Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS) is a project of The Wilderness Society, the leading American conservation organization dedicated to protecting our nation’s shared public lands. Created in 2010 and adopted by The Wilderness Society in 2011, SAWS is dedicated to providing stewardship to land designated and managed as wilderness in the National Forests of the Southern Appalachian region, which includes areas in Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia. SAWS serves as a resource for the federal agencies, supplementing existing stewardship efforts and providing support where there are none. Our program focuses on engaging local communities across our landscape in active volunteerism and developing the next generation of public lands stewards. In 2013, the program generated over 8,000 hours stewarding public lands, 23 seasonal jobs, and engaged over 200 unique volunteers.
By definition, “Wilderness Stewardship” has a broad scope, but SAWS focuses on the following:
- Year-round volunteer opportunities in stewardship focused on trail maintenance, trail construction, and campsite rehabilitation.
- Internships and seasonal employment providing conservation education through hands-on work experience.
- Wilderness Skills Institute, hosted in partnership with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the US Forest Service. Volunteers and employees from both non-profits and federal agencies learn about techniques to maintain trails with traditional tools and interacting with the public.
- Wilderness rangers who assist the recreating public, foster collaboration between recreational user groups, monitor wilderness character, and inventory non-native and invasive species.
- Educational workshops on public lands conservation, stewardship, volunteerism, and wilderness.