One of the techniques the Forest Service uses to better manage wilderness areas is through “solitude monitoring”, which is part of my work duties here in Missouri as a Wilderness Ranger intern. This involves in-field research of investigating different zones (transition, remote, and pristine) within designated wilderness areas to record statistics such as visitor encounters, camp encounters, and so forth. It’s a bit lengthy to explain in full detail, but essentially this is a way of keeping track of the potential impact for solitude opportunities. According to the Wilderness Act of 1964, a wilderness area should have “outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation…”, and “be administered for the use and enjoyment of the American people in such a manner as will leave them unimpaired for future use and enjoyment as wilderness, and so as to provide for the protection of these areas, the preservation of their wilderness character…”.
What this means for Wilderness Rangers is a lot of time spent in the good ‘ol outdoors, and getting to see, preserve and protect this nation’s wild places. As I am an intern via the Student Conservation Association, this something I’ll only get to do for my 6 month internship; yet there is so much do so and seemingly little time to do it. But who knows what the future holds?…the more I do this, the more I see my efforts take root and grow. 😀
All that said, I’d like to share with you the things people like me in the field of wilderness conservation get to see and experience.
My monitoring zone for the day consisted of a short 2 mile stretch. Per Forest Service protocol, I get to spend a minimum of 4 hours of monitoring in each zone :).
The dotted trail running north-south on the map is the Ozark Trail, part of the Taum Sauk section.
Enjoy the views… 🙂
Some of the flora….
Low-bush blueberry, a sign of dry, acid soil.
Fire Pink, its red petals reminiscent of bursting fireworks.
Wild Bee-Balm yet to bloom.
I presume that this plant (in the centre with the big leaves) is Cheeses, or Common Mallow. I’ve only seen smaller Cheeses plants back East.
This is a rather flashy-looking Wood Sorrel. There are 7 species in the continental US…this one is Oxalis violacea, or Violet wood Sorrel.
This is Bird-Foot/Narrow-Leaved Violet amongst a cluster of Virginia Creeper.
Some unknown plants…
And here are two wildlife close-ups…
A cute but shy Box Turtle.
Turkey Vultures soaring in the wind overhead.
On a final note, whilst there are some great wilderness areas out there, some of them have become popular, and therefore endure more visitor impact. Do your part in helping preserve these places by practicing Leave No Trace camping and following the regulations. Plan ahead and be self-reliant – there is a lot of rugged country in the wilderness. And if you are fortunate enough to live near a designated wilderness area, consider volunteering for the agency that manages it.
“There is just one hope of repulsing the tyrannical ambition of civilization to conquer every inch on the whole Earth. That hope is the organization of spirited people who will fight for the freedom and preservation of wilderness.” ~ Bob Marshall