Wilderness Ranger Academy 2018 in New Mexico

From June 4th to 7th the Wilderness Ranger Academy of Region 2 and 3 of the U.S. Forest Service took place in Red River, New Mexico. The participation of Mykola Romaniuk (Carpathian Biosphere Reserve) of our European Wilderness Network and the European Wilderness Society, set the starting point for an exchange programme with the U.S. Forest Service. More rangers of the European Wilderness Network will have the chance to take part in this event next year!

Please also read:  Save the date! – U.S. Forest Service Wilderness Ranger Academy 2019

What does a Wilderness Ranger in the U.S. do?

The main duties of a Wilderness Ranger in a Wilderness managed by the U.S. Forest Service include the following tasks:

  • Patrolling
  • Stewardship work, such as trail maintenance and restoring campgrounds
  • Monitoring work, in particular Wilderness Stewardship Performance
  • Personal contact with and education of visitors

These tasks are done during regular multi-day trips to the Wilderness.

Agenda of the Wilderness Ranger Academy

The trainings of the Wilderness Ranger Academy give the rangers the necessary legal and practical background to guarantee for their safety while being out in the Wilderness. Lectures dealt with the history and framework of the U.S. Wilderness Act and the Value and Marketing of Wilderness. The concept of Minimum Requirements Analysis was also discussed. This analysis is supposed to detemine the necessary but minimally impacting activity that is in line with the Wilderness character. The Wilderness character monitoring of the U.S. Forest Service was also a topic covered during the training. Three of the six international guests has the opportunity to shortly present their conservation work and protected areas. These three presentations made it possible to see different approaches to protected area management and offered a great foundation for further discussions.

Several training sessions were dedicated to explain and practice public contact. The concept of “Authority of the Resource” formed the basis for this. With this concept rangers try to educate visitors from the perspective of nature rather then the law. Trainings about risk management, Wilderness first aid, teaching Leave No Trace to youth, Orienteering and an introduction to rigging formed the morning of the third day. The day went on with trainings for bear safety, knot tying, axe skills and packing your pack. This intense day ended with a backcountry Wilderness Ranger Cook-Off that also hosted two international dishes.

As 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic River Act, an excursion took the participants on an amazing river raft on the Rio Grande River. The Wilderness Ranger Academy 2018 ended with a motivating speech by Dave Foreman, a long-time Wilderness advocate. After the Ranger Academy, the international guests discussed and worked on their personal and professional action plans. This included the question about what things they can bring back to their countries and organisations.

Wilderness Rangers in Europe

Wilderness and protected areas rangers in Europe have a different profile. In most countries and protected areas their main task is to guide people. Monitoring and education also takes up a big part of their work. However, foresters do most of the trail work. Austrian National Park Rangers, for example, guide excursions and group hikes for children, teenagers and adults. They monitor and collect data about the vegetation and animal population or check if trails or structures need maintainence. These rangers also educate visitors about the appropriate behaviour in the National Park and nature in general. Potential Austrian National Park Ranger have to participte in a 42-day course. This course deals with animal and plant species, geology, climatology and weather, ecology and nature protection, first aid, education and special features of the respecting National Park.

The intended outcome of our cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service would be to develop a uniform profile of a European Wilderness Ranger, for our European Wilderness Network.



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Sign the Petition for resilient forests


90 signatures

Open Letter to the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture

Federal Ministry of
Food and Agriculture
Minister Julia Klöckner
11055 Berlin

Dear Minister Klöckner,

The current situation of the forest in Germany is worrying. It is a forest crisis not only driven by climate change. The current crisis management of the forestry industry is backward-looking and harmful to the forest. The declaration announced at the meeting of ministers in Moritzburg can be described as a `Moritzburg declaration of bankruptcy´. We call on the state forestry industry to, instead of expensive rushed actions, finally carry out an expert analysis of its own work and to involve all stakeholders in this process. What is called for is a consistent departure from plantation forestry and a radical shift towards a management that treats the forest as an ecosystem and no longer as a wood factory.

On 1stAugust 2019, five forestry ministers of CDU and CSU-led states adopted a so-called “master plan” for the forest in Germany, which was affected by heat, bark beetles, fire and drought. As of 2020, the federal government is to make 800 million euros available as a reaction to climate change. This money is to be used to repair the damage caused, reforest the damaged areas and carry out `climate-adapted´ forest conversion – including the use of non-native tree species that have not yet been cultivated in the forest. Research should therefore focus on on tree species suitability and forest plant breeding in the future – keyword: `Climate-adapted forest of the future 2100´.

Remarkably, the damage caused primarily by the extreme drought of 2018 is attributed solely to climate change. Climate change is meeting a forest that is systemically ill due to the planting of non-native tree species, species poverty, monocultures, uniform structure, average low age, mechanical soil compaction, drainage etc. A healthy, resistant forest would look differently! The master plan emphasizes: sustainable, multifunctional and `active´ forest management remains indispensable – and thereby means that its unnatural state cannot be changed. Reference is made to the `carbon storage and substitution effects´ of wood products. The use of wood, e.g. in the construction industry, should be increased and thus the demand for wood should be further fueled – while knowing that the forest in Germany already cannot meet this demand. In fact, forest owners are suffering from poor timber prices due to an oversupply of trunk wood on the world market.

All these demands make clear: the current forestry strategy, which has been practiced for decades, should not change in principle. The concept is simple: cut down trees – plant trees. At best, the `design´ of the future artificial forests consisting of perfectly calculated tree species mixtures, that are believed to survive climate change without damages, can be changed. In all seriousness, the intention is to continue selling the public a so-called `future strategy´ to save the forest. This strategy seamlessly follows the model of a wood factory, that is met with general rejection and must be regarded as a failure in view of the coniferous plantations that are currently collapsing on a large scale. An essential part of the forests that have currently died is exactly the part that was reestablished in 1947 as coniferous monocultures on a much larger area than today. There is only one difference to the situation at the time: considerable amounts of money are to be made available from taxes for forest owners this time.

Climate change is progressing, and this, without a doubt, has massive impacts on all terrestrial ecosystems, including forests. To pretend that the last two years of drought alone caused the disaster is too cheap. On closer inspection, the disaster is also the result of decades of a forestry focused on conifers – in a country that was once naturally dominated by mixed deciduous forests. People do not like to admit that for more than 200 years they have relied on the wrong species of commercial tree (spruce) and have also created artificial, ecologically highly unstable and thus high-risk forest ecosystems. A whole branch of business has become dependent on coniferous wood. And now the German coniferous timber industry is on the verge of bankruptcy.

It would only have been honest and also a sign of political greatness if you and the forestry ministers in Moritzburg had declared: Yes, our forestry industry has made mistakes in the past, and yes, we are ready for a relentless analysis that takes into account not only purely silvicultural, but also forest-ecological aspects. Instead, you have confined yourselves to pre-stamped excuses that are already familiar to everyone and that lack any self-critical reflection.

Clear is: We finally need resting periods for the forest in Germany, which has been exploited for centuries. We need a new, ecologically oriented concept for future forest – not a hectic `forest conversion´, but simply forest development closer towards nature. This gives the forest as an ecosystem the necessary leeway to self-regulate and react to the emerging environmental changes. We need a systemic forest management that is no less profitable than the present one, but must be substantially more stable and resistant to foreseeable environmental changes. The aid for forest owners that all citizens are now required to pay through their taxes is only politically justified in the interest of common good, if the forests of the future that are being promoted by it, do not end up in the next disaster, some of which is produced by the forest management itself.

That is why the signatories request from the the Federal Government, and in particular you, Mrs Klöckner, a master plan worthy of the name:

On disaster areas (mainly in public forests!) reestablishment through natural forest development (ecological succession), among other things with pioneer tree species, is to be brought about. In private forests, ecological succession for reestablishment must be purposefully promoted. Larger bare areas should be planted with a maximum of 400 to 600 large plants of native species per hectare in order to permit ecological succession parallelly.
To promote ecological succession, the areas should no longer be completely and mechanically cleared; as much wood as possible should be left in the stand (to promote optimum soil and germ bed formation, soil moisture storage and natural protection against browsing). In private forests, the abandonment of use in disaster areas should be specifically promoted for ecological reasons and in order to relieve the burden on the timber market.

Regarding the promotion of reestablishment plantings in private forests: priority for native tree species (of regional origin); choose wide planting distances in order to leave enough space for the development of pioneer species. For the forests of the future: Minimize thinning (low-input principle), build up stocks through targeted development towards old thick trees, protect the inner forest climate / promote self-cooling function (should have highest priority due to rapidly progressing climate change!), prohibit heavy machinery, refrain from further road construction and expansion, permit and promote natural self-regulatory development processes in the cultivated forest and on (larger) separate areas in the sense of an compound system; drastically reduce the density of ungulate game (reform of hunting laws).

Like in the field of organic agriculture, which has been established since the 1980s, the crisis of our forests should be the reason today to transform at least two existing forestry-related universities. They should be turned into universities for interdisciplinary forest ecosystem management. This is a contribution not only to the further development of forestry science and silviculture in Germany, but also of global importance! The goal must be to produce wood through largely natural forest production and to start with it here in Germany, the birthplace of forestry.


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