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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Get Involved with Washington Wild!

Say What?!  My backpacking trip (or day hike or horseback ride or snowshoe trip…) can be effortlessly combined with volunteering?!

Did you know that Washington Wild offers a delicious menu full of varied and engaging volunteer options?   Did you know that three of these volunteer options require that volunteers go hiking (or snowshoeing or horseback riding or ski mountaineering) to Washington’s most spectacular wildlands?  Over the course of the summer Washington Wild hosted four volunteer trainings to teach folks how to successfully accomplish these three adventurous volunteer tasks, and people came out of the woodwork!

The trainings started in June near Mailbox Peak outside of North Bend and concluded in August at Discovery Park in Seattle.   Volunteers learned about Ground-Truthing, PhotoDocumenting, Wildlands Narratives and basic backcountry safety and navigation.  Overall, 46 people expressed interest in the four summer volunteer trainings.  These people came from Bainbridge Island, Bellevue, Bothell, Gig Harbor, Kingston, Olympia, Seattle, and Tacoma!  This leads us to believe that we should be hosting volunteer trainings farther afield from Seattle.

What are the volunteer tasks?

A volunteer ground-truthing on the Olympic Peninsula,
October 2011. Do you think the place she is standing on
should be called a "road" on official maps?
Ground-Truthing asks that volunteers visit Washington Wild campaign areas to do hands-on documentation of forest road conditions.  Volunteers provide fact-finding support by collecting information regarding management, maintenance, and use of these roads (or former roads). Examples of what volunteers may be asked to investigate include: off road vehicle damage, maintenance of to-be and already decommissioned roads, bridge site materials, inventories of culverts on roads, ground testimonials of proposed mining site, etc.  In all of our wildlands campaigns it is essential that we have the ability to confidently demonstrate and justify the inclusion of lands within our wilderness proposals. Currently all of our Ground-Truthing needs are on the Olympic Peninsula in support of the Wild Olympics Campaign. 

Kayakers on the Dosewallips River, by Tom O'Keefe
PhotoDocumenting by volunteers will grow our photo inventory of wildlands in Washington and provide photographs of undocumented places that Washington Wild can use in outreach materials. Currently, we do not have photos for many threatened, unprotected places.  We recognize the power of a photo to inspire action, motivate stakeholders and tell a compelling story about these special places.  PhotoDocumenting would enhance Washington Wild's ability to protect these areas, convey their importance and gain invaluable support.   We hope this opportunity will also foster a meaningful connection between volunteers and the wild areas they photograph.

Along the Snow Creek Trail,
by volunteer Aaron Theisen
Wildlands Narratives requires volunteers to hike in proposed wilderness areas and inventoried roadless areas in support of Washington Wild's place-based wilderness campaigns. Post hike, the volunteers will be asked to write a narrative about his/her hiking experiences, with specific instruction to reference Wild and Scenic River designations and wilderness or roadless areas. These "Wildland Reports" will be published on the Washington Wild website; they are intended to inspire others to take that same hike and to learn about why specific wildlands need protection.   By having diverse voices describe one specific place, we can help people to see the significance, the uniqueness, and the relevance that wild places play in their lives.  You can see an awesome example of a volunteer Wildland Narrative on our blog:

Looking to the future
As these were the first volunteer trainings hosted by Washington Wild, we are still very much in our learning and adjusting phase.  Volunteers provided invaluable feedback after each training, which we have incorporated into future training plans.  As the “Basic for Field Work” training, which focused on map reading, navigation, and safety, was a popular one we would like to offer more of it.  Rain was a huge negative during the first training, so we would like to include less of that in the future.  Hunting for snacks using a map and compass also proved popular, so there will definitely be more of that in trainings to come.

If you are interested in participating in a volunteer training, if you would like to jump into volunteering without training (totally possible for PhotoDocumenting and Wildlands Narratives), or if you have any suggestions or comments about these trainings – please contact Christine Scheele (

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