Wilderness Fellow

The Society For Wilderness Stewardship Published: March 7, 2023
Salt Lake City, Utah
Skill Level
Entry Level
Job Type
Full-time Freelance / Limited Contract
GIS / Natural Resources/ Restoration / Planning / Land Use

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  • 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 U.S. Forest Service (USFS) For more than 100 years, the Forest Service has brought people and communities together to answer the call of conservation. The USFS seeks to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.

Program Overview

The Wilderness Fellows Program 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 FS region, the publication of the Applying the Concept of Wilderness Character to National Forest Planning, Monitoring and Management in 2008, and the 2009 distribution of the Technical Guide for Monitoring Selected Conditions Related to Wilderness Character.   

Position Overview

The Wilderness Fellow Program is seeking qualified candidates to fill Wilderness Fellow positions. This fellow will be based out of a USFS bunkhouse and work with USFS staff on local forests.  Work is roughly 90% office based and 10% field based, and is performed at USFS offices to directly support the goals of the interdisciplinary  wilderness character monitoring initiative currently underway in the USFS. This fellow will work closely with wilderness staff to produce a wilderness character baseline report, establishing trends for future wilderness monitoring and preservation. Transportation for field work will be provided or reimbursed.  It is highly recommended that this employee have a personal car while living and working out of this area. 

  • Title: Wilderness Fellow
  • Reports To: SWS National Program Director
  • Classification: Hourly
  • Location: Salt Lake City, UT or remote (the Uinta Wasatch Cache National Forest) and Alpine, AZ (the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest) in person, housing provided in a USFS bunkhouse. 
  • Duration: May 1st, 2023– November 1, 2023 (6 month contract 
  • Time: Full Time (40hr/week), Seasonal
  • Salary: 15$/hr
  • Benefits: 1 earned personal day per month (vacation is not eligible to be cashed out at any time) and federal holidays. USFS Housing provided in Alpine, AZ for the fellowship in AZ. 

Primary Wilderness Fellow Responsibilities

  • Attend one week training at Powell Ranger Station, near Missoula, Montana (travel provided).  
  • Coordinate meetings with USFS resource specialists and line officers to gather information regarding wilderness character.
  • Research, compile and analyze legislative and administrative historical data per wilderness area. 
  • Travel to and into wilderness areas.  
  • Compile data for selected monitoring and complete components of a baseline assessment for wilderness character monitoring.
  • Implement inventory and monitoring strategies for tracking wilderness character.
  • Participate in weekly conference calls.
  • Set and meet benchmarks and deadlines for data collection, meetings, and draft and final reports.
  • Create a narrative report for each wilderness area worked in.

Key Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree in a related field or work experience equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree. 
  • 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 US 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, high degree of initiative.
  • Understanding and ability to use GIS software is a plus. 
  • Results-oriented with the ability to set and follow realistic goals and objectives.
  • Flexibility to adapt when faced with changing needs and priorities.
  • Ability to travel to training and remote field locations (travel provided), and to relocate if necessary (assistance not provided).  

Essential Functions: Employees may be required to sit, stand, and lift objects up to 50 lbs.  Employees may be required to travel and camp in the backcountry, and to drive or fly to remote project locations. 

To Apply

Please click "Apply" below to email a cover letter, resume, 1-2 page writing sample, and 2 professional or academic references to Julia Cotter, by 5:00p (MST) on Friday, February 24th, 2023. Please include the position title and location you are applying for in the subject line of your email. 

  • Initial Application Review Begins: 02/24/2023

The Society for Wilderness Stewardship is an equal opportunity employer.

All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, marital status, age, disability, veteran status, genetic information, or any other protected status.

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