Friday, October 23, 2020

A Twist: the 2020 WV Photo Contest

    While this year hasn't turned out quite as planned, some things will never change. In this spirit, we're hosting a down-sized annual WV photo contest. The categories this year will be:

  • All in a day's work. Photos that depict any kind of work during a WV project. Think tools, volunteers, and anything that looks like work.
  • Landscapes. Photos with a landscape from a project. Could also include your boots, a napping friend, etc!
  • Camp life is the life for me. Photos of life in camp. Could include meals, hanging out at your tent, R & R, playing games, or juggling pulaskis (just kidding).

    The contest is open to any photo from any past Wilderness Volunteers project that you took. Winning photos from previous WV photo contests are ineligible for 2020 contest entry. This contest is open to all WV project leaders and volunteers, past and present. Dig out those boxes of photos, unearth your albums, and dust off your laptop or desktop—we're heading down memory lane.      

Click on each category above for the upload page.
Click here to view entries so far for each category.

Please include your name, the location, and the year (or your best guess).
(eg. Northcutt_LyeBrook2019.jpg)
    The prizes this year will be announced in November and the contest will end on Sunday, December 13th.  Below you'll find some entries and winners from past projects.

R. Brickley. BWCAW 2019.  

R. Brickley. BWCAW 2019. 

K. Kanthatham. Sawtooth Wilderness 2019.

G. Allen.  King Range NCA 2019. 

R. Kahn. Zion 2019.

K. Worley. Hakalau NWR 2018.

    One winner will be selected for each category. You can enter as many photos as you like, just be sure to do so before the deadline of the end of day on Sunday, December 13, 2020! We hope you'll join us for this Wilderness Volunteers 23 year project reunion.  

Official Contest Rules:

  • All photos must be taken on any Wilderness Volunteers Project and subject matter must comply with Leave No Trace ethics & principles.

  • Winning photos from previous WV photo contests are ineligible for 2020 contest entry.
  • Each entry must include the photographer's name and the project it was taken on.
  • The same photo cannot be entered in more than one category. Judges reserve the right to switch images to other categories.
  • The contest is open to all WV project participants and leaders, except for Wilderness Volunteers staff, contest judges and their families. WV reserves the right to verify, in its sole judgment, entrant eligibility.
  • Photographs will be judged on originality, technical excellence, composition, overall impact, and artistic merit. Awards will be selected by a panel of judges, and all decisions are final.
  • Entries must be submitted to the Wilderness Volunteers photo gallery no later than 11:59 pm UTC on by Sunday, December 13th, 2020 to be eligible.
  • Judges may exclude entries that do not meet the above criteria.
  • Winners will be notified by email. Wilderness Volunteers is not responsible for lost or damaged prizes.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Celebrate Bat Week

Holy Flying Mammals Batman!

October 24-31, 2020 is Bat Week, an annual international celebration of our amazing flying friends and their important role in our ecosystem. 

While we may not see these nocturnal beauties very often while we're going about our daily lives they serve many crucial roles in preserving the health and diversity of our environment; from eating an incredible number of insects, to pollinating flowers and crops, to spreading seeds leading to the germination of new trees and bushes.

With over 14,000 species of bats the variety among species is incredible; the smallest bat is just over an inch long while the largest can have a wingspan of over 5.5 feet! Some feed on fruit (frugivores), some nectar (nectarivores), some insects (insectivores), while others have a more unique feeding specialty (vampire bats). 

What Do You Call a Group of Bats?

A group of bats is called a colony (in a cave), a cloud (flying in a group), or a camp (a unit of bats). 

A cloud of bats (Paul Cryan)
White Nose Syndrome 

One of the major threats to bats right now is White Nose Syndrome (WNS). This is a debilitating fungus that attacks the respiratory system of infected bats. It can be transmitted from cave to cave by bats and by people (spores on shoes and other gear).  

A little brown bat with WNS
(Ryan von Linden, New York Department of Environmental Conservation)

How You Can Help Bats

-learn more about bats and bat week

-share bat info and/or photos on social media using #batweek  

-stay out of caves if possible and if you do visit clean your gear thoroughly

-build a bat house

baby flying fox (Julia Boland, USFWS)

lesser long nosed bat
(Bruce D. Taubert/Bat Conservation International)

Monday, April 20, 2020

Hotter Than Mojave - by Elaine Gorman

Back in December 2019, it seemed like a fine idea to sign up for a Wilderness Volunteer service trip in the Providence Mountains of Mojave National Preserve.  It would be my first volunteer gig of the year, and would help get me into shape for a spring/summer of hikes, backpacks, and more service trips.   The project was advertised to be 2 days of fence building, 2 days of invasive plant removal, and a day to explore the Preserve.  The variety of work, the suggestion of mild weather, and the location (only 7.5 hour drive) appealed to me. I hadn’t been to this area in about 20 years — it was time for another visit.    

Over the next few months, leaders Kathleen Worley and Maidie Kenney sent dispatches to prepare us for the project. I had met Kathleen a few years prior on a WV trip to Castle Crags, and was looking forward to seeing her again.  Meanwhile, the corona virus was wreaking havoc worldwide, but hadn’t hit the US yet.  A week before the trip was to start, we were informed that the project would be slightly modified as the agency ranger wasn’t able to join us, and that we would end our project a day early. Then a few days before the project was scheduled to begin, corona virus warnings began to emerge.  Our group was pared down from full to 7.    

Assured that the project was still on, I loaded up my Prius with camping equipment, my ukulele, and plenty of reading material (for long nights in my tent). I woke up @ 5:30 AM on March 15, leaving time to shower and eat breakfast before I hit the road. It was raining as I headed south from Modesto on highway 99, which didn’t let up until south of Fresno.  I looked forward to a short break at my favorite stop — Kohnen’s German Bakery in Tehachapi.   

Arriving at Hole-in-the-Wall visitor center at 3 PM, I walked inside to procure some maps and other info.  I was stunned to find it empty except for a few brochures.  Thinking that the Zombie hordes had hit the Mojave hard, I asked the ranger what was going on.  He said that the VC had just opened a couple of days ago, and that they were just beginning to set things up for the season.  No Zombies.

A short drive took me to the group campsite where I met the rest of the work group  — Gary from Mt. Shasta, Cathy from Bend, and Pauline and Rick from Albuquerque.  After setting up our tents, we all met to discuss the schedule for the coming days.  Dinner was prepared.  We spent some time getting acquainted and going over protocols.  Wilderness Volunteers has specific food preparation and clean up procedures, intended to keep all of the participants germ-free.  There were additional steps added in response to the corona virus outbreak.    

As the evening was cool and windy, we didn’t linger after dessert.    After a bit of time reading in my car, I headed to the tent.  I was comfortable on my air mattress with my warm down sleeping bag.  I drifted to sleep with wind and coyote howls as the soundtrack.    

Over the next 3 days our group of 7 worked with MNP volunteer extraordinaire John Hiatt.  Besides having a wealth of natural history info, he is an expert fence builder. Our project was to rebuild a fence to help protect the native vegetation from cattle grazing.  We lugged and installed almost 3 tons of metal fence posts, wire, tools, and rock.  We hauled some of this stuff over 1/2 mile.  I needed to dip into my stash of vitamin I as muscles cramped and begged for mercy.    


As we were installing barbed wire, we needed to be extra vigilant to avoid the barbs. For added fun, we also kept our eyes peeled for cactus spines and yucca spikes. When we had a few spare moments to let our gaze wander, we appreciated the beauty of the desert landscape, particularly the interesting volcanic rock cliffs. The abundant opalite rocks kept us intrigued with all of the lovely patterns and colors.    

After 2 1/2 days of hard work, we finished the project that John had planned for us.  We walked over to look for a peregrine falcon nest, and enjoy our lunches.  We headed back to the campsite and said good bye to John. After a short rest, several of us hiked the Rings Loop trail, checked out the petroglyphs, and walked up Banshee Canyon, hauling our bodies up several sets of metal rings in the steep canyon walls.    

As the week progressed, the temperature became colder (AM temps in the 20s) and the wind picked up. The sky was becoming cloudier. Too cold to sit and sing/play the uke, or just sit around and chat.  The campground was to be closed. We decided to break camp the following morning. Maidie and Kathleen handed out some WV swag and thanked us for the work we had accomplished.  We all agreed that it was a worthwhile trip.

Our last morning, Thurs. March 19, was spent preparing breakfast and lunches “for the road.” After loading our vehicles and helping the leaders pack up the gear, we bid each other farewell.    

Well, it wasn’t exactly hot in Mojave this time around……

Interesting flora and fauna:
—many types of cacti, including barrel, cholla, prickly pear.   None in bloom.
—desert birds including phainopepla, golden eagles, hawks, house finch, Say’s phoebe
—beside the omnipresent bovines, we saw/heard coyotes, deer, and had a rare sighting of a badger.

By Elaine Gorman

All photos above were taken by volunteers on the Wilderness Volunteers 2020 Mojave National Preserve service project. You can see more photos from the project in the photo gallery.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Service Projects and Coronavirus Update #2

Coronavirus update #2
Good afternoon Wilderness Volunteers!

We hope this update finds you healthy, safe, and spending some hopefully peaceful time at home. This is an overall status update about Wilderness Volunteers and our currently scheduled 2020 projects. 

Wilderness Volunteers HQ 
Beginning on Saturday, March 14, 2020, we have transitioned to a work from home model and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. We are still answering calls, replying to email and we thank you for your patience as we navigate working in a domestic setting. 

Projects Through May 31, 2020
Projects through May 31, 2020, have been canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Remaining 2020 Projects 
For the moment, we plan to operate our scheduled projects from June onward with precautionary measures in place. The safety and well-being of our volunteers and leaders are our first priority and as such we may need to cancel more projects as June gets closer and we see how the outbreak plays out. There are many pieces to the pie that we look at to determine if a project will field or not going forward including: 
·        Project sign-up levels
·        CDC mandates & guidelines
·        Agency status and guidelines for volunteer groups 
·        Park/Forest/land closures
·        Health mandates and guidelines on the state, county, and city levels
·        Leader input 
·        Status of regional medical facilities
·        Availability of food and other project materials (TP, soap, hand sanitizer, bleach)

Projects in the contiguous U.S. from June 1, 2020, onward are being reviewed and assessed with a go/no go decision from the office being made at the 60-day mark. 

Projects outside of the contiguous U.S. from June 1, 2020, onward are being reviewed and assessed with a go/no go decision from the office being made at the 70-day mark. Flight reservation requirements for Alaska/Hawaii projects will be changed so participants aren't required to furnish their travel plans/ticket info to leaders until the 45-day mark.

If Wilderness Volunteers or the Land Agency cancels your project, we will contact you as soon as possible to see if you would like A) a refund of your full trip fee, B) a voucher good for another project of your choice, or C) if you would like to make your project fee (or any portion of it) a donation to help us through what looks to be a very challenging year.

Resources on Coronavirus:

If anyone has any questions please feel free to contact us at the office by phone at (928) 255-1128 or via email at

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Service Projects & Coronavirus

 Coronavirus update #1

Wilderness Volunteers is following the changes in the expanding, unprecedented COVID-19 global health issue. As of now, with input from our land agencies, we are operating our service trips as planned.  We understand that you must make your own decisions in light of the evolving health situation. Because of these very rapidly-changing and unpredictable circumstances, we will stay alert, flexible, and make changes as needed to comply with government and agency policies while respecting your individual decisions. We have included other information resources that can help you make your decisions.
In order to help ease participants concerns, the Wilderness Volunteers Board of Directors has decided to temporarily modify the existing cancellation policy for upcoming trips, in the hopes that it will alleviate potential financial burdens caused by this ever-changing health situation.
Temporary Cancellation Policy Modifications:

Effective March 13, 2020, for projects scheduled through May 2020. This date may be extended as the COVID-19 situation continues to unfold.

1 - If you decide to cancel from a project, there are two options:                                     
A - you can transfer to another project of your choice through one full calendar year from  
your projects start date with no change in fees. You may let us know your project choice at a 
later time.
            B – you can donate your trip fee (or a portion of it) as a donation to WV for the year 2020 to 
            help support us through this challenge.

2 - The WV office must be informed of cancellations directly via phone (928-255-1128), or email ( The sooner you inform us of your need to cancel, the more opportunity we will have to fill the trip.

If Wilderness Volunteers or the Land Agency cancels your project, we will contact you as soon as possible to see if you would like A) a refund of your full trip fee, B) a voucher good for another project of your choice, or C) if you would like to make it a 2020 donation to help support us through this challenge.

Wilderness Volunteers is not responsible for airline tickets, other tickets or payments, or any similar fees or penalties that you may incur as a result of any project cancellations or changes.
As a small nonprofit on a tight budget, Wilderness Volunteers cannot make exceptions to this (modified) refund policy for any reason, including personal emergencies or weather. We make every effort to run each project as advertised but sometimes project details (leaders, campsites, work project, etc.) must be changed in order to run the project.

Resources on Coronavirus:

If anyone has any questions please feel free to contact us at the office by phone at (928) 255-1128 or via email at

We wish you safe days and strength to meet these new challenges. We hope to see you in the wilderness, too.

Ashely Northcutt,          Cheryl Walzcak,
            Executive Director        President of the Board

Past volunteers know that Wilderness Volunteers leaders follow longstanding and specific hygiene, sanitation, dishwashing, and food preparation procedures on each service project to keep our volunteers healthy and they will continue to do so. Project leaders will be looking out for the safety of the group on multiple fronts and will be emphasizing relavant CDC recommendations such as handwashing even more than usual.
Screening Policy:

Per current WV policy leaders will turn away anyone who shows up to a service project with any cold or flu-like symptoms. (This includes leaders and agency personnel.) If anyone on a service project begins to feel any cold or flu-like symptoms they will be distanced from the group and will be removed from the project as soon as possible. 


While being exposed to germs while traveling to and from a project is always a concern you can use some common sense tips to mitigate that hazard:
  • drive to a project when possible instead of flying
  • wash your hands often and especially before you eat or drink
  • maintain distance between yourself and other folks when possible (at least 6 feet)
  • wash your hands often and especially before you eat or drink
  • bring your own pillow
  • avoid touching your face, especially with unwashed hands
  • avoid touching restroom surfaces where possible
  • clean high use areas/items (like airplane tray tables, hotel remote controls, or rental car steering wheels) before using them
Hand sanitizer and wipes are in short supply in some locations but remember that handwashing with ordinary soap and water is more effective than using hand sanitizer and you can also use a bleach solution (1/2c of bleach per gallon of water) to effectively disinfect hard, non-porous surfaces around the house. 

We do want to reminded everyone that they should stay home if:
·         They have had any cold or flu-like symptoms within the last 2 weeks before a project.
·         They have been in close contact with a person who has had any cold or flu-like symptoms within the last 2 weeks before a project.
·         They have travelled internationally within the 2 week period before a project begins.
While everyone is looking forward to a week in the woods/desert, a service project isn't the place to be if you have a cold/the flu/coronavirus/etc.
If you do show up not feeling well it will likely a) put you at more risk as we don't have immediate access to medical facilities, b) delay your recuperation, and c) put fellow volunteers at risk of getting sick too.
Keeping everyone healthy is a group endeavor and we ask that volunteers do their part by keeping leaders apprised of their health status. We appreciate your honesty and cooperation.