Excel as a High-Performing Agency

Partners, Forests work together to monitor wilderness character

WASHINGTON, DC—In late May and early June, 29 seasonal wilderness staff working for partner organizations participated in two Wilderness Character Monitoring training sessions. One was held at the Powell Ranger Station, Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest, and the other at the Cradle of Forestry, Pisgah National Forest. These specialists, were then placed in forests around the country, providing additional capacity for implementing WCM and other wilderness work.

Participants came from the Society for Wilderness Stewardship – referred to as Wilderness Fellows – and Southern Appalachians Wilderness Stewards – referred to as Wilderness Specialists. Staff from the Washington Office and Regions 1 and 8 also attended to provide important perspectives. Attendees practiced producing key documents for establishing wilderness character baselines.

WCM is an interagency strategy that responds to the Wilderness Act’s mandate to preserve wilderness character. Forest Service implementation of WCM began this year, though some forests have been working on aspects of WCM for several years. Twenty-nine wildernesses are participating in this pilot year.  A rotation over the next five years will allow all 445 Forest Service wildernesses to establish a baseline from which to determine trends in wilderness character. A Washington Office-funded team of specialists, including a data analyst, WCM program manager and monitoring coordinator, are leading the implementation effort.

This training and the associated field partnership-based program is primarily funded by internal Wilderness Stewardship Performance funds and by partner contributions. WSP tracks agency wilderness actions and is closely tied to WCM, which monitors the impacts of those actions. Participants hired into the program generally work from May until November, completing WCM and WSP tasks that the forest does not have capacity to take on. These Wilderness Fellows bring an extensive background of experience and education to the forest, and in return gain valuable experience working with specialists. Past participants have gone on to work seasonally or permanently for the agency.

Training resources, including past webinars, the Wilderness Character Technical Guide, and FAQs are available to those who are interested in this effort. To learn more about WCM and Wilderness Fellows in general, contact Mary Ellen Emerick, WCM program manager (detail).


Wilderness Fellows from the Society for Wilderness Stewardship learn about stewardship on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest. Photo courtesy of Kat Lyons, Society for Wilderness Stewardship.