Deliver Benefits to the Public

Celebrating America’s wilderness has international appeal


Ralph Swain, Regional Wilderness Program Manager for the Rocky Mountain Region, provides instruction on how to make safe and successful contact with the public. Forest Service photo.

NEW MEXICO—The Southwestern and Rocky Mountain Regions recently co-hosted their annual Wilderness Ranger Rendezvous on the Carson National Forest’s Questa Ranger District in northern New Mexico. The Rendezvous encourages community building among wilderness stewards and provides critical training to agency employees, partners, and volunteers working in wilderness. Core course content emphasizes the Wilderness Act, the diversity of personal values that we all attribute to wilderness as individual citizens and stewards, how to make safe and successful public contacts in the backcountry, topics in wilderness first aid and risk management, a variety of technical and traditional field-based skills, and the Wilderness Ranger Cook-Off, a cooking competition to showcase participants’ backcountry cooking skills.

As an addition to the Rendezvous this year, the Questa Ranger District and the Southwestern Region provided training opportunities in sustainable trail maintenance and construction, Leave No Trace, and crosscut sawing. In sum, these training tracks served upwards of 150 people from New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, South Dakota, Utah, and Europe. Yes, Europe! Six European attendees hailing from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine – hosted in partnership with Forest Service International Programs – attended the Rendezvous to learn about American wilderness management and share lessons and insights about protected area management by government agencies and non-profit organizations in Europe. 

Given the cultural diversity of northern New Mexico and that 2018 is the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, this year’s curriculum also included perspectives on wilderness from Tribal, Land Grant, rancher, and hunter and angler communities, as well as an introduction to Wild & Scenic Rivers and a tutorial in safe river travel.

Next year’s Rendezvous will be hosted in the Rocky Mountain Region and we encourage you to attend if you have an interest in learning more about wilderness. Until then, next time you encounter a friendly wilderness ranger – whether an agency employee, partner, or volunteer – please thank them for their service and efforts toward keeping wilderness wild.


Jenna Grubbs, Tourism Director for the Town of Red River, leads a small group session on teaching Leave No Trace ethics and principles to youth. Forest Service photo.

Wilderness Ranger Cook-off participants prep their meals prior to attendees tasting and voting for their favorite. Forest Service photo.