Why is Wilderness Stewardship So Important?
by Mary Sanders
Wilderness Volunteers 2018 Intern
The group moving one of two stringers into place with some extra hands from the Forest Service.

Taking in the distant mountains we’d soon be entering; project leader Ben Johnson and I began to address the looming project into the Never Summer Wilderness. After explaining the two other projects I was assigned to as a part of my internship, Ben simply stated that this was going to be by far my hardest project in regard to physical work. Being my first official WV project, and having very minimal trail maintenance experience prior, I was pretty intimidated. At over ten thousand feet of elevation our group would be working to complete four river crossings in the Never Summer Wilderness. Quite frankly, I had a right to be as intimidated as I was. Upon completing the trip, I struggled to recollect a time in my life I’d ever been so drained. At the end of it all however, I gained the knowledge that my work had made a much larger impact than what I had assumed before entering those mountains.
During the trip we stripped two large logs, cut them down to be walkable, and moved them to create a river crossing. Later in the week the group also created three other river crossings with the large rocks available nearby. Having only seven volunteers and one forest ranger, it was a lot of work, and we used up every single workday from start to finish. Our group being smaller than most Wilderness Volunteer groups, had to call in four more forest service workers on Friday to help with our final tasks. Through it all, we had many hikers pass us as we worked. I do not kid when I say that almost every single time someone walked by they would thank us for our work.

Crossings 1-4, starting top left.

At the midpoint of our project, we had our day off. The plan was to hike Bowers Pass, the site of where the Never Summer WV group from last year worked. The leaders from this year’s trip, Ben Johnson and Laura Sutherland, had also led that trip, and pointed out with ease as we hiked where the work had been done. The difference was amazing. Rock paths had been put into place where in years past hikers sank to their knees in mud. Fallen trees and branches that got in the way had been removed. Ben realized from walking the trail this year, their work took about an hour and a half of the hike.

Enjoying the views from Bower’s Pass.
Reflecting on the trip and the people we got to meet along the way, my perspective on trails has altered.  As the budgets for land management agencies continues to be cut, it has become more and more evident that the everyday person in turn, has more responsibility to give back. Things as little as staying on the designated trial, setting up within legal campsites, leave no trace, and obeying fire restrictions become so much more significant. When that’s not enough, because let’s be honest, humans are far from perfect, this is where WV comes in. Now more than ever this work has become important, but now more than ever Wilderness Volunteers has been delivering on the job.