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Wilderness Fellow

Nationwide CA 

Title: Wilderness Fellow

Reports To: National Program Director

Classification: Hourly

Locations: Positions are available nationwide, including in Alaska, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Washington

Start Date: June 7, 2021 (Fellowships range from 6 months to a year)

Time: Full Time (40 hours), Seasonal

Salary: $15 hourly

Benefits: 1 earned personal day per month (vacation is not eligible to be cashed out at any time) and federal holidays; Forest Service housing or a housing stipend provided.

Application Closing Date: March 19th, 2021

Find the entire position description here.



The Society for Wilderness Stewardship (SWS) is a non-profit organization seeking to promote excellence in the professional practice of wilderness stewardship, science, and education to ensure the life-sustaining benefits of wilderness.  In other words, we are a professional society working to set the standard for wilderness management. 

The Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute (Leopold) is dedicated to the development and dissemination of knowledge needed to improve the management of wilderness, parks, and similarly protected areas.  The Leopold Institute was established in 1993 under the Rocky Mountain Research Station and has been the wilderness research arm of federal agencies ever since.  The Institute operates under an interagency agreement among the federal agencies that have wilderness management or research responsibility – the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) was founded by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1905, and today oversees 445 wilderness areas or 33% of the National Wilderness Preservation System.  Inaugural Chief of the USFS, Gifford Pinchot, stated that the USFS existed to “provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people in the long run.”


Program Overview

The Wilderness Fellows Program is a collaborative of the three organizations above, and was created in order to complete Wilderness Character Baseline Assessments, thereby continuing important assessment work that has been underway since 2001, and fulfilling the USFS Wilderness Stewardship Performance (WSP) element “Wilderness Character Baseline”.  The Wilderness Character Baseline requires that steps be made to determine a baseline and provide the foundation for evaluating trends in wilderness character.  These trends indicate the outcome of management actions and success at preserving wilderness character as directed by the Wilderness Act.

As stated in Keeping It Wild 2: An Updated Interagency Strategy to Monitor Trends in Wilderness Character Across the National Wilderness Preservation System (Landres et. al, 2015), “the results of wilderness character monitoring provide [agency staff who manage wilderness day-to-day, and regional and national staff who develop wilderness policy and assess its effectiveness] some of the key data they need to improve wilderness stewardship and wilderness policy.”  The report goes on to say that, “Implementing this monitoring strategy does not guarantee the preservation of wilderness character, but it informs and improves wilderness stewardship, and ensures managers are accountable to the central mandate of the 1964 Wilderness act – to preserve wilderness character.”

In 2001, the USFS Wilderness Monitoring Committee developed the first national framework for Wilderness Character Monitoring (WCM).  Progression was attained by the USFS in 2006 with WCM pilot testing occurring in every USFS region and the publication of the Applying the Concept of Wilderness Character to National Forest Planning, Monitoring, and Management in 2008.

After years of testing different monitoring protocols, the USFS and Aldo Leopold Research Institute published the Wilderness Character Monitoring Technical Guide in May of 2019.  This document provides a national framework and detailed protocols to monitor trends in wilderness character in the Forest Service. Wilderness Fellows will apply the tools in the Technical Guide to complete wilderness character baseline assessments. 


Position Overview

The Wilderness Fellow Program is seeking qualified candidates to fill Wilderness Fellow positions.  Fellows are based in locations around the country, with a significant amount of travel within their base region.   Work is roughly 80% office based and 20% field-based and is performed at USFS offices to directly support the goals of a collaborative wilderness character monitoring initiative currently underway in the USFS.


Primary Wilderness Fellow Responsibilities

• Attend one-week training in Granby, Colorado (travel provided).

• Coordinate meetings with USFS resource specialists to gather information regarding wilderness character.

• Research, compile, and analyze legislative and administrative historical data.

• Select indicators relevant for each wilderness and compile and analyze data.

• Implement inventory and monitoring strategies for tracking wilderness character.

• Write a wilderness character baseline assessment for each wilderness.

• Set and meet deadlines for data collection, meetings, and draft and final reports.


Key Qualifications

• Bachelor’s degree in a related field, Master’s degree preferred.

• Educational background in Wilderness Management, Protected Area/Natural Resource Management, Recreation Resource Management, Conservation Social Science, Environmental Policy, Natural, Biological and/or Physical Science.

• Deep interest in wilderness/resource management and the U.S. Forest Service.

• Outstanding written and oral communication skills.

• Research skill and attention to detail and organization.

• Ability to work both independently and collaboratively on projects, a high degree of initiative.

• Understanding and ability to use GIS is a plus.

• Results-oriented with the ability to set and follow realistic goals and objectives.

• Ability to travel to training and remote field locations (travel provided), and to relocate if necessary (assistance not provided).

• Must have a valid driver's license and a personal vehicle is highly recommended.


To Apply: E-mail a resume, cover letter, a one-to-two page writing sample, and three professional or academic references to Jacob Wall at: hiringmanager@wildernessstewardship.org

Posted February 22, 2021

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