The Forest Service announced that the Stanislaus Wilderness Volunteers have received the 2004 National Forest Service Volunteer Award from Chief of the Forest Service Dale Bosworth for excellence in volunteerism. The award is the highest honor that can be received in recognition of volunteer efforts to assist the Forest Service in accomplishing its mission to manage National Forest System Lands for the benefit of the American public.
The prestigious award will be presented to the group at a ceremony to be held on June 24 in Arlington, Virginia. “The Chief´s Award is a well-deserved, high profile recognition for our dedicated wilderness volunteers. It´s a tremendous benefit for the Forest, local community, and visiting public to have such highly motivated, enthusiastic, and professional individuals working together to improve recreational opportunities, and to ensure enduring wilderness values for future generations to enjoy,” said Forest Supervisor Tom Quinn.
The Stanislaus Wilderness Volunteer organization, licensed as a non-profit corporation in May of 2003, has been in existence for more than a decade as a group of backpacking and equestrian volunteers. The organization is dedicated to the preservation and protection of designated wilderness areas of the Sierra Nevada through education, and by demonstrated example, to ensure that wilderness will always be available for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.
Under the direction of Forest Wilderness managers, the organization provides well trained, enthusiastic, and effective volunteers to help the Forest Service achieve its goals as outlined in the 1964 Wilderness Act. The 36 members listed on the organization´s roster contributed a total of 3,226 hours in 2003 (the equivalent of 12 person years, or 36 summer seasons). The SWV members served as wilderness rangers on foot, horseback mounted patrol, and ranger station front desk information personnel. The SWV members educated visitors about “leave no trace” wilderness ethics, as well as proper backpacking techniques and equestrian use in wilderness. Additionally the SWV maintained hiking trails, restored backcountry campsites, and provided vital, current “boots on-the-ground” information on wilderness trail and weather conditions for backpackers and day hikers.
Specifically, in 2003 SWV members: Drafted the Wilderness Education Plan for Stanislaus NF wilderness areas, designed and conducted “Leave No Trace” training for organizational youth camps, rehabilitated hundreds of wilderness campsites, performed light to moderate trail maintenance on more than 50 miles of hiking trails.
They also provided summer season wilderness information at Summit Ranger Station front desk, staffed wilderness information displays at trailheads, local county fairs, and local celebrations, maintained wilderness drift fences, and constructed all, or portions of, three trailhead horse camps.
SWV President Brent Pettey cites the group member´s various, diverse philosophical and recreational interests as a source of cohesiveness, strength, and operational effectiveness. He points out that the Back Country Horsemen of California Mid Valley Unit, and the backpacking wilderness volunteers, have joined together in a common mission for the public´s benefit. While group members separately have different interests and interpretations of wilderness, they are working together to improve the public´s understanding and appreciation of wilderness values.
SWV members share a wide diversity of geographical backgrounds, with a number of the members located in local rural communities, and others commuting to their wilderness volunteer work from large population centers in the San Joaquin Valley and San Francisco Bay Area. The groups´ common goal is to assist the Forest Service in building broad-based support for wilderness management programs.