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SAWS Wins National Awards

SAWS Friends and Family,

We are thrilled to kick off our celebration of 10 years of SAWS with the news that SAWS has received two national awards for wilderness stewardship! We were honored to receive the Bob Marshall Award for Group Champion of Wilderness Stewardship from the Forest Service, which is the agency’s highest annual group award for wilderness stewardship. We were also honored to be given the inaugural Wilderness Stewardship Organization of the Year award from the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance and the Society for Wilderness Stewardship. More details on each award are shared below.

These awards are so meaningful in a year that has been challenging for all. They reflect the resilience, passion and professionalism of our team, as well as the importance of our many supporters and partners over the past 10 years.

Highlighting the excellence of our partners, we are also excited to share that our friend and colleague, John Campbell of the Forest Service, was honored with the Wilderness Partnership Champion Award, for his significant contributions to wilderness leadership and his stalwart support for SAWS and our shared work.

Rounding out this year’s recognition of wilderness leadership in the Southern Region, we congratulate Forest Service District Ranger Andy Scott on the Bankhead National Forest for his award for Line Officer Wilderness Leadership.

These national awards highlight not only the efforts of our organization, but also exemplify the excellent work being accomplished by the Forest Service and its partners throughout the Southern Appalachians and Region 8 of the Forest Service.

SAWS Wins the Forest Service’s Bob Marshall Award for Group Champion of Wilderness Stewardship

The Forest Service’s Bob Marshall Award for Group Champion of Wilderness Stewardship is given to groups 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. In presenting SAWS with this year’s award during the National Wilderness Workshop hosted by the Society of Wilderness Stewardship and the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance, Angela Coleman, Acting Associate Chief of the Forest Service, shared:

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.

SAWS Wins the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance and Society for Wilderness Stewardship’s Inaugural “Wilderness Stewardship Organization of the Year” Award

The National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance (NWSA) connects wilderness stewardship organizations across the country, and has helped provide leadership during the pandemic. This year the NWSA, in partnership with the Society for Wilderness Stewardship, created awards for wilderness stewardship in four categories. The Wilderness Stewardship Organization of the Year award recognizes a wilderness stewardship organization that has “demonstrated outstanding ability to steward their wilderness areas.” In honoring SAWS with the inaugural award for this category, NWSA Executive Director Randy Welsh shared:

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. SAWS programming has grown to include a broad spectrum of wilderness stewardship, including:

  • Wilderness Rangers doing on the ground wilderness field work

  • Wilderness Specialists doing Wilderness Character Monitoring tasks, often working shoulder-to-shoulder with agency staff: a true model of shared stewardship

  • Trail Crews

  • Hosting the Wilderness Skills Institute: It is estimated that the Wilderness Skills Institute has trained over 1000 individuals during its operation

  • SAWS partnership with the U.S Naval Academy to provide for professional military leadership development

In the 10 years of SAWS’ existence from 2010 – 2020:

  • 124,000 hours of wilderness stewardship service

  • 50,000+ members of the public educated about wilderness and leave no trace

  • 300 individuals serving

  • ~$3 Million in stewardship value and capacity added

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.

John Campbell Wins the Forest Service’s Wilderness Partnership Champion Award

We also want to congratulate our USDA Forest Service partner, John Campbell! The Forest Service’s Wilderness Partnership ChampionAward recognizes efforts to promote the wilderness partnerships that are “vital to the successful management of the Wilderness system…The path to successful partnership building is often arduous and not easily developed. This award is intended to recognize efforts of these partnership champions.”

John is the Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Program Manager for the Forest Service Southeastern Region (R8). His Partnership Champion Award recognizes his long-standing support for SAWS through everything from leadership transition, the government shutdown last year, and adapting to COVID-19 this year. John’s partnership with SAWS has resulted in improved training, shared capacity building, and wilderness character monitoring across 76 wilderness areas in the region. He helps to facilitate restoration work after natural disasters, hosts meetings for recreation program managers and SAWS to discuss priority work and wilderness best practices, and supports work with the Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers in the region. John also supports shared stewardship efforts with SAWS and other key partners by coordinating the Wilderness Skills Institutes for agency staff, partners, and volunteers.

The SAWS team is so grateful for John’s partnership support and leadership, and we celebrate his well-deserved recognition as this year’s Wilderness Partnership Champion!

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