- JJ McGinnis
WWA LEADS STATEWIDE CITIZEN SCIENCE STEWARDSHIP EFFORTS ACROSS THREE WILDERNESS AREAS
Statewide, WY – The Wyoming Wilderness Association (WWA) is working to lead statewide citizen science stewardship efforts across designated Wilderness areas on three national forests this summer. This volunteer program is designed to help National Forest partners meet the federal requirement known as Wilderness Stewardship Performance (WSP), which ensures designated Wilderness areas are managed as intended by the Wilderness Act of 1964. While these requirements include on the ground data collection and monitoring work for a long list of elements, this Wyoming based volunteer effort focuses on just two, solitude monitoring and campsite assessment. The program is looking for a large number of volunteers who are willing to get field trained in order to visit designated areas on their own before the end of September.
The solitude monitoring portion of the program will occur on the Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee National Forests and aims to organize upwards of 100 volunteers across the Gros Ventre and Jedediah Smith Wilderness areas. In collaboration with the wilderness managers and rangers from both forests, there are 10 site specific training sessions being offered to equip volunteers with an understanding of the user-friendly monitoring work. Volunteers will learn how to record human encounters they experience while traveling in a wilderness area for at least four-hours. Three of these trainings have already occurred, but there are still seven opportunities to get involved as a solitude monitoring volunteer this July. Additionally, a WWA email listserv helps connect volunteers interested in growing their community to allow volunteers to find hiking partners and explore alternate training locations in their area.
Data gathering for campsite assessments will occur on the Bighorn National Forest (BNF) across the Cloud Peak Wilderness area. Volunteers will learn the minimum recreation site monitoring protocol and how to use a downloadable app (Survey 123) to gather data allowing for a consistent protocol for monitoring recreation sites in the wilderness. WWA is partnering specifically with BNF Wilderness Recreation Specialist, Silas Davidson on this portion of the project. Through group trainings this July, volunteers will learn how to independently assess (1) groundcover disturbance of the main campsite, (2) impact to standing trees and roots, and (3) size of disturbed area (including satellite tent pads and stock-holding areas) and how to input data into the app. Training will also include an overview of additional established protocols for collecting data in Cloud Peak Wilderness.
WWA identified forest partners are often put in a position to create additional work for themselves to provide meaningful opportunities for volunteers. “A successful volunteer effort should instead allow our public land agencies to spend their limited time and resources elsewhere. Our volunteer driven Wilderness Stewardship Performance monitoring work fulfills this intent,” shared Peggie dePasquale, Associate Director of WWA. As of 2021, WWA is committed to performing the majority of their stewardship work on these sorts of projects, while incrementally growing their stewardship impact each year. DePasquale added, “This year we are looking at just three Wilderness areas. There are currently 14 Wilderness areas in our state. Imagine if WWA and our partners were able to take on a majority, if not all, of this monitoring and assessment work. Imagine the increase in capacity for our strapped National Forest partners.”
The project is being carried out in partnership with a variety of other non-profit organizations including the Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Friends of the Bridger-Teton and the Cloud Peak Chapter of Wilderness Watch. The generous funding for this statewide effort is made possible by the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance and the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole.
About Wyoming Wilderness Association:
Wyoming Wilderness Association is a nonprofit conservation organization with a mission to protect Wyoming public wildlands through education, stewardship and advocacy. The group was founded in 1979 by local wilderness advocates who envisioned a wild future for the state. This small volunteer, grassroots group began educating, training, and organizing Wyoming citizens and successfully secured the passage of the 1984 Wyoming Wilderness Act. As of 2020, WWA represents over 4,000 members and supporters and has offices working on wildlands issues across the state. The future of the Palisades Wilderness Study Area is a priority for the group and they are hopeful for its wild future.