Wilderness has always been one of my favorite places to be. Since I can remember, my family and I were swimming in ponds and lakes, hiking up mountains, star gazing, and roasting smores over the campfire. Being outside in beautiful nature has never failed to bring a smile to my face. Now that I am a Resource Assistant for the Forest Service, my love for wilderness has not changed, but my perspective has. Before I started with the Forest Service, I was simply a participant in wilderness, and now I feel as though I am a steward and actively engaged in the responsible stewardship of our wilderness areas. I’ve always felt a sense of responsibility to the land, and encouraged my friends and family to respect trails, wilderness, and wildlife. But the deeper I dove into my RA position, I learned about how so many different elements go into serving and protecting wilderness.
I am (and have been) working on implementing Wilderness Character Monitoring (WCM) in Tonto National Forest. In my months of researching and reading, I’ve realized how many different aspects are considered when it comes to managing wilderness. In wilderness all the different disciplines/departments are involved: botany, wildlife biology, hydrology, recreation, Heritage etc. Wilderness has not only nature and wildlife affecting it, but the number of visitors, sights and sounds outside of the wilderness, pollution from the city, water impairment, and so much more. Different departments and specialists have to work together to further the goals of the Forest Service and uphold the Wilderness Act.
(Superstition Wilderness sign. Photo taken by Daniela Kenny)
The work that I am doing is for the baseline year (2021) and all future WCM work for Tonto National Forest will be built upon what I am doing. In 5 years (2026), someone else will collect all the data again. The purpose of this is to be able to look at overall trends by comparing data from 2021 to 2026 and they will continue to recollect the data every 5 years. This wilderness character monitoring baseline assessment report will aid in wilderness stewardship by informing wilderness managers and leaders of trends, providing a better understanding of what is happening in wilderness and where meaningful changes to wilderness character can be made overtime.
Superstition, Four Peaks, Mazatzal, Salt River Canyon, Hellsgate, Sierra Ancha, and Salome Wildernesses are all under Tonto National Forest. Even though I’ve lived in Arizona (Phoenix metropolitan area) most of my life, I didn’t know all the wilderness names or even where they were located. Now, I’ve read about them, done research, and collected data for each of these wilderness areas. I’ve been inspired to visit the remaining wilderness areas I haven’t been to yet. I also want to incorporate wilderness more in my personal and professional life. My overall knowledge of wilderness and my passion for it has greatly increased since I started working for the Forest Service, and I hope to continue expanding and growing.
(Photo taken by Daniela Kenny in Mazatzal Wilderness)
Agency: U.S Forest Service
Program: Resource Assistant Program (RAP)
Location: Tonto National Forest