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Wilderness intern helps Forest Service


Sam gained so much experience while clearing trails that he earned an “A” in crosscut saw certification – an impressive feat for a newcomer. IMAGE: USFS, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.


CARSON CITY — Samuel Kilburn, 2013 Wilderness Ranger Intern on the Carson Ranger District, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, contributed greatly to the Forest’s outdoor to-do list this past summer. Although only 19, Kilburn, now a freshman majoring in environmental science at Dickinson College, spent most of his days working and camping in the beautiful backcountry of the Eastern Sierras.

“Sam was a big asset to our team and worked incredibly hard as a Student Conservation Association (SCA) Intern,” said Anna Lowell, Carson Ranger District Recreational Specialist. The SCA program pairs experienced professionals with the interns to develop tangible skills, and serve and protect forests, national parks, and urban communities. (Learn more about the SCA by visiting their site at www.thesca.org).

“The Carson Ranger District oversees two wilderness areas, which covers hundreds of miles of trail on over 192,000 acres; the high-elevation terrain, typically from 6,000-to-10,000 feet, requires a lot of physical and mental stamina from our rangers, said Lowell.

One of Kilburn’s main duties was to revisit invasive weed sites that were identified and treated last year (work also previously aided by the 2012 SCA intern) and determine if more treatment was needed this year. Additionally, several new pockets of weeds were found and treated this year. Most of these pockets were found near water resources, so finding and eradicating them before they spread further was a top priority.

Kilburn also learned how to maintain trails through tasks such as constructing trail drainage structures and cutting trees from the trail corridor using primitive tools (such as crosscut saw, axes, etc., since using motorized equipment in wilderness areas is only allowed under emergency situations). The lead wilderness ranger felt so confident in Kilburn’s crosscut skills, in fact, that he certified him with an “A” in crosscut saw certification, an outstanding feat for any newcomer.

Kilburn was exposed to a very complex trail maintenance project on the Pacific Crest Trail with folks from the adjoining Forest (the project site crossed two forests) and Pacific Crest Trail Association volunteers. He learned about challenging rigging techniques, as well as agency and partner collaboration. On this particular project, he camped with stock and saw how a camp dynamic changed when horses and mules were involved.

He also assisted with an educational booth at an airshow. Many kids and big kids alike loved the booth, the information provided, and conversations about the romantic aspects of being a wilderness ranger. A mock campsite displayed all of the gear that Kilburn would carry over the summer; the kids could get in the tent, check out the crosscut saw, and check out his books on plant species, etc.

His first duty, as with all new employees, entailed extensive safety and job training. He completed two online training courses from the Arthur Carhart Training Center, the Wilderness Act of 1964, as well as the Leave-No-Trace. After the training and airshow event, Kilburn was paired up with our Forest Service lead wilderness ranger for the duration of his internship. He worked eight days at a time in the backcountry with the lead ranger, learning the skills necessary to perform the job.

Kilburn enjoyed riding his bike around the Lake Tahoe area on his weekends. He hopes to continue this line of work in summers ahead.

Protect wilderness by learning more at www.wilderness.net and being a responsible visitor at www.LNT.org. You can help the Forest Service in its wilderness stewardship by joining a local wilderness friends group (learn more at www.wildernessalliance.org) or volunteering with a nearby national forest (find out more at www.fs.usda.gov).

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