With this Leader we continue to celebrate the
40th anniversary of wilderness and leadership education.
As we celebrate our anniversary, we are also celebrating
other milestones. On a personal note, 25 years ago
I arrived at the Noble Hotel in Lander to start my
NOLS Instructor course. That course was my first
expedition into the Wind River Mountains, and I was
in awe of the range’s beauty and amazed at
what a great classroom it was for wilderness education.
After driving across the sagebrush flats of central
Wyoming, I was also amazed to experience the lush
beauty of mountain glaciers. I didn’t want
to leave the Winds at the end of that course, and
I guess in so many ways I have not.
Another milestone we celebrate is the 15th anniversary
of the Wilderness Medicine Institute of NOLS (WMI).
This Leader contains an article on the first
WEMT course taught at WMI. While WMI was not part of NOLS
from the start, it has become an integral part of
our educational mission. With core values that are
so similar, it seems like we were destined to join
forces in teaching wilderness skills and leadership.
Another significant anniversary in Wyoming this
year is the 10th anniversary of the reintroduction
of wolves to Yellowstone and the Greater Yellowstone
Ecosystem. I recently had the pleasure of listening
to biologist Douglas W. Smith discuss the results
of the first decade and pose questions as we go forward.
Dr. Smith has been the project leader for the Yellowstone
Gray Wolf Restoration Project in Yellowstone from
the start. He recently released a new book, Decade
of the Wolf, co-written with Gary Ferguson. Doug,
like so many leaders, got his start at NOLS in the
Wind Rivers nearly 30 years ago. To quote Doug: “My
debt to NOLS is great. My course in the Wind Rivers
may be one of the most important classes of my life — I
still think low impact in everything I
There is no issue in Wyoming that is more charged
than the issue of wolf reintroduction. The views
of ranchers, wilderness aficionados, outfitters and
government leaders are often a volatile mix of charged
opinions. Doug is effective and respected when speaking
to any of these groups. He has earned that respect
through great communication skills, solid fact based
research, self-awareness, competence, the ability
to tolerate a little adversity when facing a few
audiences, and great expedition behavior. All of
these qualities are the same qualities we strive
to teach in our leadership curriculum. He is yet
another graduate of whom we can be so proud.
Students at NOLS Rocky Mountain have had the opportunity
to benefit first hand from wolf reintroduction and
Doug’s work. Whether observing wolf tracks,
wolf sightings, hearing their eerie howl, or just
knowing they’re out there, reintroduction has
further enhanced the feeling of wild in our classrooms.
And who knows what student of today is inspired by
these moments to follow in Doug’s path.
As we continue to celebrate our anniversary, it
is a joy to look back at our rich history, retell
the stories, remember close friends and relive the
powerful experiences of the wilderness. Yet, I find
even greater joy in watching our new students arrive
in Lander and check into the Noble Hotel with apprehension
and anticipation of their month ahead in the mountains.
As they look with trepidation at the heavy snow in
the mountains, these students are on their way to
becoming our future leaders and our future wilderness
experts. I can only imagine where they will end up
and what their gifts to our world will be. It gives
me confidence to know they will help define our future
and the future of wild lands.