by Ruth Scott, Wilderness Specialist, Olympic National Park
Beginning with its creation in 1997, Wilderness Volunteers began to play a vital role in the stewardship of America’s wilderness lands. This is nowhere more apparent than in Olympic National Park where, under the inspired leadership of John Sherman and Debbie Northcutt, Wilderness Volunteers began “to give something back”. The beauty and wild character of the Olympic Wilderness attracts many visitors, resulting in the trampling of fragile vegetation and erosion of life-giving soils, especially adjacent to wilderness camp areas where expansive areas of bare ground can develop. Camp area rehabilitation and revegetation with native plants has been a successful action used at Olympic to restore the wilderness resource as well as the wilderness experience for visitors. Wilderness Volunteers, since its inception, has been critical in this effort.
The first field season following its founding, Wilderness Volunteers began a revegetation project in Olympic’s high country at Hoh Lake with John Sherman directing the efforts of the crew together with me in my role as the park’s wilderness specialist. The excellent work of the volunteers continued annually: in subalpine areas at Royal Basin, Seven Lakes, Hurricane Ridge, Upper Lena and Lake Angeles, in lowland forests on the East Fork Quinault River and Boulder Creek, and on the coast for the largest of the wilderness revegetation projects – a four year venture at Norwegian Memorial. Most of these projects could not have been completed without the many dozens of Wilderness Volunteers that contributed over 5700 hours of labor, scarifying acres of compacted soil and planting tens of thousands of native plants. The outstanding guidance of leaders Gayle Marechal and Ed Hill on many of these trips enhanced the experience for volunteers and provided a dedication and continuity that made work with the organization one of the highlights of the year for Olympic National Park staff. The experience and commitment of returning volunteers such as Susan Meyer, a seven year veteran, have proven to be an especially valuable asset.
The stewardship relationship between Wilderness Volunteers and Olympic National Park will continue, ensuring that together our precious inheritance of wilderness is passed on unimpaired to the generations that follow.