Would You Like To Be a Wilderness Ranger?

2018 Training October 6-7 Saturday and Sunday from 9-5

Wild South office in Moulton

It’s 2018, and the Wilderness Act of 1964, which established the National Wilderness Preservation System and designated the first 54 wilderness areas, will be 54 years old in September. Also, the Sipsey Wilderness in Alabama turned 42 last year and is the 6th largest Forest Service managed wilderness area east of the Mississippi River and 2nd largest of the 86 wilderness areas in Forest Service Region 8.  Every fall, in October, we host a training for a new group of volunteers interested in joining our Volunteer Wilderness Ranger team.  Contact us  now to join our effort to steward America’s enduring resource of wilderness.

The USDA Forest Service in Alabama manages three federally designated wilderness areas, Sipsey, Cheaha, and Dugger Mountain, totaling 42,218 acres.  For the past several years, Forest Service budgets have afforded very little staff time for agency presence in these areas. Meanwhile, visitor use has skyrocketed, especially in Cheaha and Sipsey, turning these federally designated wild places into crowded recreation areas rather than wilderness areas during certain times of the year.

For this reason, in 2011, Wild South entered into a partnership with the Forest Service and established a corps of trained and dedicated volunteer wilderness rangers for all three of Alabama’s wilderness areas.  These volunteers provide all the services of a Forest Service wilderness ranger except for law enforcement.

Our volunteer wilderness rangers are trained in wilderness law, local wilderness regulations, the wilderness ethic, Leave No Trace, CPR and First Aid, the Authority of the Resource, radio and GPS use, as well as crosscut saw and traditional tool training if so desired by the volunteer.  All volunteer activities support USFS management goals and are covered under the USDA Volunteers in National Forests (VIF) program, protecting volunteers from tort claims and costs associated with personal injury.  Volunteer rangers always patrol in pairs, and they are provided with all the equipment they need to perform their duties as a ranger.

Field work involves walking the wilderness area hiking trails, documenting trail conditions, performing light trail maintenance, picking up litter, naturalizing campsites and dispersing fire rings.  They engage wilderness visitors when encountered and encourage voluntary compliance with wilderness regulations when violations are observed.  Their primary purpose is to educate and inform wilderness users and encourage personal responsibility for preserving wilderness character.

Rangers schedule their field days ahead of time and complete reports detailing their time and activities in the Wilderness, i.e. number of visitors encountered, miles of trail inspected, trash removal or trail maintenance work conducted, etc. These reports are regularly submitted to the Forest Service.  A commitment of one day per month (average over the course of a year) is desired.  Rangers need to be in good physical condition, as this is a physically demanding activity.  Enjoyment of hiking, love of nature, good social skills and an abiding sense of the fundamental value of our wild places are necessary qualities.

Being a volunteer wilderness ranger is an opportunity to have fun doing what you already enjoy (hiking), meet other wilderness enthusiasts and at the same time give back a little something to help protect the wild places we all cherish.  If you think you might be interested in joining our ranger team, email Kim or call our Alabama office at 256-974-6166.  Our wilderness areas need you! Important: You must be at least 18 years old to participate in this program.

Read an overview of the Volunteer Wilderness Ranger job duties HERE.

After reading the overview of the VWR duties and you wish to take the next step in the process, come back and click HERE to fill out an information form.


Wild South’s Volunteer Wilderness Ranger program has been supported in part by grants from:


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Food for our training events have been graciously provided by the following…


Thanks to the North Alabama Search Dog Association for assisting us in the map & compass portion of our training.


  1. Ryan Cavender on December 19, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Please keep me up to speed on any further updates on this event as I will be making every effort to attend. Thank you kindly!

    Ryan Cavender

  2. John Whitley on January 3, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    I’m very interested in helping with this program. Since this is the 1st meeting, is this just a get-together, or will we be receiving actual training. It’s a long trip, (which I don’t mind) , if there’s real value to it. Regards, John Whitley

  3. Mark Kolinski on January 3, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    This is not the first meeting. We trained our first batch of volunteer rangers in 2011 and initiated patrols in November of that year. Excerpted from the text of a message that went out today to our existing rangers and potential recruits:
    “This meeting is especially important for trained rangers and recruits but will also be open to the public and will serve these purposes:

    For all you trained and active rangers: A refresher on certain aspects of rangering; updates and reports on the past year’s successes; news concerning advancement of the program; re-grouping and affirmation of your continued service; and discussion of your concerns, suggestions, epiphanies, etc. – your input is what keeps the program evolving!
    For rangers in training and new recruits: A chance to meet and be inspired by active, experienced rangers; announcement of upcoming training schedule; introduction to rangering.
    For the interested public: Information about the program; an opportunity to sit in on our discussions and meet rangers; a chance to become a ranger and help grow this program so that we can offer even stronger protection for our Wildernesses in Alabama!

    Please let us know you’re coming. There will be tasty things to eat and we want to make sure there’s plenty!”

    I agree that it’s a long trip, but if you want to participate as a volunteer wilderness ranger, you will be asked to make this trip on a monthly basis to patrol in one of Alabama’s three wilderness areas. Birmingham is about an hour and a half minimum from these areas. If you are serious about joining the team, we highly recommend attending this event. Thanks.

  4. Michael Breed on January 3, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    This sounds like something I would really enjoy being part of. John (or anyone else), if you are traveling from Birmingham I would encourage contact with me for car pooling. I have a friend that is a serious hiker / walker that I’ll pass this information on to.

  5. Debra on January 4, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    This is ALREADY inspiring. Someday if circumstances allow
    the 2-day/mo commitment, I’d be very interested.
    I just want to thank you all; you are appreciated!

  6. Mark Kolinski on January 7, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    ATTENTION: Anyone coming to the ranger meeting from down south through Jasper, Carroll Wilson, one of our active rangers, needs a ride. He will be recuperating from shoulder surgery, and his doctor says no driving yet. If you can help Carroll out, give him a call at 205-275-7399.

  7. Andy on February 15, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Thank you for sharing. it’s useful info for me

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