Interagency Wilderness Interpretation and Education Workshop

  • By Robert Hamm, Recreation and Lands Officer, Cleveland National Forest
A man stands outside in the snow with a lake and mountain behind him. Men and women gather on the steps of the Interagency Wilderness Interpretation and Education Workshop, held at the Arthur Carhart National Wilderness Training Center in Estes Park, Colorado. Men and women gather in the snow in a wilderness area during the Interagency Wilderness Interpretation and Education Workshop, held at the Arthur Carhart National Wilderness Training Center in Estes Park, Colorado.

From May 21 to May 23, 2019, Robert Hamm, participated in his first Interagency Wilderness Interpretation and Education Workshop, held at the Arthur Carhart National Wilderness Training Center in Estes Park, Colorado, located just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park. More than 25 attendees, employed by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, Department of Interior’s National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management, came from all over the country.

Hamm, a Recreation and Lands Officer, is from the Cleveland National Forest’s Palomar Ranger District, a, what he refers to as a “small, urban forest, and our wilderness areas are small and don’t fit what people think of when they think of “wilderness” as a concept.” He has heard comments, like, “well, this isn’t a REAL wilderness,” or “I don’t get how this even qualifies as wilderness,” from the public and even people inside the Forest Service. His purpose in going to the workshop was to learn how to convince others that the wilderness areas on the Cleveland NF are unique, special, and fully deserving of the title.

The most southern of California’s 18 national forests boasts four wilderness areas, the 17,975 acre Agua Tibia Wilderness, the 13,261 acre Pine Creek Wilderness, the 6,919 acre Hauser Wilderness and the 39,413 acre San Mateo Canyon Wilderness.

An act of Congress

For an area to designated as wilderness it takes an act of Congress. The Wilderness Act of 1964 defines wilderness as, “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Wilderness is further defined as an area that, “generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable,” and has, “outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation.”

The National Wilderness Preservation System is a network of over 111 million acres comprised of more than 803 wilderness areas. According to the Forest Service wilderness website, these are special places where nature still calls the shots.  Places where visitors can find a sense of true self-reliance and experience solitude. They are final holdout refuges for a long list of rare, threatened, and endangered species, forced to the edges by modern development. They are the headwaters of critical, life-infusing rivers and streams. They are places where law mandates above all else that wildness be retained for our current generation, and those who will follow.

Wilderness Interpretation and Education Workshop

“It’s easy to get caught up in the paperwork and tediousness of our jobs. We’re busy. Always. However, at the end of the day, our duty is to the land and the public.—Robert Hamm

Over the course of the three days, through classroom instruction, lectures, group exercises, and a field day to a local wilderness area, Hamm not only learned how to talk to people about wilderness, but he learned how to identify and tell the story of that wilderness. Ideas of how to run his other programs took shape and being around others who manage the land who have similar challenges, who provided new perspectives was encouraging and inspiring. When Hamm returned to his home in San Diego he had a lot to consider. He looked at his work with new eyes.

Wilderness areas are special places that deserve care. The only way that people will care for wilderness is if they have an understanding of it,” said Hamm. “By being the front line, and taking the time to explain and interpret wilderness to a wider audience, we are fulfilling our duty to the land and the people. This workshop provided tools and lessons that I can use to fulfill this duty, and I would encourage anybody in a position involving wilderness to attend whenever it is offered.”    

Wilderness courses offered through the Arthur Carhart National Wilderness Training Center can be found here.





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