UM Home | UM A-Z | UM Search

Photo Gallery

Field Monitoring Protocols

This project is supported by:The National Forest Foundation

The Selway-Bitteroot Frank Church Foundation

The USDA Forest Service



College of Forestry and Conservation

Volunteer for Conservation

Wilderness managers need our help! 
Join us in the Frank Church River-of-no-Return Wilderness this Summer

Backpack into the Frank Church Wilderness this summer, and help care for these
spectacular landscapes. Join us this summer to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, and the Wilderness Institute's 10th summer of volunteer-powered wilderness stewardship! This summer, the Wilderness Institute will take small groups of volunteers on 3-7 day backpacking trips to clear trails in the Frank Church Wilderness Ares. Come lend a hand, master saw skills and trail brushing techniques, clean water bars, monitor impacts, and explore spectacular country.Ready to explore seldom-visited terrain and acquire a taste for wilderness trail work? This is the summer to join us. Backcountry experience is helpful but not necessary; trained field staff will provide project oversight and volunteer training. Volunteers must come prepared to work hard and pull their own weight, but providing learning opportunities and new experiences is integral to our volunteer-powered projects. Delicious dinners are provided daily, and transportation is available from Missoula and select towns in the study area vicinity.

2014 Volunteer Trip Dates**

June 27-30 (Fri-Mon) Salmon River Trail-- Mackey Bar to Whitewater

July 4-8 (Fri-Tues)Salmon River Trail-- Whitewater to Rattlesnake Bar

July 12-15 (Sat-Tues)HellsHalf Acre Spring-- Magruder Corridor

July 19-23 (Sat-Wed) Sabe Creek-- Magruder Corridor

Aug 9-11 (Sat-Mon) Salmon Mtn to Kim Creek Saddle-- Magruder Corridor

Aug 15-19 (Fri-Tues) Poet Creek to Dry Saddle -- Magruder Corridor

Sept 11-15 (Thurs-Mon) Magruder Corridor

**Trip routes subject to change depending on conditions encountered

For more information or to be added to our email interest list, contact the Wilderness Institute at 406-243-5361 or

Project Summary

With support from the National Forest Foundation, local partner such as the The Selway-Bitteroot Frank Church Foundation, and USDA Forest Service, the Wilderness Institute organizes a citizen monitoring and restoration project each summer.  This is a partnership project involving local community volunteers, the Forest Service, and the University of Montana.  Community volunteers work with trained field leaders to monitor selected elements of wilderness character, conduct recreation site inventories, and carry out stewardship and restoration efforts in backcountry areas.  In the last nine years, this program has worked with over 350 volunteers to conduct monitoring and restoration in seven Wilderness Areas and all seven of Montana’s congressionally designated Wilderness Study Areas.  Project outcomes include detailed inventories of wilderness character, invasive plants and recreation sites; treatment of invasive species and restoration of native plants (through hand-pulling); and increased agency and community capacity for citizen stewardship of public lands. The Wilderness Institute’s community-based monitoring generates relevant data for forest managers and interested community members, and broadens and promotes informed civic engagement in wilderness stewardship.

Wilderness Character Monitoring

Both the Wilderness Act of 1964 and Montana’s Wilderness Study Area Act (1977) require that land management agencies maintain wilderness character in wilderness areas as it existed at the time of designation.  The purpose of monitoring wilderness character is to improve wilderness stewardship by providing managers and the public a tool to evaluate how wilderness character is changing over time and how stewardship actions impact wilderness character.  In collaboration with local NGOs and community groups, starting in 2009, the Wilderness Institute partnered with the Forest Service to design citizen-friendly field-based wilderness character monitoring protocols, and then implemented these protocols across all seven of Montana’s congressionally designated Wilderness Study Areas (Sapphire, Blue Joint, West Pioneer, Ten Lakes, Hyalite Porcupine Buffalo Horn, Big Snowy Mountains and Middle Fork Judith River).  The resulting monitoring reports are available here>>.  In 2013, the Wilderness Institute’s citizen monitoring program implemented this protocol in the Anaconda Pintler and Welcome Creek Wilderness Areas, and in 2014 we will conduct critical monitoring and stewardship work in the Frank Church Wilderness Area.  More information on wilderness character monitoring is available from the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute and at

Thanks to each of our 70 volunteers who helped monitor all of the trails in the Anaconda Pintler and Welcome Creek Wildernesses!

Volunteers in the Backcountry

During summer 2013, the Wilderness Institute’s Citizen Science Program took small groups of volunteers into the Anaconda Pintler and Welcome Creek Wildernesses.  70 volunteers spent over 1900 hours documenting every weed infestation detectable from the trail, inventorying campsites, signs, system and non-system trails, human encounters and wildlife sign.  Data is currently being analyzed, and reports summarizing and mapping measured attributes are in progress and will be available this winter.



For more information, to sign up, or to be on the Wilderness Institute’s citizen scienceVolunteer
contact list:

Email or call 406.243.5361

To learn more about Montana's Wildernesses and Wilderness Study Areas, visit

Learn more about the Citizen Science program>>