This Wilderness Ranger toolbox is a ‘work in progress’ and represents information available to date on this subject. 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. Toolboxes are comprehensively reviewed and updated approximately every three years, with intermittent small updates and additions in the interim. To suggest new materials for inclusion, email Lisa Ronald at firstname.lastname@example.org. Date of last update: 11/25/2018.
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
- 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.
Being a Wilderness Ranger
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 Fundamentals Toolbox
See these sections: Wilderness Laws with National Implications, Other Laws Directly Affecting Wilderness
Specific Wilderness Laws
Agency Policy and Guides for Wilderness Management
FS Wilderness Ranger Training - Examples
Training Agendas and Plans
- Training Plan
- Orientation Topics
- Wilderness and Backcountry Operating Plan
- Regulations Quiz
- Wilderness Ranger Academy R2 and R3 2011 Agenda
Wilderness Ranger Rendezvous
Visitor Contact Book
Information and Education
- What is Wilderness and Quotes
- Got Trowel Poster
- Trail Cutting Poster
- Education Plan
- Education Message Matrix
Leave No Trace
Reports and Forms
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.
Research and Science
- Wilderness Fundamentals Toolbox
FS Archival Information
- Wilderness Program Review, 2006-2007
- Pinchot Institute (Brown Panel) Report on Wilderness Stewardship
In September 2001 a panel chaired by Dr. Perry Brown completed an analysis and report of documenting the status of wilderness stewardship by the four federal agencies. The report lists issues and concerns and provides principles for stewardship along with specific recommendations and action items to improve stewardship of the entire National Wilderness Preservation System.
- Wilderness Recreation Strategy
This resource contains the Forest Service strategy for management and monitoring of visitor use in wilderness to protect wilderness character.
- Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Strategy