about the Southern Appalachian Mountains
- Introduction to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
Participants must bring water, snack, lunch, boots, and pants. Rain gear recommended.