Friday, August 31, 2018

From the Wilderness Volunteers Board of Directors

 “Keep project fees affordable.”  This has been the mantra of Wilderness Volunteers since its founding in 1997 when just 10 trips were fielded with 120 volunteers.

Today, WV typically organizes 50 week-long service trips from coast to coast with more than 500 volunteer participants.  WV accomplishes this with a very modest Flagstaff office and only two full-time staff members: Executive Director Ashely Northcutt and Program Manager Taryn Schreiner (as of Aug 27, 2018: Aidalicia Swertfeger).  In early August, on behalf of our volunteers, Ashely flew back east to Washington, DC, to accept the “Excellence in Wilderness Stewardship Non-Government Partner Award” from the National Park Service, an affirmation of the value that WV delivers to our public lands.

Over the years, WV has been able to keep project fees affordable due to many private donations as well as grants from like-minded organizations that support protecting America’s wild lands.  Since 2011, our project fee has been unchanged at $299, although our actual costs per participant have been nearly $500.  For many of those years, WV has been the thankful recipient of an annually recurring foundation grant of nearly $35,000.  This one grant alone enabled the project fee to be $70 lower than otherwise needed. Unfortunately, 2018 is now the third year in a row for which we will not receive this significant grant.  Furthermore, they have indicated that we should not expect as large an amount in the future as their resources have been spread thin.

Fortunately, withdrawals from WV’s modest endowment have been able to buffer this lost support.  However, this solution is not sustainable.  The Board of Directors would like to honor the mantra of the founders while prudently stewarding the organization as well. 

Given the financial realities, we have no choice but to increase the project fee for 2019, while actively continuing to search for private donations and grants.  We note that a large national organization that conducts identical service trips charged between $425 and $1,995 for their 2017 trips, with an average cost of over $700.  If you have never served on a WV team, don’t let our affordable fee give you the impression that the value we deliver to the participants and public lands agencies is in any way sub-par.  Indeed, we have been told many times by our agency contacts that WV delivers extraordinary value compared to many other volunteer groups.

We solicit your creative comments on how to share in our mission of keeping project fees affordable, while also keeping Wilderness Volunteers financially sound.  We would welcome our supporters introducing WV to any foundations and corporations that can help fill the gap.  Please direct your comments or ideas to WV's Executive Director at

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

We won an award from the National Park Service!

Last week Ashely Northcutt, the Executive Director of Wilderness Volunteers, flew back east to Washington, DC to accept a National Park Service award on behalf of our volunteers.

Click for the Event Program

Dept of the Interior Headquarters, Washington, DC

The ceremony took place in the lower level of the Department of the Interior building and the awards were presented by Ruth Prescott, Chief of Staff for the National Park Foundation, Lena McDowell, Deputy Director of Management and Administration for the National Park Service, and Lenny Teh, Program Manager of Service-wide Volunteer Programs for the National Park Service.

Ruth Prescott, National Park Foundation (photo: NPS)
 "As some of you know the National Park Foundation is the official philanthropic partner of the National Park service. Through our work we seek to raise financial support for private citizens park lovers stewards of nature history enthusiasts and wilderness adventurers to enrich our national parks and its programs. This afternoon it is my honor to celebrate with your our mutual love of these parks and your inspired commitment to the stewardship of these very special places. A commitment made even more real this week with the loss of Captain Bryan Hughes in the line of duty. The efforts, contributions and sacrifices made on a daily basis by NPS staff and volunteers are critical to ensuring public access to our parks and all that they offer. Whether its restoring a trail, interpreting history leading in-park educational programs or providing services at visitor centers, you are second to none. Not only do we hear this from our donors, we personally experience the value you bring when we're lucky enough to get out of the office and into a park. I recently spend a week at Rocky Mountain National Park, a place I've loved since my parents first took me there as a child, but Rocky like so many of our parks, is addressing record crowds. However in spite of the throngs of people, I watched with pride and amazement the patience of the park staff and volunteers as they answered questions, guided tours, directed traffic, awarded junior ranger badges and just generally enhanced the visit for so many of us. And that's just one example from the more than 300 million visits to our parks this year where each of you worked to create an experience unlike any other. That's why we at the Foundation are so honored to be a part of this event year after year to have the opportunity to say thank you and acknowledge the outstanding work of the NPS staff and the over three-hundred thousand volunteers who make visits to our national parks and wildernesses a memory of a lifetime. "
- Ruth Prescott, Chief of Staff for the National Park Foundation

Lena McDowell, National Park Service (photo: NPS)
“The next award is the Wes Henry National Wilderness Stewardship non-government partner award. The Wes Henry National Wilderness Stewardship non-government partner award goes to the Wilderness Volunteers organization. Established in 1997, the mission of this non-profit is stewardship of America’s wild lands through organizing and promoting volunteer service in cooperation with public land agencies, including the NPS. Volunteer leaders and volunteers, ranging from ages 18 to 85, have implemented over 230 week-long service projects in national park units with wilderness and backcountry. The volunteer project work inspires participants to come away from the experience with a new or renewed knowledge and love for wilderness, fostered by the Wilderness Volunteer organization’s commitment to wilderness stewardship. To the entire team of volunteer associates, we are truly grateful for your service.”
- Lena McDowell, Deputy Director of Management and Administration for the National Park Service

Ashely Northcutt, WV ED & Lenny Teh, National Park Service (photo: NPS)
Also honored at the ceremony were the recipients of the George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service, The 2017 Harry Yount National Park Ranger Award, and the Individual and Group Wes Henry National Wilderness Stewardship Awards.

You can watch the entire presentation on the National Park Service Volunteers-in-Parks facebook page at:

NPS Award Ceremony award recipients (photo: NPS)
Letter from the ED:
We are extremely honored to have been selected for the Wes Henry National Wilderness Stewardship Award in the non-government partner category. Wilderness Volunteers exists only due to the dedication of a community of ordinary citizens volunteering their time, labor, and money to give something back to the wild lands they love. Our volunteers enthusiastically hike, backpack and canoe to work building and maintaining trails, installing and repairing erosion controls, removing invasive plants, removing barbed wire fences, revegetating damaged, eroded and burned areas, picking up litter, and removing and rehabilitating illegal campsites. Our individual and corporate donors support our core program and allow us to keep project fees affordable so we can recruit a diverse group of volunteer participants from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds. Our volunteers go home with a sense of personal accomplishment & a feeling of pride & ownership toward the public land they visited, becoming wilderness advocates who will fight to protect our wild lands & spread those values to family and friends. 
Thank you to the National Park Service for working so hard to preserve our nation's natural and cultural heritage. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the NPS as we continue to bring together volunteers to address critical projects for our public land agencies and promote engaged community stewardship of our nation’s wild places.
                                 Ashely Northcutt, Executive Director, Wilderness Volunteers

Want to know more? 
You can find get more information and register for service projects at the link below or donate to help us continue putting together low-cost service projects in federal lands across the country.