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The National Wilderness Skills Institute

Make Your Mark

The National Wilderness Skills Institute is a modern training platform for those charged with the stewardship of our nation’s Wilderness and Wild & Scenic Rivers. The 2021 virtual event occurred May 24-28. Recordings of sessions are available through the link below.

Session Recordings

The National Wilderness Workshop is broken up into 5 different tracks: Traditional Skills, Visitor Use Management, Wild and Scenic Rivers, Wilderness I, and Wilderness II.

RECORDINGS: Find all of the session recordings here.


At the start of the field season, wilderness and river managers, field rangers, and partner organizations come together in each region to learn new skills, share experiences, and connect with one another as they work together to preserve wilderness character or the outstandingly remarkable values of wild and scenic rivers. These gatherings have various names – wilderness ranger academies, river ranger rendezvous, or the most common, wilderness skills institutes (WSIs).

With limitations on in-person gatherings in many areas due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many of these events were cancelled in Spring 2020. Determined to continue on the annual training and networking gatherings in spring 2021, agency personnel and partners have come together to plan and organize a National Wilderness Skills Institute which will be hosted online through various webinars, interactive sessions, and virtual social gatherings. This event will bring wilderness and wild and scenic river stewards together from across the nation to participate in learning sessions as well as opportunities for region-specific discussions and collaboration. The sessions will be recorded for those who are unable attend the live events and can supplement current or future local training efforts.

This event is currently only planned for Spring 2021 with the hopes of in-person regional gatherings returning in Spring 2022.


Federal agency staff, partners and volunteers are invited to participate in this opportunity, which has been planned and implemented through the collaborative efforts of individuals from the Forest Service and partner organizations.

Proposed Objectives

The WSI approach to training provides an opportunity to access high quality skill building and professional development opportunities for those who engage in wilderness and wild and scenic rivers work.  The WSI model offers excellent opportunities for connecting Wilderness stewards – agency, partnership staff, and volunteers across regions and nationally, both inside and outside of the classroom.  Courses are designed to provide skills based training at all levels of experience.

2021 Objectives

  • A National WSI virtual model will adapt to the current challenges that Covid19 presents to those needing access to training. This will provide an opportunity for a broader set of individuals to access the training than in past years and will build the skills and tools needed for future virtual sessions if needed. 

  • Integrate proven course content with new experiences in virtual training techniques.  The virtual tools which have become both readily available and accepted as training media will encourage greater access to diverse subject matter experts as well as a more diverse audience.

  • Promote the skills and BMP’s to host WSI’s or similar trainings in locations where access to training may currently be lacking.

  • Develop site-based teaching of physical skills which comprise the centerpiece experiences. In addition, the core team will be working on tools to ensure connections that promote comradery of participants developed while comparing notes and sharing stories around campfires.

Long-Term Objective

  • Provide an evolving, integrative model for learning and practicing virtual and field-based wilderness, and wild and scenic rivers -related skills which address training needs and networking interests with experienced subject matter experts.

Core Team

The National Wilderness Skills Institute Core Team is made up of federal agency and partner representatives from across the country:

  • Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation: Bill Hodge

  • River Management Society: Angie Fuhrman and Risa Shimoda

  • Selway Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation: Ian Davidson

  • Society for Wilderness Stewardship: Jacob Wall

  • Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards: Eric Giebelstein

  • Arthur Carhart National Wilderness Training Center: Dan Abbe

  • USDA Forest Service: John Campbell, Jimmy Gaudry, Carol Hennessey, Nancy Taylor, and Dusty Vaughn

If you have any questions please email Jacob Wall ( 

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