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SAWS 2019 Accomplishments

Updated: Dec 10, 2020


Dear Friends of SAWS,

As we enter the holiday season, the SAWS team would like to thank you for your commitment to public lands stewardship and your support of our work. 2019 has been a great 9th year for SAWS, and we’d like to reflect with you on our biggest accomplishments of 2019 and share the ways we are fulfilling our mission to take care of wild places, create the next generation of conservation leaders, and engage the public in support of our public lands.

2019 has also been a year of change, as we’ve said farewell to our founding Executive Director, Bill Hodge, and welcomed Meryl Harrell, formerly Vice-Chair of the SAWS Board, into the Executive Director role. If you have ideas for SAWS in 2020, Meryl would love to hear from you! She can be reached at

Thank you to all of our partners, supporters, volunteers and friends who have pitched in during this transition, so that we are ending 2019 having had even more impact on the ground and with our strongest-ever relationships.We are powered by our community.It is because of you that we were able to provide:


1) Boots-on-the-Ground Stewardship


A crew leader sets a rock in a wall on one of the 16 field projects across our footprint.


We worked shoulder-to-shoulder with our Forest Service partners on 10 National Forests in eight states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Arkansas. SAWS mobilized 30,000 service hours on trails in your backyard, valued at over $750,000. Our field crews alone maintained and repaired over 57 miles of trails and removed over 2000 trees that were blocking trails in 15 wilderness areas. Our boots-on-the-ground work helps to maintain trails, support safe access, and protect the wilderness character of the places we all love.


2) Workforce Development for the Next Generation of Conservation Leaders


Our Wilderness Rangers and Specialists at WSI.


We provided paid seasonal and year-round jobs in the outdoors for 50 people this fiscal year, including our field crews, wilderness rangers, and wilderness specialists. We focus on providing transformational opportunities and experiences for our team that prepares them to pursue careers in land management and conservation. Our staff goes through rigorous training that gives them the necessary skills and the opportunity to network with people across the land management and conservation communities. Staff then hone their skills throughout the season.


3) Partnership in Action


Crew members from the US Naval Academy and Back Country Horsemen of America work together to remove unnecessary structures from Raccoon Branch Wilderness.


Partnership is the backbone of our work. In 2019, SAWS worked with partners to create a strong community of passionate wilderness stewards. We

worked with Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the Forest Service to host the 9th annual Wilderness Skills Institute in North Carolina and offered additional training in Arkansas. We partnered with universities and public lands stakeholders to provide volunteer opportunities and increase engagement in wilderness stewardship. We are proud to have worked for the 4th year in partnership with the U.S. Naval Academy, supported by REI and the National Forest Foundation, to do fieldwork with crews of midshipmen in wilderness areas in Virginia. Co-hosting Women’s Work Days, doing 7 crosscut saw trainings in 5 states, and engaging more than 200 volunteers across our footprint were other highlights of our partnership work in 2019.


4) Community Outreach and Engagement


Making tree cookies with visitors to our booth at GoFest in Roanoke, VA.


We place a high value on the communities that call these wild places their backyard. In 2019, we attended community events like Meet the Mountains Festival in Johnson City, TN and GoFest in Roanoke VA. We connected with school groups in South Carolina and Tennessee, educated guests of local outfitter and guide services like Wildland Trekking in North Carolina, worked with multiple colleges and universities to support service learning days and career fairs, and connected with businesses and community leaders across our region. We also had a great time at recent events with our friends at the Chattanooga Brewing Company with Rock/Creek and Patagonia in Chattanooga, TN; Boojum Brewing Company in Waynesville, NC; and The Oyster Bar in Little Rock! We hope to do even more in 2020 to support communities and engage them in public lands stewardship.


5) Positive Wilderness Experiences


One of our rangers interacting with visitors on the trail.


Through all of our work, we help facilitate positive wilderness experiences for our staff, volunteers and visitors to pubic lands. Our role is to connect people to their wild places, helping to spark a lifelong love of public lands and a sense of shared responsibility to take care of these special places. In 2019, we talked with 17,000 visitors about wilderness and Leave No Trace principles, and helped create safe and positive trail experiences for countless visitors.



At SAWS, we are so grateful to help take care of our wild public lands, and to work with such a fantastic community to make a difference on the ground and for the next generation of conservation leaders. Thank you for all you do!

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving,

The SAWS Team


We couldn’t do this work without your continued support. Please consider a donation to SAWS for our work in 2020!

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