2023 Northern Rockies Wilderness Skills Institute

Hey everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, but I wanted to share a few of the cool experiences I’ve been a part of as a Wilderness and Wild and Scenic (WWSR) RA in Region 1.

After a three-year hiatus, the Northern Rockies Wilderness Skills Institute (NRWSI) was hosted by the Northern Region at the Powell Ranger Station on the Nez Perce Clearwater National Forest in May. Planning and implementation of the week-long training was the result of collaboration with the Selway Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation, Society for Wilderness Stewardship, and Forest Service staff, and I was a member of the core team. Training covered an introduction to Wilderness policy, management, and monitoring, Wilderness trail maintenance, crosscut saw and ax training, and defensive horsemanship/packing.  Around 150 participants from 10 different Forests and five Regions were in attendance. Eight nongovernmental partner organizations participated, as well as staff from Glacier National Park. The week was kicked off by a discussion with Forest Supervisor Cheryl Probert, as well as Samuel Penney and Aaron Miles from the Nez Perce Tribe on co-stewardship and Wilderness. This training took place concurrently with the Southern Appalachian Skills Institute (SAWSI) held in Region 8 on the Pisgah National Forest, as well as the virtual National Wilderness Skills Institute (NWSI).

I was also able to attend some of the sessions and participated in the Introduction to Wilderness Stewardship two-day session and the Crosscut A/B certification two-day course. I had used a crosscut saw quite a bit in my past life as a Wilderness ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park in CO, so it felt really good to be out in the field using a tool after a long graduate school hiatus (although pretty hard on my office-bound bod 😂). After practicing cutting on a number of larger diameter trees and felling a small one in the field, I renewed my certification for Crosscut Saw A felling/B Bucking- essentially meaning that I can cut up larger downed trees and cut down smaller, uncomplicated standing trees while out in the field.

The evenings were filled with a few fun events, including a campfire discussion by legendary packer Smoke Elser- who regaled us with tales of his time running a successful outfitting business in the Bob Marshall Wilderness- and an amazing musical performance on the last night in the barn by The Pack Strings (all band members attended/helped teach sessions at NRWSI).

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