As the New Year approaches, we find ourselves reflecting on this past season and what has been accomplished in our public lands by the outstanding individuals who have dedicated their time as Wilderness Volunteers. These accomplishments can be summed up into a handful of meaningful statistics:

  • We completed 50 volunteer work projects in 2016;
  • We had 509 volunteers in the field for these week long projects;
  • With all of these volunteers we donated approximately 16,290 hours of volunteer work time!

Behind these impressive stats are stories of conservation and preservation of public lands. Here are a few which reminded us why we do what we do.

Limahuli National Botanical Garden, HI

In October volunteers traveled to Limahuli National Botanical Garden on the tropical island of  Kauaʻi to help with the preservation of this unique area. Here this stellar group of volunteers removed 2,000 square feet of invasive plant matter, planted 239 native plants, harvested taro root and sweet potatoes from the demonstration garden, and prepared the soil for replanting.

One volunteer felt strongly about the difference they made in the park:
One of the strongest aspects of this project is the union of preserving culture and native species. As the invasive plants are rapidly overtaking the native plants, it is critical to work to maintain a foothold in the endangered area [and to] ensure cultural preservation…” -Linda Gonzales

San Rafael Reef, UT

In September a group of volunteers found themselves among a sea of red rock wonders in the San Rafael Reef. Joining them on this project was a two-foot-tall batman figurine who served as a loyal and fitting mascot. The crew completed an exceptional project continuing the multi-year task of eradicating invasive tamarisk from the waterways, a appropriate job for a superhero such as Batman. A complex work plan was devised by the BLM in order to rid riparian areas of this invasive. Tamarisk, also referred to as ‘saltcedar’ is especially harmful in the southwest because of its ability to absorb large amounts of water and create vast salt deposits which inhibit plant growth. Continued investment in this work aims to restore these canyon waterways to their previous and natural condition, and reserve the small amount of water available in the southwest ground for native plant species to flourish!

Pecos Wilderness, NM
In June, a group of  WV leaders-in-training ventured into the mountains of New Mexico in the Pecos Wilderness Area. Here they encountered a region dauntingly called the ‘Borrego Triangle’, in reference to the Bermuda Triangle. The region gained its name for the notorious disappearance of trails due to overgrowth and tree fall. Here, the volunteers set forth to reopen trails which have been neglected for too many years. The importance of this work was unmistakable; by reopening this trail system, the volunteers facilitated access to other spectacular parts of the Pecos Wilderness. Increased access to Wilderness areas has numerous benefits, including facilitation of continued preservation in the region. In addition to the wonderful trail work completed on this project, the participants also trained to be project leaders for Wilderness Volunteers. This training spurred numerous discussions about Leave No Trace principles and wilderness ethics. WV is excited to get these new leaders on service projects, continuing the conservation of public lands!

Additional Comments by 2016 Project Participants

“I get only two weeks of vacation a year. After my experience at Glacier NP this September, I plan on making a trip with Wilderness Volunteers a yearly endeavor! First of all, my leaders were amazing. Truly respectable people who embodied the principles that WV stands for. The location of our trip was beautiful beyond words. I never wanted to leave! Trust me, I was bawling like a baby driving out of those mountains!! The food was delicious and clean up was organized and efficient. I feel like I developed a lifelong respect and comradery with my fellow participants. I will never forget this experience for as long as I live. I would highly recommend attending a WV trip. What a rewarding way to spend a vacation!”
– Leah Taylor, Glacier National Park

“Outdoors, great food, like minded people… what’s not to like?”- Jan Lochner, Castle Crags Wilderness, Shasta-Trinity NF

“I went to a place that I’ve never been to before and I met a terrific group of people and had a great week in the woods. I did something good for the Pacific Northwest and America’s public lands while having a lot of fun!” – Max Gordon,  Eagle Cap Wilderness, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest

“You can almost hear a sigh of relief from the native plants as you eradicate russian olive! If you can lop and saw, you can handle the work for this project. And, you get to work in beautiful surroundings to boot!” – Dave Barger, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

“The WV leaders had the complex logistics of this trip perfectly organized, and were very good with ensuring safety and effective work practices. Our USFS ranger was a delight to work with as well – energetic, strong, bright, and accommodating. We had a wonderful day hike to the Obsidian Cliffs and a picnic by a beautiful waterfall.” – Wim Kimmerer,  Three Sisters Wilderness, Willamette National Forest

“I am honored to have been part of the work team that completed this challenging, but so valuable, project.” – John Glade, Wind River Mountains, Popo Agie Wilderness, Shoshone NF

“I greatly enjoyed my WV trip. It was a wonderful combination of meaningful trail work and fun. I made a few good friends, and am already looking forward to my next adventure.”
– Matthew Petushek, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, La Croix RD, Superior NF

“This was the first WV project I have ever been a part of and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I would recommend it to anyone who loves the outdoors and wants to give something back to others who also love the outdoors. The work was physically demanding and required a good deal of strenuous effort but I was happy to discover it was not a “fluff” project and it was worth every drop of sweat lost and every breath gasped. Our leaders and the Forest Service employees were very knowledgeable and experienced. They worked hard alongside the seven volunteers on our team, improving trail conditions in some areas and re-routing it in others. This WV project was, for me, very satisfying and personally rewarding. Thank you so much for the opportunity. I am certain I will be signing up for more of these projects in the future.” -Bradley Smail, Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, White River National Forest

“This was one of the best “vacations” I have taken. While the work was challenging (in a good way) it was very well organized, the trip leader was fantastic and the group worked well together to accomplish great things. I highly recommend a WV trip for someone who is interested in doing something different, seeing awesome places while at the same time, giving something back. You won’t regret it.” -Marc Talluto, Bighorn Crags, Frank Church RONR Wilderness, Salmon-Challis NF

You can get more information and register for one of our 2017 projects here. See more great photos from 2016 WV service projects over at the WV Photo Gallery.

If you’d like to share your experiences on a WV project please send them to to be included in a future blog post.