Two of the most empowering weeks on our calendar just came and went; the partnership known as the Wilderness Skills Institute. This annual training has grown into a model of traditional-tool skill-building, wilderness stewardship concepts, and engaging a new public in caring for our nation’s wild places.
The Institute is also a model of partnership – as the three partners stand shoulder-to-shoulder to provide training that meets not only our separate organizational needs but those of the larger stewardship community. Since 2011 the Wilderness Skills Institute has been a partnership between Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and the United States Forest Service. The first training in 2011 utilized a truck-bay in a Cherokee National Forest work-center as our classroom and included just 27 students. The Institute completed just last week was filled to capacity, with over 80 participants during the first week and close to that number for week two. Each year the partnership strives to meet growing demand and to address those on-the-ground skills that will best serve protected public lands.
The connections built at the Wilderness Skills Institute are framed under a shared interest in wilderness. These are connections to place, connections to the concept of Wilderness – and perhaps most important – connections to each other. The Institute has volunteers, partner staff and Forest Service staff all learning together, creating bonds built around shared wilderness values.
The 2016 Edition of the Wilderness Skills Institute came with an injection of youth. Between our new United States Naval Academy Partnership Wilderness Field Crew and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s new Conservation Leadership Corps, there was a decided youth vibe going on. The future of conservation is alive and well.
Through your support, we can continue to build on the nationally recognized success of the Wilderness Skills Institute – building the skills needed for stewardship while building the conservation leaders of tomorrow.