U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
Wyoming
 
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NOLS Field Instructor Christian Gauderer assists students Varley Hopkinson, Maegan Fitzgerald and Zach Parelman as they monitor wilderness characteristics in the Split Rock Wilderness Study Area.
NOLS Field Instructor Christian Gauderer assists students Varley Hopkinson, Maegan Fitzgerald and Zach Parelman as they monitor wilderness characteristics in the Split Rock Wilderness Study Area.
Students from the NOLS Outdoor Educator Semester hike in the Split Rock Wilderness Study Area.
Students from the NOLS Outdoor Educator Semester hike in the Split Rock Wilderness Study Area.

Students Take a Break from Climbing to Learn About WSAs

By Sarah Beckwith, Public Affairs Specialist, Wind River/Bighorn Basin District

Instead of spending April 29 learning about belay escape and anchor construction techniques, students from the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) helped the BLM monitor Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) in the Granite Mountains, east of Jeffrey City, Wyo.

The windy morning began with a safety and orientation talk, after which Lander Field Office Recreation Technician Brandon Thielke discussed various wilderness characteristics and values the group would be documenting, including evidence of development, naturalness, viewsheds, and opportunities for solitude. Armed with worksheets, maps and GPS units, the students and instructors hiked into the Split Rock and Miller Springs WSAs. By the end of the day, the group had monitored approximately 15 miles within and near the boundaries of the WSAs and logged a combined total of 84 hours of service.

"Monitoring like this helps us ensure that WSAs are not being degraded, and that they continue to offer people opportunities to have wilderness experiences," said Thielke. "The NOLS course was a huge asset to the ongoing monitoring effort." In preparation for the project, Thielke visited the students in a classroom setting in mid-April and spoke with them about multiple use land management, wilderness and WSAs.

WSAs, which were identified by the BLM in 1991, are managed to preserve their wilderness values until Congress either designates them as wilderness or releases them for non-wilderness management. The LFO manages eight WSAs.

The students are participants in a 94-day Outdoor Educator Semester offered by NOLS. The semester is geared towards aspiring and practicing professional educators and students studying outdoor education. Students were in the midst of the rock climbing section of the semester, learning and teaching various climbing techniques, when the windy day provided the ideal opportunity to stay on the ground and monitor the WSAs.

"Many of our students are not from the West," said NOLS Field Instructor Christian Gauderer, "and federal land management is not a big issue in their lives. These courses give them an idea about what land management is all about."

After hiking for a few hours in the Split Rock WSA, Maegan Fitzgerald of Texas concluded that the day gave her "a real perspective of the full range of what's going on on our public lands—from the ground up."


 
Last updated: 05-26-2010