Editor’s note: This blog was written by Emily Williams, one of ICL’s volunteer wilderness stewards. Emily is a recent graduate of Tufts University, and was born and raised in Idaho’s Wood River Valley.

What would you expect to find when you go out into the wilderness? Flora and fauna, rivers, wildlife, a clear view of the night sky, lakes, high mountain peaks perhaps? But would you ever expect to encounter an entire propane barbecue? Or a well-maintained pit toilet? A candelabrum??

Our volunteer wilderness stewards have made many interesting discoveries on their patrols this summer-from the expected to the unexpected. From seeing herds of hundreds of elk in meadows of wildflowers to tuckered out kittens carried in backpacks. From pristine high alpine lakes to groups of visitors actively burning campfires in fire-restricted areas. From gigantic geodes embedded in boulders to trash left in campfire rings, along the trail and in rivers.

The Biggest Find

Colleen Holle, a returning steward and Ketchum local, made the most substantial find of the summer. Behind a group of trees, along one of the most popular backpacking routes in the region, here’s what she found.

  • 1 tarp
  • 2 wooden chairs
  • 1 AmeriGas propane tank (on 4 wheels-illegal in designated wilderness)
  • 1 char-broil grill
  • 4 candles
  • 1 candelabrum
  • 2 large vases
  • 1 adjustable table

Colleen was able to locate this mess after a conversation with a local trail crew who had heard rumors there was something hidden nearby. According to our Forest Service Wilderness Program Coordinator, this stash was the biggest discovery that she’s heard of.

Our Volunteer Stewards Make a Difference

Managing our wild places as wilderness involves minimizing human impact on the area as much as possible. The 1964 Wilderness Act defines wilderness as, "an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." Having trained stewards on the ground is an invaluable resource for wilderness management. Our volunteer stewards carried out pounds of trash, patrolled for hundreds of hours, and visited every wilderness area in central Idaho over the past four months.

We owe the stewards a huge thanks for taking it on themselves to help maintain these undisturbed areas by bringing attention, and if needed action, to transgressions found in our incredible wildernesses. Both their work and their trips have inspired others to follow suit. Here’s hoping their future reports contain more of what we expect to see than items better suited for a summer lawn party.

What You Can Do

Interested in getting involved in our wilderness stewardship program? Just curious to know more about it? Want to show appreciation for the work of our volunteers? Read more about the Idaho Conservation League’s wilderness stewardship program, and if you appreciate the efforts of our volunteer stewards, consider making a gift to support the program.