Wilderness Program Manager

About the Job

Position Description: Wilderness Program Manager

SAWS is hiring a full-time wilderness program manager preferably based out of Asheville, NC; Roanoke, VA; or Johnson City, TN. The successful incumbent will oversee planning, managing, and implementing the ranger and specialist stewardship program across our eight-state footprint, managing an annual team of approximately 4-10 seasonal staff. The incumbent will also coordinate and run SAWS' volunteer engagement program.  The incumbent will lead and assist with annual hiring, training, event planning, reporting, program finances, partnership and volunteer development, and assist in fundraising activities such as grant writing. The wilderness program manager is an integral connection with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) field managers and will become well-versed in wilderness law and policy as well as become an expert with national agency wilderness frameworks for data collection and management such as Wilderness Stewardship Performance, Wilderness Character Monitoring, and Minimum Requirements Analysis. The incumbent will uphold and exemplify SAWS’ values and create a safe, welcoming, and inclusive work environment for their colleagues, employees, SAWS volunteers, and community members.

SAWS wilderness rangers and specialists complete critical projects both in the field and within district offices across ten national forests and 75 wildernesses including data collection, trail maintenance and rehabilitation, visitor contacts, down tree removal, technical writing, as well as serve as resident wilderness experts on their respective district/forest. SAWS typically hires 4-10 seasonal rangers and specialists each year. Each season starts in May, and length can vary between six months up to a year. The incumbent will train rangers and specialists, coordinate with project partners, prepare rangers and specialists to go into the field and their respective districts, purchase gear and supplies in support of rangers and specialist, manage the day-to-day operations of the programs, and support staff and volunteers as needed with travel required throughout the year.

Our training events and workshops are opportunities for SAWS to share our wilderness and trails stewardship expertise with partners, volunteers, and the general public both in our region and nationally. SAWS has a leadership role in planning and implementing Wilderness Skills Institute and National Wilderness Skills Institute where partners, agency staff, and volunteers learn the skills necessary to steward federally designated wilderness in a collegial, shoulder-to-shoulder manner. SAWS is also a recognized USFS cooperator and provider of crosscut saw certification and sits on the USFS National Wilderness Character Monitoring Team. The successful incumbent will have a broad and deep skillset to draw upon to develop and contribute to these planning and trainings needs across the eastern U.S. throughout the year. These skillsets should include wilderness law and policy, wilderness management, knowledge and use in traditional tools such as crosscut saw and ax use, basic trail maintenance skills, knowledge and background in recreating responsibly and/or Leave No Trace, and a willingness to engage and grow partnerships across our footprint. The incumbent should also have excellent interpersonal skills, strong leadership skills, and experience teaching others within a safe and welcoming learning environment.

The position will be part of the SAWS leadership team. The incumbent will help develop our staff to perform at a high level and succeed in our work with agency partners; support our agency partners with high level of wilderness expertise, initiative, compassion, and camaraderie; position our organization to succeed financially with prudent fiscal management and organizational integrity; and develop and support equitable, inclusive practices that are interwoven into our organization.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities


  • Salary $40,000 annually.

  • Health, dental, and vision insurance.

  • Health – Employee pays 20% of monthly premium, 50% of premium for dependents.

  • Dental & Vision – Employee pays 100% of premiums.

  • Life and disability insurance.

  • Generous leave and holiday pay.

  • Sick leave.

  • Paid family leave.

  • Two weeks of paid family leave in addition to standard annual leave.

  • Flexible work schedule.

  • Mileage reimbursement including for relocation.


Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

  • Enthusiasm for the SAWS mission.

  • A shared commitment to our values.

  • Strong desire to learn about and become an expert on federally designated wilderness, wilderness character, and wilderness management.

  • Ability to learn quickly.

  • Excellent organizational skills.

  • Good interpersonal communication.

  • Strong written communication skills.

  • Motivated and a self-starter.

  • Ability to work and camp in a remote and primitive setting occasionally.

  • Personable and comfortable talking to partners.

  • Demonstrated ability to lead employees, volunteers, or partners on projects both in the field and virtually.

  • Demonstrated ability to lead projects to completion at a high standard.

  • Demonstrated ability to work independently and in a team setting to complete tasks.

  • Ability to learn personnel leadership and management.

  • Travel required for 6-8 weeks a year for trainings, meetings, and staff/board retreats.

Additional Helpful Qualifications

  • Grant writing experience.

  • Expertise and knowledge about federally designated wilderness law and policy.

  • Knowledge and understanding about federally designated wilderness including frameworks such as Wilderness Stewardship Performance, Wilderness Character Monitoring, and Minimum Requirements Analysis

  • Data collection experience including wilderness-specific data such as recreation site monitoring, solitude monitoring, non-native invasive plant monitoring, and user-created trail monitoring

  • Trail maintenance experience.

  • Leave No Trace and/or Recreate Responsibly experience including backcountry camp and travel practices.

  • Familiar with public lands in the southeast.

  • Crosscut saw certification/experience.

  • Experience with ESRI Collector and ArcGIS software.

  • Degree or professional experience in environmental studies, natural resources, outdoor recreation, or a related field.

  • Knowledge of natural resources of the region (flora and fauna).


  • Professional development opportunities

  • Computer and hardwear

  • Desk and in office supplies

  • SAWS vehicle

  • Personal protective equipment

  • Tools and equipment

  • Camping gear available

  • SAWS uniforms

  • Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion library

  • Wilderness guidebooks and site-specific resources

About Us

About Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards

Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS) is a conservation non-profit dedicated to providing stewardship to protected public lands in the Southern Appalachian region, including in Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, West Virginia, Arkansas, and Kentucky. Founded in 2010, SAWS partners with federal agencies, including the Forest Service, to supplement existing stewardship efforts and provide additional support for training, skill-building, and community engagement. SAWS works to support safe, equitable access to public lands, preserve natural resources, and develop the next generation of conservation stewards. SAWS is headquartered in Asheville, NC with an office in Roanoke, VA.

SAWS is an equal opportunity employer and provides a drug-free workplace. SAWS values a safe, inclusive work environment, free from discrimination of any kind. We are committed to working towards equity in the outdoors and in conservation, including by celebrating diversity, fostering inclusivity, and recognizing and working to address past injustices and barriers to equitable access.

SAWS policy mandates that all SAWS employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Individuals may apply for a medical or religious exemption to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Learn more about SAWS at www.wildernessstewards.org.

To Apply

Applicants interested in the SAWS wilderness pogram manager position must apply through The Bridge Program here https://www.wildernessstewards.org/thebridgeproject.

SAWS is offering this position through The Bridge Program, an equitable hiring pathway for the environmental sector focused on people of color and underrepresented communities founded by Greening Youth Foundation and Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards.

Questions regarding the application may be submitted via email to Executive Director Kaitlin de Varona at kaitlindevarona@wildernessstewards.org

Apply for this Job
Upload Resume
Upload Cover Letter

Thanks for submitting your application!