Volunteer Wilderness Ranger Job Description

The purpose of a Volunteer Wilderness Ranger is primarily to provide visitor information and education, and secondarily to perform trail maintenance and other wilderness stewardship services.  Therefore, it is imperative that the Volunteer Wilderness Rangers  (in teams of at least two) be in the wilderness areas when the majority of visitors are there – weekends and holidays.  This job description provides general information about the duties, schedule and documentation required for the Volunteer Wilderness Rangers.

But first, it should be made clear what this position is not – law enforcement.  The volunteers in this position provide information to the public about Forest Service policies and regulations, but do not enforce them.  The volunteers should never portray themselves as law enforcement.  Without proper authority and training, such a portrayal could put the volunteers in a potentially dangerous situation.

So what is expected?


  • Patrol & talk to visitors on weekends & holidays.  Cover a lot of ground.  Be in uniform.  Cover a variety of trails.  Don’t hike the same route every weekend;
  • Inform visitors on Leave No Trace (LNT) principles, wilderness ethics and regulations, and the importance of preserving wilderness character;
  • Post fire restriction and closure orders;
  • Perform light maintenance on weekdays such as cleaning up waterbars, removing small blowdowns, cutting back brush, & picking up trash;
  • Lead major trail maintenance work parties on weekdays.  Always wear proper PPE’s;
  • Clean and update information on bulletin boards at the trailheads;
  • Visit folks setting up dispersed campsites and share Leave No Trace (LNT) information;
  • Inspect & clean campsites.  Pick up trash, remove ash from fire rings & scatter in woods, bust up extra fire rings, leaving only one fire ring per campsite;
  • Report major trail condition problems to the volunteer coordinator;
  • Lead privet removal work days in the Sipsey Wilderness (Sipsey Wilderness VWR’s only);
  • Inform visitors about hunting seasons and Forest Service closure orders;
  • Conduct monitoring, including visitor and non-native invasive species (NNIS), as well as recreation site and trail inventories;
  • Administer minor first aid as needed.  Call for help if a more serious injury or illness is reported;
  • Report all search and rescue needs to the appropriate authorities. The Sheriffs in the counties head up the search and rescue efforts.  We only assist as requested by the Sheriff, or provide maps or other information;
  • Convey information about special regulations such as:
  • 10 person size limit in the wilderness areas
  • Horses must stay on designated trails
  • Appropriate user type on trails
  • Commercial outfitter/guides need to obtain a special use authorization,
  • No fireworks on National Forest lands
  • Pets need to be under owner control

Despite it sounding like a lot of “No’s”, be positive & friendly!  The National Forests in Alabama Wilderness Areas belong to the public and they should enjoy it, but while also properly protecting the resources and respecting other users.  Most of your time on weekends will be spent helpfully answering questions about directions to this place or that.  As many times as the same repetitive questions are asked (Which way to….?), answer it with a smile.  Remember that while you’ve heard it a thousand times, this may be that visitor’s first time to the wilderness.  Always be polite.


The Volunteer Wilderness Rangers are required to document a number of items.  They include:

  • Field reports– document the days worked and briefly the work accomplished and activities in which you engaged.
  • Visitor contacts – individuals and groups, types of use, where they were contacted, etc.  This information will be entered in the field reports, so keep clear and discernible notes while in the field.
  • Campsite inventory – updates of dispersed campsites are done periodically.  If requested by the volunteer coordinator or a Forest Service supervisor, you will be given training about how to properly document campsite conditions.
  • Trail conditions – you will also document trail conditions while on patrol, which may include signs, check dams, water bars, large trees down, etc.



  • ALWAYS CARRY:  first aid kit, radio, water, food, GPS and/or compass, map, guidebook, rain gear, trash bags, LNT trifolds and hang tags, small tools such as folding saw, hand clippers and fold-up shovel.  Carry bigger tools as needed:  pulaski, shovel, cross-cut saw.
  • RADIO – Always have 1 person with a radio on monitoring from 07:30 am 4:00 pm (or other hours established with your volunteer coordinator), if split up then have both radios on. Turn on at other times as needed. Use rechargeable battery and carry clamshell battery (AA’s) as back-up.
  • HAVE FUN!  The wilderness areas are beautiful.  You’re allowed to enjoy it, too.


Must have a knowledge and understanding of:

  •  the wilderness resource, The Wilderness Act of 1964, the National Wilderness Preservation System.
  • the four qualities of wilderness character
  • “Leave No Trace” principles and ethics
  • wilderness search and rescue procedures
  • wilderness rules, regulations and policies specific to the unit
  • wilderness boundary, where it is and how it is marked
  • re-vegetation or other practices and techniques needed to address impacts of use


Ability to:

  • effectively communicate with wilderness users, in-holders and adjacent land owners to educate them on wilderness values
  • implement items found in the wilderness education plan
  • act decisively and calmly under conditions of emotional and physical duress
  • safely navigate in a wilderness setting using the mode of travel appropriate for the setting, i.e., hiking, backpacking, pack-stock and canoe
  • identify areas of illegal ATV use, user made trails and excessive impacts from use
  • monitor non-native invasive plants, group encounters, group size, campsite locations, trail conditions
  • identify project needs and lead projects
  • maintain bulletin boards, make sure information is current


Skilled in:

  • the safe use of primitive/traditional/non-motorized tools
  • wilderness information and education techniques, especially Authority of the Resource approach
  • maintaining trails, campsites, and facilities
  • safe wilderness navigation, travel, and camping including “Leave No Trace” techniques impact and resource monitoring techniques
  • 1st Aid and CPR

Training will be provided for all the skills listed above.


  1. Bob Gower on April 23, 2014 at 11:20 pm

    I would like to volunteer as a wilderness manager. Thank you…

  2. John H. Allen on August 23, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    I’m 71. Is there an age-limit? I’m a fit, year-round swimmer, and was a Boy Scout leader for 12 years beginning in 1993. I taught my Scouts both Leave No Trace & Trail Maintenance in the Sipsey Wilderness.