Today marks the end of the season for SAWS Wilderness Rangers. The crew of four (Samantha, Eric, Rollie, and Alex) all worked this summer and into the fall to serve and protect the unique resource that is designated Wilderness.
They labored over steep terrain, endured hot days and rainy days, experienced amazing places, and talked to hundreds about the history and unique character of Southern Appalachian Wilderness. They were there to address human impacts on bear behavior in the Cohutta, and they were there to introduce hikers to a new route in the Linville Gorge. They placed Wilderness Education front and center and thrived on speaking to college groups from across the southeast about the amazing landscapes we get to call home.
The SAWS Ranger Program is funded by the US Forest Service so that we can provide data for management decisions, and so that we can be 'out there,' talking with and engaging the public in conversations around Wilderness Character and Wilderness Values.
This season's work included gathering data of what information is missing from trailheads so that next year we can work with the Forest Service staff to provide better information to those hiking, horseback riding, bird watching, fishing, or hunting and so that the public can better understand the Wilderness resource. The Rangers also study prior data on non-native invasive species to formulate a management plan to address this issue.
The real joy in the Rangers came out as they started to engage a new generation of Wilderness users and lovers. The Rangers (along with Education and Volunteer Engagement Coordinator Brenna Irrer) hit the road this fall engaging college clubs and degree programs to share thoughts and perspectives on Wilderness. The groups participated in dialogue and shared experiences of utilizing these special places.