Gifford Pinchot Wilderness Stewardship Program

A woman in a Forest Service uniform poses by a weathered, wooden trail sign.Congress established Wilderness to protect and maintain its wild character, intact ecosystems, and natural processes and to provide outstanding opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation. While the 1964 Wilderness Act provides a high level of protection, wilderness requires a sustained commitment and careful stewardship to ensure that its remarkable resources and values endure for future generations.

You can do your part and take a personal role in preserving these special places. Whatever your talents, abilities and interest, there are many types of volunteer stewardship opportunities available. 

What is a Wilderness Steward?

A Wilderness Steward is anyone who can help us maintain, protect and restore wilderness. Wilderness areas on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest include: Mount Adams, Trapper Creek, Indian Heaven, Glacier View, Goat Rocks, William O. Douglas and Tatoosh. There are also similar opportunities to work in wilderness on the nearby Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and Mt. Hood National Forest.  Specific activities can include:

  • Spending weekends or weekdays in the wilderness at popular destinations making visitor contacts and monitoring conditions along with doing some site clean-up (usually minimal). Your role is one of education, not enforcement. 
  • Assisting Climbing Rangers on Mount Adams. 
  • Assisting with site restoration projects.
  • Making presentations to groups such as Scouts, church groups, campers, and schools about wilderness values and “leave no trace” principles. 
  • Helping develop wilderness brochures, publications, and web site information. 
  • Entering wilderness data into a computer. 
  • Helping organize Stewardship activities. 

What Experience do I Need?

The level of experience needed, depends on the steward activity you are interested in pursuing. For example, field going stewards should have backpacking or equestrian experience. Those wishing to work with climbing rangers should have mountaineering experience. Similarly, those making groups presentations should feel comfortable speaking in front of a crowd. For most activities, we will provide training and mentoring for stewards to ensure that they feel comfortable and safe performing their duties. The best experience you can bring to the program is enthusiasm, flexibility, people skills, and a love of wilderness.

What Kind of Commitment Must I Make?

We would prefer that stewards make a commitment of the equivalent of at least 4 weekends or weekdays (or 8 single days). This can include a combination of steward activities. For example, some summer weekends in the field, and some group presentations in the off-season. It is important that folks make realistic estimates about their ability to participate.

It is possible and preferable for wilderness stewards to take their spouse, friend, or family members with them to the field. So instead of cutting into time spent with family and friends, it can be a delightful experience for all of you. The others with you would not be signed up as stewards unless they went through the training, but going out with others provides an added layer of safety.

What do I need to be a Steward?

Field-going stewards should have the usual equipment needed to stay in the backcountry (good boots, tent, pack, bag, stove, etc.). We provide stewards with standard steward uniform components consisting of a long sleeve t-shirt, ball cap, volunteer badge, and name tag. We provide field going stewards with radios for communication and maps. We also provide any other special equipment that might be needed for your steward duties. 

What Do I Get Out of Being a Wilderness Steward?

The work of a Wilderness Stewards is rewarding, and the opportunity to accomplish it in such a memorable setting is an added benefit. Preserving the wilderness resource matters to most of the visitors you will encounter, and it is not uncommon to be thanked you for your service. After 16 hours of service it is possible obtain an annual Northwest Forest Passes which is required at many trailheads and recreation sites throughout the Northwest Region. For those that are considering natural resources or outdoor education as a possible career, this is an opportunity to gain valuable firsthand experience and network.  

Wilderness has touched the lives of so many people.  Even the people that may never visit wilderness benefit from the clean water and intact ecosystems it provides.  Perhaps the greatest benefit of working as a volunteer Wilderness Steward is the opportunity to preserve this gift for both the current and future generations. 

How Do I Become a Wilderness Steward? 

If you are interested in becoming a wilderness steward, please complete the application below.  After that, we will follow up with you and further discuss your interests and corresponding opportunities and training. You are also welcome to contact our wilderness managers with any questions you might have. 

Justin Ewer
Mount Adams, Indian Heaven, Trapper Creek

Andrea Durham
Glacier View, Goat Rocks, William O. Douglas, Tatoosh

Wilderness Steward application

National Wilderness Stewardship Opportunities

Wilderness - Wilderness Volunteers is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization created in 1997 to organize and promote volunteer service to America's wild lands. They work with public land agencies including the National Park Service, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Search  for wildernes stewardship opportunities in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and beyond.