Volunteer Manual

San Francisco Peaks Ranger District Wilderness Areas Volunteer Manual

Fall 2012, Wilderness Management

John Ehlen, Joseph Hill, Katelynn Jenkins, Ryan Scott, Buck Skowronek


Photo Credit: (http://flagstaffartistsgallery.com/ArtistPages/CoyleJoe/Sycamore-Canyon.jpg)


The US Forest Service as a federal agency relies heavily on volunteer work as a main factor in developing an organized and successful management system. Volunteers are used for a variety of projects within a diverse selection of Wilderness areas to apply their individual skill sets to. USFS volunteers have restored Cliff Dwellings in New Mexico, surveyed sites for Wilderness nation-wide and have managed for invasive plants species and ecological impacts of anthropogenic use in rare and delicate life zones that exist in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness here in Arizona. Projects may consist of satisfying a single day objective to working towards a long-term goal. Regardless of the work involved, volunteers experience a plethora of rewards and gain experiences, networking and skills unlike those learned anywhere else.   Therefore, Wilderness Volunteers must be prepared with all of the essential tools and knowledge to ensure that management practices are effectively implemented and all precautions for health and safety are adequately met. It is guaranteed by the USFS that volunteers have the right to work in a safe, friendly and healthy working atmosphere. One method to satisfy these rights is through volunteer education and preparation with a go-to document that will help to reinforce volunteer stewardship standards and build public knowledge of the Wilderness that surround the Flagstaff area.   Thus the Flagstaff Ranger District Volunteer Manual is presented within this report for the USFS to use as a tool for volunteer training and education. Volunteers cannot be blind in the field and this manual incorporates all the general information, trail guides, conduct protocol and even orienteering training. This comprehensive manual will set a standard for the Flagstaff Ranger District and in effect maximizes volunteer utility. It constitutes protocol of the volunteer position, making education clear and easy to access and in effect will influence strength in individuals who donate their time as well as the number of those who volunteer in the first place.


The steps to completing this manual are simple in description, but extensive in execution. The first part of the process included a brainstorming phase where we conferred with US Forest Service managers Justin Loxley and Patrick McGervey to develop a basic outline for the volunteer manual. The outline consisted of majors sections needed to complete the manual. With the help of the managers, we divided the sections among crew members. Next, each crewmember researched their topic through internet sources and sources provided by the managers. Many of the trail descriptions and maps were taken directly from the USFS website. Drafts were produced for each section and turned into Justin for feedback. Once the feedback was received, corrections were made and the final manual was completed.


Coconino National Forest

  The Coconino National Forest, located in Northern Arizona, is 1.8 million acres and entirely surrounds the cities of Flagstaff and Sedona.  The forest also borders four other national forests: The Apache-Sitgreaves national forest to the south-east, The Kaibab National Forest to the North and West, The Prescott National Forest to the south-west, and the Tonto national Forest to the south. There are a wide variety of landscapes in the forest including alpine tundra’s, deserts, flatlands, mesas, ponderosa pine forests, and volcanic peaks. Elevations in the forest range from 12, 633 feet at Humphrey’s Summit too nearly 2,500 feet in some parts near the Verde River. The Coconino National Forest is divided into three districts: The Flagstaff District, The Mogollon Rim District, and the Red Rock District. Each area has its own distinct geography and environment. The Flagstaff Ranger District encompasses nearly 850,000 acres of National Forest lands around the Flagstaff area, from Mormon Lake and Anderson Mesa to north of the San Francisco Peaks. The Mogollon Rim is a rugged escarpment that forms the southern limit of the Colorado Plateau. It extends across the entire forest and provides excellent views within Plateau Country and Desert Canyon Country as well. The Red Rock District includes nearly160,000 acres of buttes, pinnacles, mesas, and canyons and is world renowned for its red rock vistas. Vegetation type is heavily dependent on elevation and location in the forest. Conifers and Evergreens are the main flora found in the Forest. Deciduous trees are rarely found, except in some moist areas near creeks and streams. The most common species found throughout the forest is the ponderosa pine.   

Coconino National Forest Wilderness Areas

  Sycamore Canyon Wilderness

Sycamore Canyon Wilderness is located approximately 25 miles, as the crow flies, southwest of Flagstaff, Arizona and about 16 miles northwest of Sedona, Arizona. It is bordered to the southeast by the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness. The very popular tourist attraction of Oak Creek Canyon is located 13 miles to the east. The Wilderness is accessible from the west by way of a few US Forest Service roads, and to the east by US Forest Service roads leading to all major trailheads for Sycamore Canyon. The Sycamore Canyon Wilderness covers 55,937 acres of extremely rugged and primitive country. In round numbers, the canyon is approximately 1,500 feet deep with the average elevation of the rim of canyon being 6,000 feet, and the bottom of the canyon measuring at about 4,500 feet in elevation. Obviously there is considerable variability when it comes to the topography of the canyon. The canyon is just over 20 miles long and starts at the Colorado Plateau and empties into the Verde Valley. Due to the sheer size and length of Sycamore Canyon, there are many vegetation types located within it. Near the upper reaches of the canyon, the dominant vegetation type is a ponderosa pine and fir forest with Gambel oak and multiple juniper species intermixed throughout the forest. The vegetation type in the bottom the canyon is much different from the rim due to the fact it is lower in elevation and because it is a riparian area. The dominant vegetation type in the bottom is comprised of mainly deciduous trees such sycamore, ash, and oak. The water supply in this riparian area is an ephemeral creek, and water is typically only flowing during the wet seasons or during spring runoff. There are deep pockets along the canyon where water will be available all year even when the creek is not running. Near the end of the canyon where it reaches the Verde Valley, the elevation is lower and vegetation type transitions from the pine/fir forest to a high desert type. It can be considerably hotter and drier near the Verde Valley than the where the canyon begins up in the high country. Many species of animals can be found within the Wilderness. Elk, mule deer, and Coues deer inhabit the canyon, with the highest populations occurring in the winter when snowfall forces them to lower elevations in search of available feed. While there are some resident elk and mule deer, a large portion of them will migrate out of the canyon in the spring, once the snow begins to melt. The Coues deer however, are typically year round residents of the canyon. Other species located in the Wilderness include bears, mountain lions, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, skunks, ring-tailed cats, and other small mammals. Reptiles such as rattlesnakes, horny toads, and lizards also make Sycamore Canyon home. The riparian habitat is a major attraction for a number of wild birds. The dominant use of the Wilderness is primitive recreation. Hunting, hiking, horseback riding, and camping are the most popular activities for recreationists. Recreationists are restricted by wilderness regulations that prohibit the use of mechanized equipment such as motorized vehicles and mountain bikes. If livestock is to be used, they must be fed weed seed free hay to prevent the spread of invasive plant species. As always, the concept of leave no trace is in effect for visitors. The amount of visitor use is not well documented.

Access: You may get to this area from a number of highways and forest service roads. Major access points are off Route 66/FR 231, U.S. 89A, and FR’s 152, 152D, 152C, 525, 538E, 538G and 538H.        
Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Trails:  
Winter Cabin Trail #70: Length: 5 miles Elevation Change: 2200 feet GPS: N35° 1′ 20.4954″, W-111° 55′ 21.72″ Winter Cabin Trail descends gradually through Ponderosa pine, Gambel oak, and juniper trees with many shaded areas for about a mile and a half to the historic Winter Cabin. Winter Cabin Spring, which normally runs all year, is located in the creek behind the cabin and about 30 feet down stream on the other side of the creek. A camp site is located near the cabin. At the cabin you can connect with Hog Hill Trail and Kelsey Winter Trail, or you can continue on Winter Cabin Trail in a southwest direction as the trail descends about 1,500 feet of elevation in 5 miles through chaparral type of vegetation and a partially shaded canyon to Sycamore Creek. There is no water available in this area of Sycamore Creek. At Sycamore Creek you can connect with the Sycamore Trail which runs down stream along Sycamore Creek. Along the lower part of Winter Cabin Trail there is a short side hike to Ott Lake where water is unreliable.
Hog Hill Trail #133: Length: 1.5 miles Elevation Change: 600 feet Hog Hill Trail is an alternate route which branches off the Dorsey Spring Trail about a quarter mile from the Dorsey trailhead. The trail descends gradually through Ponderosa pine, Gambel oak, and juniper trees. In the last quarter mile, the trail descends steeply just before you arrive at the junction with Winter Cabin Trail. Winter Cabin in located about 250 feet down Winter Cabin Trail from the junction of Hog Hill Trail. Water is available at Winter Cabin Spring which normally runs all year.
Kelsey Winter Trail #3: Length: 5.6 miles Elevation Change: 486 feet GPS: N35° 3′ 25.92″, W-111° 55′ 35.58″ From the Kelsey trailhead you immediately descend into a shady forested canyon of Ponderosa pine mixed with Douglas fir, Gambel oak, and juniper trees. Most of the length of the trail is gradual up and down with only a few short steep areas. Along the trail water can be obtained, usually year-round, at Kelsey Spring, Babes Hole Spring, Dorsey Spring, and Winter Cabin Spring. There are many spectacular panoramic views of Sycamore Canyon as you hike along the trail. Kelsey Winter Trail and the Dorsey Spring trails make a great 7.3 mile day hike loop. The Kelsey Winter trail terminates at the junction of Winter Cabin Trail.
Dorsey Spring Trail #7: Length 1.7 miles Elevation Change: 600 feet GPS: N35° 3′ 17.136″, W-111° 55′ 11.892″ Dorsey Spring Trail descends very gradually as you hike through shady Ponderosa pine, Gambel oak, and juniper trees. The last quarter mile is a little steeper as it drops into Dorsey Spring which normally runs all year. There is a great area to camp near Dorsey Spring. The Dorsey Spring Trail terminates at the junction with Kelsey Winter Trail near Dorsey Spring. The Dorsey and Kelsey Spring trails make a great 7.3 mile loop hike.
Little Lo Trail #6: Length: 1 mile Elevation Change: 800 feet Little Lo Trail branches off of Kelsey Winter Trail not far from Babes Hole Spring and starts out with a gradual descent then descends steeply into Sycamore Canyon and terminates at Sycamore Creek. The trail is mostly shady as it passes through Ponderosa pine, Gambel oak, and juniper trees. Geronimo Spring is located where the trail meets Sycamore Creek and there is a good camp site located along the trail near the spring. Little Lo Trail terminates at Sycamore Creek. Water is available at Kelsey, Babes Hole, and Geronimo springs which normally run all year. The trails listed in RED on this map are on the Flagstaff Ranger District. Below those trails on this map is the Red Rock Ranger District.    

Kachina Peaks Wilderness

The Kachina Peaks Wilderness is 18,960 acres. It was established by Congress in 1984 and is managed by the United States Forest Service. The entire Wilderness is located on the Flagstaff Ranger District. The Kachina Peaks Wilderness is located approximately 8 miles north of Flagstaff, Arizona. There are many peaks within the Wilderness, but Humphries Peak is the most notable one considering it is the tallest peak in Arizona standing at 12,643 feet. The area is named for the Hopi gods (kachinas) and is considered sacred by most of the native tribes in the area. There are many vegetation types found within the Kachina Peaks Wilderness due to the rapid changes in elevation. There are four different vegetation types or life-zones that include the ponderosa pine forest, mixed conifer forest, subalpine fir forest, and alpine tundra near the top of the Peaks. In the ponderosa pine forest, ponderosa pine and Gambel oak are the dominant tree species. In the mixed conifer forest, Douglas-fir, southwestern white pine, and limber pine can be found. The subalpine forest contains species such as Engelmann spruce, corkbark fir, and Rocky Mountain bristlecone pine. Very few plant species inhabit this area, but the San Francisco Peaks groundsel can be found there, and nowhere else in the world. The Kachina Peaks Wilderness contains many of the same wildlife species as the Kendrick Mountain Wilderness. Large ungulates include elk and mule deer. Predators include bears, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, and foxes. Many of the species are pushed to lower elevations in the winter because of heavy snow. Birds in the area include a number of large birds of prey such as red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, bald eagles, and owls. Much like the other Wilderness areas on the Flagstaff Ranger District, the main use of the Kachina Peaks Wilderness is recreation. Hiking, backpacking, camping, and back country explorations are favorite activities of recreationists. Hunting does take place in the Wilderness, but it is more limited than most other Wildernesses likely because of the steep and inaccessible terrain. There are 6 main trails in the Wilderness which are Humphreys Peak Trail, Kachina Trail, Weatherford Trail, Bear Jaw Trail, Abineau Trail, and the Inner Basin Trail. Back country permits are required in the winter for recreationists. Recreationists are restricted by wilderness regulations that prohibit the use of mechanized equipment such as motorized vehicles and mountain bikes. If livestock is to be used, they must be fed weed seed free hay to prevent the spread of invasive plant species. As always, the concept of leave no trace is in effect for visitors. The amount of visitor use is listed as medium.
Access: Drive north from Flagstaff on U.S. 180 or U.S. 89. From U.S. 180, the Snowbowl Road and FR 418 and FR 420 provide access. From U. S. 89, FR’s 418 and 420 provide access to lower slopes. FR 552 leads to Lockett Meadow and easiest access to the Inner Basin.  

Strawberry Crater Wilderness

The Strawberry Crater Wilderness was designated by Congress in 1984. The Wilderness covers 10,141 acres which is managed by the US Forest Service. The Flagstaff Ranger District is charged with the management of the area. The Wilderness is located approximately 20 miles northeast of Flagstaff, Arizona and 8 miles east of Highway 89. Strawberry Crater is part of the San Francisco volcanic field. The main attraction of the area is a volcanic cinder cone along with molten rock and other eruption evidence. Other attractions to the area are the many ancient artifacts and ruins that exist in the area. In comparison to other wildernesses, Strawberry Crater is not as popular and generally gets less attention. The elevation of the Wilderness is just under 6,000 feet with the average elevation being around 5,800 feet. Pinon-juniper forests are the dominant vegetation type. Areas of the wilderness can be described as a moonscape because of the geological anomalies that exist due to the presence of lava and molten rocks. A wide variety of animals can be found in the Wilderness. Large ungulates include elk, mule deer, and antelope. Predators include mountain lions, bears, coyotes, and foxes. Many bird species of birds including raptors are present. The dominant use of the area is recreation. Hiking and photography are two popular activities that take place in the Wilderness. There is one designated hiking trail in the Wilderness known as the Strawberry Crater Trail. Many social trails exist, but they are not recognized as official trails by the Forest Service. There is little information on other uses of the Wilderness.
Access: Sunset Crater/Wupatki Road (FR 545) borders one side of the Wilderness. Additional access is provided by FR’s 546 and 779 off US 89 at the bottom of the north slope to the pass between the San Francisco Peaks and O’Leary Peak.
Strawberry Crater Trail:  One designated trail exists on the north side of the Wilderness. There is no information on the description, length, or difficulty of the trail.                        

Kendrick Mountain Wilderness

The Kendrick Mountain Wilderness is a 6,510 acre Wilderness area, with the main attraction being Kendrick Peak. The Wilderness was established in 1984 and the United States Forest Service is the lone manager of the area with the Kaibab National Forest and the Coconino National Forest splitting the management responsibilities.  It is located approximately 19 miles northwest of Flagstaff, AZ with the main access to the Wilderness coming from Highway 180. Kendrick Peak measures in at 10,418 feet and is one of the tallest mountains in the San Francisco volcanic field, behind those found in the San Francisco Peaks. This Wilderness experienced fire in 2000 which left a large part of the area burned. The burn severity ranged from light to very severe, leaving some of the area without any trees on it. Due to the loss in vegetation, erosion has been a major problem and it has extended the recovery time for the area. Montane mixed conifer forests can be found remaining in the unburned and higher elevation areas of the Wilderness. Ponderosa pine and Gambel oak forests dominate near the base of the peak with some pinon-juniper intermixed. In the burned areas, the natural vegetation recovery process is taking place with early successional species establishing in the fire disturbed locations. Aspen is the main tree species found in the areas of early successional regeneration. Much like the rest of the Colorado Plateau, there is rich species diversity in the area when it comes to wildlife. Large ungulates found in the Wilderness include elk, mule deer, and pronghorn antelope. Black bear, mountain lion, bobcats, coyotes, foxes and badgers are common inhabitants to the area. Birds in the area include a number of large birds of prey such as red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, bald eagles, and owls. The predominant use of the Wilderness is primitive recreation. Hikers can enjoy three trails that lead to the top of Kendrick Peak where a lookout tower is located. The three trails are Kendrick Mountain Trail, Pumpkin Trail, and Bull Basin Trail. At the end of all three trails, hikers can enjoy a 360 degree view that includes glimpses of Bill Williams Mountain, Red Butte, the Grand Canyon, and the San Francisco Peaks. Big game hunting, horseback riding, and camping are also popular uses of the Wilderness. Recreationists are restricted by wilderness regulations that prohibit the use of mechanized equipment such as motorized vehicles and mountain bikes. If livestock is to be used, they must be fed weed seed free hay to prevent the spread of invasive plant species. As always, the concept of leave no trace is in effect for visitors. The amount of visitor use is listed as medium.                                                                                                           
Access: From Flagstaff, drive north on Highway 180 to Forest Road 245 (milepost 230) and turn left. At the end of that road, (about 3 miles) make a right on FR 171.
Bull Basin Trail: The Bull Basin Trail starts at a trailhead located off FR 90 A. Ascending Kendrick Mountain’s north slope, it switchbacks up to a large meadow. The trail then turns south along a rocky ridge to a flat area where there is a spring, and on to the old Kendrick Lookout Cabin. That one room log structure, built in the early 1900s, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Be sure to go up to the lookout to enjoy the view. The two springs along the trail are not reliable and not recommended for drinking. The lower section of Bull Basin Trail follows some old logging roads (now closed to vehicles) and then merges with the Connector Trail, which branches off to the west. Bull Basin proceeds east, passing a small meadow. About 1/4 mile beyond the meadow the trail begins a steep ascent. It then curves south at another large meadow near the top of Kendrick Mountain, passing a spring before reaching the old Kendrick Lookout Cabin. The trail is generally well marked. The old cabin can be used by visitors, but please leave it in good shape for the next person or even you, when you come back again. Most of the trail is within the Kendrick Mountain Wilderness.
Kendrick Mountain Trail: This is a hike to one of the highest vistas in northern Arizona. From Kendrick’s 10,418 foot summit, you can see the Grand Canyon to the north and Oak Creek Canyon to the south. In addition to the impressive scenery, it’s a good place to see wildlife, especially elk and mule deer. The trail starts in the ponderosa pines and climbs into the mixed conifer forests of Douglas fir, white fir, Engelmann spruce and corkbark fir within the Kendrick Mountain Wilderness. Note that there are no reliable springs along the trail and no water at the top of the mountain. Just below the mountain’s summit, you’ll see an old cabin. This is the old lookout cabin, built in the early 1900s and listed in the National Register of Historic Places. After about 1/2 mile of trail, this route up Kendrick Mountain follows an old fire road for about one mile. From this point the trail becomes a foot path again and is well marked and gently sloped. Almost all of the trail is within the Kendrick Mountain Wilderness.  

Pumpkin Trail: The Pumpkin Trail offers the visitor a long hike from a valley of pine and junipers up through mountain meadows and forests of mixed conifer, aspen and fir to the summit of Kendrick Peak. All of the hike is within the Kendrick Mountain Wilderness. The upper three quarters of it follow the alignment of an old sheepherder route used up to 40 years ago. The remains of an old sheepherder’s cabin still stand alongside the trail about 1/4 mile below the lookout tower. Note that there are no reliable springs along the trail and no water at the top of the mountain. Initially, this trail follows an old road then rises along a steep canyon. After passing through a gate, the trail ascends a ridge, gradually turning southeast. From here to the top of Kendrick Mountain, the trail follows a ridge through meadows, aspen and conifer stands. Rock cairns often show the way. All of the trail is within the Kendrick Mountain Wilderness. It is possible to link up with the Bull Basin Trail via the Connector Trail for an 11 mile hike.     

Wilderness Stewardship Challenge

  The Wilderness Stewardship Challenge was introduced in 2004 as an effort to raise accountability standards of stewardship within the wilderness lands that the Forest Service manages. Today, the Forest Service manages over 400 designated wilderness areas, making this process quite the challenge. By participating in this volunteer program, you are helping the Forest Service reach its goal by completing a few key elements that are part of the challenge. In total there are ten elements that have been identified as essential in the effort to assure wilderness preservation under the Forest Services’ management indefinitely. The following elements exemplify the qualities of volunteers and how they relate to the Flagstaff Ranger District.  

Purpose for the Wilderness Volunteer Position

The purpose of the volunteer position with the Coconino Forest Service is to support several levels of the USFS Chief’s Wilderness Stewardship Challenge.   The elements addressed by this volunteer program include:

  • Element 2 – Invasive plants are successfully treated

Volunteers are expected to learn about and be able to identify the invasive species of plants that have come to the Flagstaff and Coconino region to call home. This knowledge and skill is used in order to locate and further monitor any invasive plant species populations for scientific study and aids wilderness management in preserving and restoring a healthy forest ecosystem. The Flagstaff area can see invasive plant species such as cheatgrass and sweet clover.

  • Element 6 – Recreation site inventory is completed

Volunteers are expected to be able to know how to monitor visitor and recreation sites while recording pertinent data that help wilderness management examine human influence on our natural forests and how negative influences can be mitigated and more ideally prevented. Volunteers utilize “national site monitoring protocol.” Flagstaff Ranger District Wilderness areas are subject to different forms and quantities of use. Volunteers are expected to understand how to monitor busy trails at the Kachina Wilderness while monitoring for solitude at Strawberry Crater Wilderness.

  • Element 10 – Wilderness has in place a baseline workforce

Objectives of the Forest Service can only be accomplished through a strong and well-organized workforce. Volunteers are the most essential component of this element as they are the heart of a strong managing work force. Only through your effort will the Stewardship challenge be successful, and by volunteering you are helping to assure that over 35 million acres of designated wilderness is protected for generations of future use and you are also helping to educate the public about the importance of these dynamic and majestic locations. The Flagstaff region is home to some of the most beautiful and most ecologically complex wilderness environments, therefore making volunteers a critical aspect in educating the public about these unique places.

Position Description for Wilderness Volunteers

What to expect from the position:

  • Must have a flexible schedule, trips can be changed due to weather, fellow worker’s work schedules, and other wilderness duties.
  • Volunteers are matched to a project that fits their strengths and skills to help the Forest Service accomplish their mission.
  • Should be able to work well in teams or individually depending on the task
  • Each wilderness trip is usually a day trip and some overnight trips might be asked, depending on the individual’s leisure time.
  • Volunteer must have a friendly, professional demeanor when communicating with visitors.
  • Volunteers should be able to carry a pack could weigh up to 50 pounds and  be expect to hike long distances during the duration of their trip

Description (what you are actually going to do)

  • Volunteers are going to be working with the Forest Service on a variety of tasks, including: Trail restoration, Water Quality, Removal of Invasive Species, and educating visitors on the importance of preserving wilderness areas.
  • Walking trails to make contact with visitors to inform them on the Leave No Trace principles to minimize their impact on the wilderness.
  • Volunteer may also be trained to issue backcountry permits to hikers during the winter months.
  • Visitor counts will also take place in campsites to ensure that the wilderness is not becoming overcrowded, so each visitor can experience a feeling of solitude.
  • Volunteers can train to become ambassadors to help the Forest Service and other government agencies to maintain motorized trails, educate people about Off Highway Vehicles and outdoor ethics.

Position Orientation Material  

  • Good communication skills with visitors and co-workers
  • Positive, helpful and friendly attitude
  • Good hearing for interacting in face-to-face contacts
  • Ability to drive on gravel, dirt and paved roads in all weather conditions for several hours
  • Lift 35 – 80 lbs. to shoulder level (example: saddles, packs, tools, logs, etc.)
  • Good communication skills with visitors and co-workers
  • Able to do a variety of tasks using common tools (i.e. fence repair, digging, installing signs and posts, bucking up downed trees with cross-cut saw, shoveling manure, etc.)
  • A valid driver’s license and good driving record

Things You Need To Know:

  • Attitude.  The Volunteer Program needs people who have a genuine interest in helping the Forest Service pursue its mission: “Caring for the land and serving people.”  Volunteers who get the most from the program are those that have a true Volunteer Spirit and do what they do for the satisfaction of knowing they make a difference in the lives of our Forest visitors and to the long-term care of our public lands.
  • Status.  Volunteers are viewed as regular FS employees; their treatment and job performance should reflect this status.  This includes civil rights, ethics and conduct, sexual harassment and representing the Forest Service in a professional, positive light.
  • Supervision.  Each volunteer will be supervised by one FS employee.  The supervisor is the primary contact for the volunteer once assigned and will establish continuity of work assignments.
  • Uniforms.  Those with regular public contacts should be in uniform or appropriate presentable attire (as designated by the supervisor), presenting a neat and professional public image.  When a uniform is required the Forest Service will provide this at no cost to the volunteer.
  • Worksite.  In order to minimize disruptions to other volunteers and employees, off-duty hours are not to be spent at the work site (field or office).
  • Vehicles.  Those who drive government vehicles need to take the defensive driving (DD) course every three years and have a valid driver’s license for any State.  Until the course is attended, each FS supervisor will train and test each volunteer on vehicle use.  This test will be documented.   If the DD course is attended, please provide a copy of certificate card to the volunteer coordinator.  Vehicle use is based on job assignments and work needs.  All vehicle use is arranged by prior agreement/schedule only.
  • Buildings.  FS facilities are available to active volunteers for use (e.g. showers, exercise room, etc.).
  • Personal Use of Government Equipment and Facilities.  When in doubt, ask.  In general: phones can be used for local calls and for card calls where no amount of the call can be billed back to the Forest Service.  However, personal calls should not be made on duty and should be done after normal office hours, as each office has a limited number of outgoing lines.  Exceptions can be made for:
  • Emergencies and special time considerations.  Calls should not interfere with the work of other employees and volunteers.  Computers, faxes, copiers, scanners, etc. are not for any personal use.  The local library has computers available with Internet access.  Office Max across the street has all the other services available.
  • Horses.  All contact with the horses must be from outside of their corral unless the annual horse training has been attended.  Horses are not to be ridden or used outside of assigned duties.
  • Safety.  Volunteers are not to work alone with heavy or dangerous equipment or in remote settings. Volunteer must attend monthly District safety meetings unless scheduled to be off or at another duty site.  Volunteers may also initiate and/or attend Tailgate Safety Sessions.  Your regular duties will require you to be involved with several safety meetings over the course of your stay with the Forest Service.
  • Radios.  It is very important for all persons going into the field to have communications with a District Office or Dispatch at all times in case of an emergency.  Instruction will be given on basic two-way radio use and all volunteers will have radios when in the field.
  • Termination.  FS has the right to discontinue volunteer agreements at any time.
  • Probation.  Volunteers will be in a probationary period for the first month of their 3 to 7 month commitment.  After one month, the supervisor and volunteer(s) will: discuss the probation period; determine if it is working well; identify and address any necessary changes; or if the situation is not in the best interest of either party, then the agreement should be terminated.
  • Orientation/Training.  Each volunteer must attend an annual volunteer/employee orientation to learn FS policy and procedure and how to work safely in the FS work environment. If you are asked to work on a project where you have not had training and/or a safety session, ask your supervisor to get you the proper training, don’t be shy.  We want our volunteers to be safe, happy, productive, and having fun!!!

  Working alone Caution is a must for working alone in wilderness. The opportunity of working alone is frequent and a volunteer can expect to work alone for hours and possibly even days at a time. One must be prepared with the essential tools, food and equipment that a particular assignment requires. It is the duty of the volunteer to be prepared to handle situations that could be potentially dangerous due to environmental or anthropogenic factors. Personal health and safety is always the top priority while working for the USFS.   Orienteering and land navigation Volunteers should be familiar with using a compass and topographic maps. Training can include orienteering and land navigation basics as needed. Among other possible guide sources, The Iowa Department of Natural Resources website offers an excellent overview of orienteering:   The following is from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Introduction to Outdoor Skills teaching module (http://www.iowadnr.gov/portals/idnr/uploads/education/intromod.pdf):

Maps A map is a drawing that represents a portion of the earth’s surface. Transportation or highway maps show roads, cities, landmarks, and other features. Most county or state parks have trail maps at trail heads that will be useful to you when you go on a hike, picnic, or camp. Plat books show roads and ownership boundaries so you can be sure you are staying on public lands or lands where you have permission to be. The Iowa River Access and Canoe Guide have maps of Iowa Rivers including access points. Topographical (topo) maps also include information about natural surface features in an area and have contour lines that provide information about the terrain (how steep or flat). Always make sure you have the right map for the outdoor activity in which you are engaging. Know where you are and how to get where you want to go.

Compass A compass has a steel needle that is attracted by the earth’s magnetic field. At rest, the needle points to magnetic north. The best type of compass for use with maps to navigate outdoors is an orienteering compass. This compass is designed for use with topographic maps and is inexpensive and durable. An orienteering compass can be used to find direction from a topographical map. You also can “lock” your direction of travel onto the compass dial and ruled scales along the base plate of the compass can be used to determine scale distances from a map. (For more information on using a compass, check out the on-line tutorial at www.learn-orienteering.org.)

Global Positioning System (GPS) GPS receivers can be used to determine your location on Earth within 10-15 meters in a matter of minutes or seconds. You also can enter a set of coordinates for a given location and the GPS receiver will provide a compass bearing and distance that is updated as you move across the land. Even without a map, you can enter your starting position as well as positions along your route that you can use to guide you back to the starting point. However, you must have a working knowledge of maps and navigational procedures to effectively use a GPS unit. GPS units also require a battery, which means you should not rely solely on them for navigation.

The Sun and Stars the sun can indicate general directions. The sun moves across the sky from east to west during the day. On a clear night, the North Star (Polaris) indicates north. (Note: In Iowa, the sun is a bit north of vertical during the summer and moves from southeast to southwest in the winter.)

Landmarks Major features on the landscape are important in finding your way. Features such as large trees, streams, hills, and large structures can help you orient yourself. Whether you are using a map or not, acquaint yourself with landmarks and your location in relationship to them.

Be Prepared! It’s a good idea for everyone, especially outdoor skills instructors to be trained   Ethic and conduct Wilderness volunteers are expected to follow certain ethic and conduct standards in order to successfully complete volunteer objectives. Leave No Trace (LNT) ethics are standard for the position to rely on and thus must be well known and practiced by all personnel. Planning ahead is an essential element when volunteering so that the volunteer may be prepared to handle any situation relating to weather, terrain and visitor use. Planning ahead also incorporates planning for waste disposal, since everything that is brought into Wilderness must be taken out at the end of the same visit. On a similar note, nothing should ever be taken from Wilderness so that all visitors have the opportunity to enjoy all aspects of a particular environment and to prevent any ecological degradation. When traveling and camping through Wilderness, it is a standard practice to stay on durable surfaces in order to prevent human-caused soil deposition, erosion and ecological degradation. Finally, it is essential to always consider other visitors who are in the Wilderness area and to be respectful and mindful of their activities. Forest Service volunteers are expected to remain professional and respectful at all times. You, as a volunteer, have rights. These rights include: (taken from FS form 1800-7 for individual volunteers)

  • The right to be treated with respect
  • The right to a workplace free of harassment
  • The right to a workplace free of hostile conditions
  • The right to a suitable assignment
  • The right to training
  • The right to qualified supervision
  • The right to safe working conditions

  Gear Provided by USFS:

  • Uniform
  • Water bottles
  • Day pack
  • GPS or compass
  • Camera
  • Gloves
  • Hard hat
  • First aid kit
  • Uniform
  • Reporting equipment
  • Vehicles
  • Maps – trails, district/forest, roads, Wilderness Opportunity Spectrum (WOS)
  Volunteer-provided gear:
  • Food & snacks
  • Good hiking boots
  • Sunscreen and hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Rain jacket
  • Compass
  • Warm jacket
  • Long underwear

  Health and safety

It is important to be prepared physically for travel in wilderness areas. Plan ahead by hiking several times a week with increasing difficulty and pack weight. First aid kits should be in Forest Service vehicles but each volunteer should carry at least a small first aid kit of their own. Volunteers with allergies or prescription medication should inform supervisors of their condition and carry necessary medication with them at all times. Mountain lions and bears are present near most wildernesses, though not commonly seen, but volunteers should remain vigilant at all times. If approached by a bear or mountain lion, making loud noises and appearing larger will usually scare the animal away. For any emergencies, immediately call Flagstaff Dispatch (928-526-0600) or 911.
Volunteers should plan to bring a First Aid kit with them, which should include:

Ace bandage first aid booklet or flier with basic instructions adhesive tape gauze pads analgesic cream insect repellent antiseptic ointment mole skin (blisters, hot spots) antiseptic towels plastic bag aspirin or other pain relief medication single use pocket face mask (CPR, mouth-to-mouth) Band-Aid’s sunscreen cold or heat source triangular bandages disposable rubber gloves tweezers flashlight (with fresh/extra batteries)    

Government vehicles

As a matter of accountability, all volunteers must be certified to drive government vehicles through a defensive driving class, fleet training, and a driving test in the field. Much of the driving you do will either be on heavily wash-boarded dirt roads (with or without steep canyon drop-offs) or in slow-moving, construction-laden, tourist-gawking city traffic. There is absolutely NO speeding in a government vehicle and you do NOT want to be the one that wrecks a Forest Service rig. Not only will you face an official reprimand or removal from the District Ranger, the endless mocking from the rank and file is merciless.  


Wilderness volunteers should have a thorough knowledge of the Wilderness Act and the stipulations therein governing wilderness management. Basic First Aid/CPR certifications are encouraged with preference of Wilderness First Responder or similar knowledge. In some cases, background checks may be necessary for all potential volunteers. Volunteers under 18 years of age will need written parental consent, and still may be denied from some positions due to child labor laws. The Forest Service officer negotiating and approving volunteer agreements determines the qualifications for each volunteer assignment. Your job description/essential eligibility criteria will be in the volunteer agreement. These criteria establish the nondiscriminatory basic functions and abilities required for volunteer service in the individual position or project. To be selected for and retained in the position or project, you must be able to meet all of the elements within the job description/essential eligibility criteria for that position or project.    

Weather and Topography

During the monsoon season, thunderstorms can roll in quickly, even if the morning starts out with no cloud cover. Thunderstorms mean lightning and often torrential rain. Temperatures may also be very different between early morning and late afternoon. Be prepared with layers and rain gear. Snow has been recorded in every month of the year in the Flagstaff area so always be aware of predicted weather conditions and use common sense. Terrain may be strenuous and difficult to cover when off trail. July – September are typically the wettest months of the year. During these summer months, roads in the forest may become hazardous to drive on with the potential of becoming stuck. Only four wheel drive vehicles should be taken onto wet dirt roads. Even during summer months, daytime and night time temperatures may vary by over 30 degrees. Always bring a jacket. Rain and snow are not uncommon occurrences in the sprint time season. During the winter, many forest service roads are closed due to snow. Below freezing temperatures have been recorded in every month except June, July, August, and September. Don’t forget a jacket! Remember, it’s always better to be prepared!

Additional Documentation  

Contacts: Justin Loxley, Volunteer Coordinator 5075 N. Hwy. 89 Flagstaff, AZ 86004 Phone: 928-527-8213 Email: jdloxley@fs.fed.us

  Project Conclusion and Recommendations  

The first set of recommendations for compiling an effective volunteer manual is to determine what aspects of wilderness management are the most important to the specific wilderness you are working in. This ensures that the data you are collecting as a volunteer is relevant and helpful for the Forest service managers.   Educating the public on the importance of volunteering is the main purpose of our project. Volunteers are an essential part of the Forest Service’s 10 year wilderness plan. So compiling together a successful wilderness volunteer manual will help the Forest Service attract more volunteers to help accomplish their mission.   Another recommendation would be for the Forest Service to create a small team of managers that complies volunteer questionnaires about the effectiveness of the volunteer manual in describing their qualifications and how it helped them perform their duties as a volunteer. Volunteers would fill out the questionnaires after they complete their first project to see how effective the volunteer manual was in attracting them to become a wilderness volunteers.   Our goal is to get the Flagstaff Ranger District to give our revised Wilderness Volunteer manual to new volunteers in the Coconino National Forest to see how effective it is with the new volunteers. Our hopes are that if the volunteer manual works well in the Flagstaff Ranger District, than the manual will be implemented to other Ranger districts across the state of Arizona. Our volunteer manual will give volunteers all the information that they will need in order to perform their duties efficiently.   We would like to thank Justin Loxley and Patrick McGervey for all their assistance in this process as well as Dr. Marty Lee for her feedback.