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Awards & Recognition

SAWS is recognized as a leading wilderness stewardship organization by our partners and peers. We are so proud to have earned their trust. Each of these awards is a reflection of the resilience, passion and professionalism of our team, as well as the importance of our many supporters and partners over the years.


These awards highlight not only the efforts of our organization, but also exemplify the excellent work being accomplished by our partners throughout the Southern Appalachian region.

2022 Potomac Appalachian Trail Club Appreciation Award (PATC)

2022 Traditional Skills and Minimum Tool Leadership Award (USFS)

On December 15th, 2022, SAWS was honored to receive a U.S. Forest Service National Wilderness Award called the Traditional Skills and Minimum Tool Leadership Award along with our partners at the Cherokee National Forest, the Jolly Rovers, and griphoist trainers Martha Becton and Robert Fina. We undertook a complex and large stone construction project in 2021 in Bald River Gorge Wilderness, rehabilitating the first 600 feet of the Bald River trail up to the top of the iconic Bald River Falls outside of Tellico Plains, TN. Using traditional tools and rigging techniques to move stones into place, we were able to build 53 stone steps with pavers and 760 sq ft of stone retaining wall creating a sustainable path for the tens of thousands of annual visitors to the falls. This project was funded by the Great American Outdoors Act.

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2021 Apply Knowledge Globally, Chief's Award (USFS)

National Wilderness Skills Institute (Group Award)


The Chief's Award is the highest award in the U.S. Forest Service that celebrates excellence and achievement by employees and partners to accomplish the Forest Service's goals. On January 13th, SAWS received the Chief's Award in the Apply Knowledge Globally category from the U.S Forest Service alongside five of our partners.

The Chief's Award was presented to the planning team of the National Wilderness Skills Institute that brought together over 900 wilderness and river managers, field rangers, and partner organization from each region across the United States, as well as five other nations, to learn new skills, share experiences, and connect with one another as they work to preserve wilderness character or the outstandingly remarkable values of wild and scenic rivers. With similar, smaller gatherings limited from the pandemic, agency personnel and partners came together to plan and execute the first-ever virtual National Wilderness Skills Institute.


2021 Potomac Appalachian Trail Club Appreciation Award (PATC)

SAWS was awarded the 2021 Appreciation Award from Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) on November 16th for our crosscut and tread maintenance training events completed in partnership with PATC-North River Ranger District volunteers and the North River Ranger District of the George Washington & Jefferson National Forests. This training was made possible by a grant awarded by National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF). This is the second consecutive year SAWS was awarded the PATC Appreciation Award. Read about the trainings in the full nomination here.


"Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS) has contributed significantly to PATC’s North River District this year by providing training for crosscut saw and axe work and a separate training for tread work. SAWS received the PATC Appreciation Award in 2020, but we are nominating them again because of their extraordinary contributions this year."

2022 Potomac Appalachian Trail Club Appreciation Award (PATC)


2020 Bob Marshall Award for Group Champion of Wilderness Stewardship (USFS)

The Forest Service’s Bob Marshall Award for Group Champion of Wilderness Stewardship is given to groups of employees who have “demonstrated dedication and active involvement in wilderness stewardship.” Groups who are recognized with this award have gone the “extra mile” to preserve the wilderness resource.

“2020 marks the 10th anniversary of the formation of SAWS. Over the past decade they have reinvigorated the wilderness community in the Southeast by unifying a network of wilderness stewards across 68 wilderness areas in southern Appalachia. Initially, they rose to meet the Chief’s 10-Year Wilderness Stewardship Challenge by forming wilderness ranger programs and trail crews. Now they work to meet Wilderness Character Monitoring goals by hiring and training Wilderness Specialists to work closely with agency staff. In addition to their monitoring work they also enable others to become wilderness stewards by helping to host an annual Wilderness Skills Institute that provides training opportunities for staff, partners, and volunteers. Overall, they have contributed 124,000 hours of stewardship service in the region over the past decade and continue to expand their reach and prepare the next generation to engage in wilderness stewardship.”


2020 Wilderness Stewardship Organization of the Year (NWSA & SWS)

“My professional training exercise with SAWS was one of the most rewarding and valuable experiences of my life thus far. Loved every second of it.” 


- Robyn Roper - Wilderness Field Crew 2018

The Wilderness Stewardship Organization of the Year Award  recognizes a wilderness stewardship organization that has “demonstrated outstanding ability to steward their wilderness areas, be a valuable partner with the Federal agencies, and complete many needed accomplishments." This inaugural award was presented to SAWS by the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance and Society for Wilderness Stewardship.

“The Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards, commonly referred to as SAWS, has become a force for wilderness stewardship in the Southern Region and beyond. Currently, they are active partners for 68 wilderness areas across nine (9) National Forests. These wilderness areas and their stewardship provide many critical functions and roles in the Southern Appalachians.”

“The SAWS – Forest Service partnership is often described as transformational, rather than transactional. They have helped to reinvigorate the Wilderness community in the southeast by inspiring new wilderness stewards, raising wilderness awareness and forging lasting connections across the southern Appalachian landscape.”


2020 Potomac Appalachian Trail Club Appreciation Award (PATC)

This award is primarily for non-members, and is given to those individuals or groups who have made some special contribution to the Club and its objectives. Recipients can include federal, state, and local government officials who have assisted the Club in its activities, individuals who have donated land or facilities to the Club, retired PATC employees, or anyone else who has helped the Club in a significant way.

"The Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards have collaborated with the Southern Shenandoah Valley Chapter over the past five years to organize multiple work-trips. The SAWS staff possesses the necessary expertise and leadership skills to lead groups in removing large blowdowns using traditional tools. It is thanks to their involvement with SSVC and the North River District that PATC has been able to generate interest in the club’s wilderness trail work and successfully recruit more volunteers."


2017 Regional Forester's Honor Award for Partners/Community Engagement (USFS)

Wilderness Skills Institute Creation Team, Southern Region​ (Group Award)

“This year's theme "Building a Legacy -- Commitment to Excellence" acknowledges Forest Service employees, work units, partnerships, and groups who have demonstrated a commitment restoring, sustaining, and/or enhancing forestlands and natural resources in the Southern Region. The Regional Forester’s Honor Awards is an opportunity to recognize groups and individuals who go over and beyond their duties demonstrating their commitment to excellence and teamwork.”

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