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Mission & Values

Our Mission

"Educate, cultivate, and empower an engaged public and the next generation in wilderness stewardship across the southeast."

Our Mission
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SAWS has three primary goals:


  • Take care of wild public lands in our footprint.

  • Provide transformational job opportunities in the outdoors that cultivate, educate, and empower the next generation of conservation leaders..

  • Increase public awareness and relevancy of wilderness.

Our Values

Our Values

At Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS), we believe: 

Wilderness and other wild public lands have value, and we share responsibility for caring for those lands and for the ecological benefits they provide for current and future generations.

We can build the next generation of conservation stewards by providing jobs and meaningful, transformational experiences in the outdoors.

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Safe, inclusive access to the outdoors is a basic right and access to meaningful and transformative outdoor places, experiences, and careers must be equitable.

The wellbeing of communities in our footprint is important, and understanding and supporting community priorities and needs is integral to increasing the relevance of wild public lands and natural resource stewardship.

Sharing knowledge and offering skills-based training for employees and partners will help revitalize stewardship in our region and the country. 

The best way for SAWS to succeed is by building partnerships and shared capacity, working to understand and support mutual objectives.

We all share responsibility for creating equity and actively disrupting systems that are unjust, centering the needs and leadership of those most impacted.

As the board and staff of SAWS, we seek to create and foster an organization that:

Has a strong staff and board with diverse backgrounds, talents, and perspectives.


Includes and welcomes all people, creating space for everyone to feel safe, seen, heard, and valued.

Supports and complements the capacity of public land management agencies, working in partnership for the stewardship of public lands.

Provides meaningful employment opportunities in conservation with a living wage and opportunities for professional growth.

Develops and invests in employees’ individual skills through personal growth, leadership, and career development while building a strong team and SAWS community.


Provides work-life balance and support for employees at all phases of life.

Fosters a learning culture and an atmosphere of openness, transparency, and respect.

Seeks to listen to and understand the needs, interests, and values of partners and communities in our footprint, finding opportunities for mutual benefit.

Builds transformative partnerships and works in collaboration with others.

Embeds equity into our annual goal setting and creates checkpoints to hold ourselves accountable.

Learns and acts within our spheres of influence to acknowledge and address systemic racism and other barriers to safe, equitable access to the outdoors.

Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at SAWS

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We are committed to working towards equity in the outdoors and in conservation by celebrating diversity, fostering inclusivity, and recognizing and working to address past injustices and barriers to equitable access. SAWS has three JEDI priorities:

  • Maintain a diverse and inclusive board.

  • Create an inclusive workforce, and increase the diversity of the people that engage in our programs.

  • Continue to work with and support organizations led by Black, Indigenous, and all people of color (BIPOC) to remove barriers and build more equitable opportunities in the outdoors. 



Land Acknowledgement

Land Acknowledgement

SAWS acknowledges and honors the history, culture and heritage of Tribal Nations and communities. The lands in each of the places we work are the traditional, ancestral, and contemporary homelands of Native people. Our offices in Asheville, North Carolina and Roanoke, Virginia stand on the traditional, ancestral, and contemporary homelands of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Tutelo people. We recognize the continuing experiences, rights, and values of Indigenous people.

We are committed to telling a more truthful story of the lands we live, work, and play on. We actively seek and welcome all opportunities to learn more from the Tribal Nations throughout our region to better acknowledge their perspectives, interests, and stories. SAWS will listen to, learn from, and support Native interests in our landscape.

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