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Updates from Our Wilderness Specialists and Rangers

SAWS Wilderness Rangers are wrapping up their field seasons around the region. Here are a few updates from each of our Wilderness Specialists and Rangers across our bootprint.

Lauren King is our Wilderness Ranger in Georgia who has been Training volunteers from the Georgia Forest Watch to collect solitude monitoring data. She has enjoyed building lasting partnerships with local hiking clubs and environmental nonprofits. Lauren also facilitated crosscut demonstration events for Public Lands Day with FIND Outdoors at Anna Ruby Falls Recreation Area and Mountain Farm Fest at the Hardman Farm Historic Site.

Nick Anderson is our Wilderness Ranger stationed at Linville Gorge Wilderness. Nick reports: “Linville Gorge Wilderness is a beautiful but challenging space to steward. There is very high visitor use across the entire space, and even more so on weekends and holidays. A large portion of my time is spent conducting public outreach and education in the field. While doing public contacts, I commonly encounter visitors who are not familiar with Wilderness designations and assume they are in a park. This provides an opportunity to educate visitors about Wilderness as well as Leave No Trace (LNT). I also try to impart interpretation about the resource and the local area. For example, I engage with visitors about the role of public lands and the U.S. Forest Service, history of the Linville Gorge, including historical use by indigenous peoples and colonial settlers, natural history of local flora and fauna, and anything else relevant to the area and region.” Along with visitor contacts, a day in the life of a Linville Gorge Wilderness Ranger includes picking up litter, cleaning campsites, removing fallen trees from the trail, brushing overgrown vegetation, and monitoring trail conditions over time.

Kristy Ealdwine is our Kentucky Wilderness Ranger. This season Kristy has been leading user trail data collection in Clifty Wilderness with Forest Service interns from local universities. She has also been collecting rock climbing data in Clifty Wilderness, solitude monitoring data in Beaver Creek Wilderness, and monitoring invasive species in both Beaver Creek Wilderness and Stone Mountain Wilderness. Kristy enjoys leading monthly volunteer trail work/crosscut days in Clifty Wilderness. As Kristy reflects on her time with SAWS she shares “My first favorite thing about working for SAWS are the people I have met! SAWS staff, Forest Service staff, volunteers, botanists, biologists, archeologists, hydrologists, professors, rock climbers, and many more have met me in the office and field to help me with my work. My second favorite part is spending time outdoors and working towards goals that care for the most protected land in the country, the Wilderness. These special pieces of land are the future old growth that we can give to future generations.”

Bree Forsyth is our Virginia Wilderness Ranger. This field season Bree collected over 300 hours of Solitude Monitoring data and engaged over 750 individuals on “Capital W Wilderness” and Wilderness stewardship. She has enjoyed aiding in search and rescue (SAR) efforts on behalf of the Forest Service in James River Face Wilderness.

North Carolina Wilderness Ranger Shayna Grossberg collected rec site data this season in Joyce Kilmer – Slickrock Wilderness and made visitor contacts in Shining Rock and Middle Prong Wilderness. Shayna enjoyed the rugged wildness of the Joyce Kilmer – Slickrock Wilderness trails and the challenge of collecting rec site data on the Slickrock Creek Trail, which is considered one of the most difficult trails in North Carolina and the United States.

Benja Escobar is wrapping up his season in West Virginia where he trained volunteers from the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy to collect rec site data in Dolly Sods Wilderness. He also collected rec site data and made visitor contacts in Otter Creek, Roaring Plains West, Laurel Creek North, Laurel Creek South, Cranberry, Spice Run, and Big Draft Wildernesses.

Wilderness Specialist Jim Macaulay has been writing Wilderness Character Monitoring Baseline Assessment Reports for Tennessee Wildernesses and enjoyed joining Wilderness Ranger Lauren King at the Mountain Farm Fest at the Hardman Farm Historic Site where they provided crosscut demonstrations and engaged over 200 Visitors on our work at SAWS, Wilderness stewardship, and traditional tools.

Here's to an awesome 2022 season, we're grateful to each of our Wilderness Specialists and Rangers and look forward to next year!

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