Wilderness Stewardship Program

Removing campfire rings in the backcountry helps restore Wilderness character.The Mt. Hood National Forest’s Wilderness Stewardship Program began with the development of the Wilderness Protection Plan for the Mt. Hood, Salmon-Huckleberry, Hatfield, and Badger Wilderness.

In 1999, the Forest proposed a plan to implement Wilderness wide use restrictions that would have cut wilderness use by more than half. More than 600 people responded to that proposal and encouraged the Forest to consider a less restrictive approach that protected resources and educated the public.

Several key groups volunteered to help implement a new alternative plan that focused on public stewardship of these special lands. The heart of the implementation actions in that plan is the Wilderness Stewardship Program. Get Involved.

What is a Wilderness Steward?

A Wilderness Steward is anyone who can help us maintain, protect and restore the Wilderness character in these three Wildernesses. 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 will be education, not enforcement.
  • 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.
  • Assisting with trail maintenance and/or site restoration projects.
  • Writing grant applications to obtain funding for site restoration and the Steward Program.
  • Helping organize Stewardship activities.

What Experience Do I Need?

The level of experience needed depends on the steward activity you are interested in pursuing. Field-going stewards should have solid backpacking or equestrian experience. Those making group presentations should feel comfortable speaking in front of a crowd. For most activities, we will provide training to stewards so they feel comfortable with their duties. The best experience you can bring to the program is enthusiasm, flexibility, people skills, and a love of Wilderness.

Training is required for new Wilderness Stewards and you will be required to go through:

  • Job hazard analysis safety training
  • Radio use
  • Public encounters

Contact either Hood River or Zigzag Ranger Districts for more information.

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 eight single days). This can include a combination of steward activities. For example, stewards can commit 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, friends, 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 we like the safety factor of volunteers having at least one other person with them.

What Do I need to be a Steward?

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

What Do I Get Out of Being a Wilderness Steward?

Wilderness stewards can meet new people and hike in pristine backcountry settings. They can restore impacted sites and save fragile areas. They can help keep people from camping in the middle of a wildflower meadow, impacting the flora and fauna of that sensitive area. From the experiences our existing wilderness stewards have had, the benefits far outweigh the downsides. The feedback from the public is great. The largest public benefit of Wilderness Stewardship is that we can minimize the need for limiting use in some areas if we can alter the behavior of users and restore impacted sites.

The work done by Wilderness Stewards is invaluable. With declining budgets and increasing populations, the Forest Service cannot manage these Wildernesses alone. In addition to the tangible value of hours worked, visitor contacts made, data collected, sites restored, etc., there is the intangible gain of educating existing and future wilderness users, increasing the visibility of wilderness protection, and the collaborative benefits of organized groups working together. Volunteer recognition awards can include annual Forest Passes that are required at many trailheads and recreation sites throughout the Northwest Region, additional steward clothing components such as fleece vests, books, and other items.

How Do I Become a Mt. Hood Wilderness Steward?

If you are interested in becoming a Wilderness steward let us know whether you are interested in an area near Zigzag or near Hood River Ranger Districts. You should complete the attached application in winter or spring. At that point we will put you on our mailing list and keep you updated with current issues. Training is required and outlined above.

A man stands on a trail with Mt Hood in viewVisit: https://wildstews.org to learn more and apply. Instagram: @mthoodwildernessstewards

Wilderness Volunteers - Nationwide Stewardship Opportunities 

Wilderness Volunteers.org- Wilderness Volunteers is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization created in 1997 to organize and promote volunteer service to America's wild lands. We 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.


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Key Contacts

General Volunteering Information Contacts:

Pacific NW Regional Office
Volunteer & Service Program Manager
(503) 808-2816

Rachel LaMedica,
Partnership Coordinator

Ron Kikel 
Hood River Ranger District