April 26, 2012
"Love Your Public Lands:" Tempe REI Hosts Wilderness Stewardship Presentation
Tuesday, May 1, 6:30 p.m.
One-of-a-kind volunteer program is reconnecting Arizonans with their wilderness heritage.
Sam Frank, Central Arizona Director: 928-830-8499
Kate Mackay, Deputy Director: 602-571-2603
TEMPE—The Arizona Wilderness Coalition (AWC) will be presenting a free evening talk at the Tempe REI store to highlight an innovative volunteer program that trains citizens how to take care of our wild public lands. The program takes place on Tuesday, May 1st, at 6:30 p.m. Attendees will be able to get more information about upcoming Wilderness Stewardship trips through the summer and early fall.
“Just as we work diligently to protect new wilderness areas in Arizona, it’s important that we work equally hard to take care of the many wild places that we already have,” says Sam Frank, AWC’s Central Arizona Director and coordinator of the Stewards program. “By getting people out on the ground, this program is exposing Arizonans to the beauty and significance of our wilderness resources—the watersheds, wildlife, and cultural resources they contain—and teaching them how to take care of those resources so future generations can enjoy them.”
Launched in 2011, the goal of the Wilderness Stewardship Program is to empower Arizona citizen volunteers with in-depth training, resources, and logistical support in order to monitor and restore wilderness areas across the public domain. As part of the U.S. Forest Service’s 10-year Wilderness Stewardship Challenge, the Arizona Wilderness Coalition partnered with the Prescott National Forest and the National Forest Foundation to address pressing issues that face our wilderness areas in light of increased visitation, decreased federal resources, and magnified ecological impacts such as invasive species. The program has since expanded to Arizona’s other national forests in need of similar assistance, such as the Coconino and Apache-Sitgreaves national forests. Eventually, AWC hopes to have wilderness stewardship trips supporting all six of Arizona’s national forests.
AWC and its volunteers are restoring and maintaining Arizona’s wilderness areas through overnight and day-long service projects that include recreation site monitoring, invasive species inventorying, trash clean-up, and restoration of wilderness character. Often the work is difficult for the agencies to accomplish on their own, with limited budgets and personnel. In 2011 alone, AWC’s Wilderness Stewards completed 2,178 volunteer hours, with a monetary equivalent of $46,522, in eight different wilderness areas around the state.
No prior experience is necessary to join the program; AWC provides all the suitable training for volunteers to become official wilderness stewards. Once officially trained in the program, stewards can monitor wilderness areas and trails on their own, gathering data they submit to AWC. The data is then used by the U.S. Forest Service to chart future work, management priorities, and funding allocations for the different forests and their wilderness units.
The evening presentation at REI-Tempe is free, but attendees should register via their website at http://www.rei.com/stores/25.
More information about AWC’s Wilderness Stewardship Program and upcoming trips at www.azwild.org