Wilderness Ranger Toolbox
This toolbox is a work in progress and the materials represent what is available as of the last revision date. The information is intended to be generic and suitable for use in most situations while recognizing that local additions and revisions will be necessary to fit agency and unit requirements and needs. Much of the toolbox is based on Forest Service wilderness ranger work because of an identified need and available materials provided by the Forest Service. In addition to the resources provided here, you may also be able to obtain advice and recommendations through discussion on Wilderness Connect
. Date of last update: 5/17/17.
This Wilderness Ranger Toolbox mirrors the Wilderness Fundamentals Toolbox in many ways. The basic information about wilderness and the laws and policies that guide wilderness management posted in the Wilderness Fundamentals Toolbox are a lot of what a wilderness ranger needs to know to be effective at the job. Links from this toolbox will take you to the Fundamentals toolbox as well as to the Agency Resources section for more specific strategies, guidelines, and training materials, and to other toolboxes for resource specific information.
The goal of this toolbox is to provide information and other tools for training wilderness rangers and supporting wilderness managers and other professionals. While the level of experience and responsibility varies between wilderness rangers, locations, and the different managing agencies, all share a common goal of wilderness stewardship and all require a degree of expertise and skill in the common aspects of the job.
The information contained here may work best when combined with local wilderness ranger training sessions and meetings to help share experiences and lessons learned and to hone the skills.
Being a Wilderness Ranger
- Provide fundamental information about wilderness, the wilderness resource, and the wilderness ranger job.
- Design and display the toolbox materials in an easy to find format that allows for selection and local adjustment of individual files to fit the unique needs of every wilderness area and wilderness ranger duties.
- Link to information available elsewhere to allow for efficient information retrieval.
For many of us the wilderness ranger job is the best job ever or a dream come true. It allows us to live and work in beautiful and challenging environments, inform and educate people about wilderness, maintain and restore natural conditions, and test both our mind and body, all in support of the wild landscapes we care deeply about. Whether we are paid agency employees or volunteer partners the experiences last a lifetime for us and often we provide memories for visitors that help shape their lives too.
The job requires a variety of knowledge, skills, and abilities as displayed in the Wilderness Core Competencies. The wilderness ranger must know their wilderness and the geography, flora, fauna, and all the other biophysical components of the wilderness resource. The wilderness ranger also understands the visitors to their wilderness area and the Leave No Trace practices they should be using. And, the wilderness ranger is able to inform and educate visitors in an interesting but compelling way that creates an atmosphere where the visitor wants to do the right thing and remembers how when they visit the next time.
The wilderness ranger has the skills for safe and efficient back country travel and living. Learning the local naturally occurring hazards and safety guidelines and practices is required as well as staying fit and being aware of the latest techniques and equipment essential for routine work and emergency survival. The wilderness ranger must also have or be able to acquire skills for the necessary job tasks such as inventory and monitoring, trail work, campsite maintenance and restoration, fire, search and rescue, law enforcement and general public contact.
And finally, the wilderness ranger must understand wilderness in both a legal and practical context. The Wilderness Act, subsequent legislation specific to an area, and agency policies may seem dry but understanding and being able to implement the requirements of law and policy are the foundation of the job. For example, the wilderness ranger must be able to provide an understandable and meaningful explanation of why mountain bikes, wheeled carts, para-gliders, and rental cabins are prohibited but (in some areas) mining, cattle grazing, water development structures, and aircraft landing strips are OK. How come we can treat weeds in wilderness with herbicide but we typically don't use a chain saw to clear the trails? Why are dogs, toilets, campfires, large groups, etc. prohibited, or not, in some areas? The wilderness ranger is the only representative of the agency that some visitors will ever meet and we may only have one chance to get it right and help build a fundamental understanding of the values and benefits (as well as the oddities) of wilderness managed according to law. In addition the wilderness ranger must understand the over-riding direction from the Wilderness Act, to preserve wilderness character, and what that means for the wilderness management issues in their area.
- Wilderness Laws
- Wilderness Fundamentals Toolbox
See these sections: Wilderness Laws with National Implications, Other Laws Directly Affecting Wilderness
- Specific Wilderness Laws
- Overview of Key Laws
- Wilderness Law Library
- Agency Policy and Guides for Wilderness Management
- National Strategies and Programs
- Wilderness Character Monitoring
- Forest Service Wilderness Stewardship Performance
See information listed under National Strategies and Projects
- History, Benefits, and Threats
- FS Wilderness Ranger Training - Examples
- Training Agendas and Plans
- Training Plan
- Orientation Topics
- Wilderness and Backcountry Operating Plan
- Regulations Quiz
- Wilderness Ranger Rendezvous
- R1 2006 Agenda
- R2 2007
- Invitation Letter
- Wilderness Ranger Academy R2 and R3 2011 Agenda
- Bring List
- Job Hazard AnalysesSee the Job Hazard Analysis library, which is found under "Resources" in the Safety Toolbox.
- Camp List
- New Employee Checklist
- Maintenance Guide
- Before and After Hitch Duties
- First Aid and CPR
- Crew Leader Duties
- Gear Inventory
- Permit and Trailhead Checklist
- Pre- and Post-Hitch To Do List
- End of Trip Checklist
- Visitor Contact
- Authority of the Resource
- Authority of the Resource Role Playing Scenarios
- Visitor Contact Record
- Visitor Contact Book
- Inner Pages
- Law Enforcement
- CFR Card
- Information and Education
- What is Wilderness and Quotes
- Leave No Trace
- BWCAW Posters (7 principles)
- GMNF Poster
- WMNF Poster
- Got Trowel Poster
- Trail Cutting Poster
- Education Plan
- Education Message Matrix
- Reports and Forms
- Program Evaluation
- Ranger Report Database (zipped)
- Trail Maintenance Report
- Trip Report Form
- End of Year Report
- Hitch Report
- Year-end Summary Report
- Arthur Carhart National wilderness Training Center classroom and on-line training courses
- Reports and Forms
- Ranger Reports (using the Survey123 app on your mobile phone or tablet)
- Agency Resources
- Wilderness Ranger Field Guide
The materials displayed in this document first appeared in 1993 and were published in a 5"x8" notebook format, distributed to all national forest offices with wilderness management responsibilities. Since 1993 many aspects of wilderness management have evolved but the job of the Wilderness Ranger remains much the same.
This handbook is being provided on-line as a source of ideas for those training wilderness rangers and volunteers. For updates to monitoring protocols, forms, and data analysis and other procedures, policies, and guidelines please visit the appropriate Toolboxes.
The Wilderness Ranger Field Guide is also available in an editable format that may be revised and updated as needed to meet local needs.
- Wilderness Connect
Join and use the only social network exclusively for wilderness management professionals, join a group, start a group to enhance the wilderness ranger profession.
- Research and Science
- Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute
- Other Resources
- Wilderness Fundamentals Toolbox
- FS Archival Information
- Wilderness Program Review, 2006-2007
- A Wilderness Agenda: Thinking Like Mountain
- Pinchot Institute (Brown Panel) Report on Wilderness Stewardship
- Wilderness Recreation Strategy
- Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Strategy