Welcome to the NOLS Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Department (ES&S). Our mission is to ensure that the wild spaces NOLS depends on to educate our students remain wild. As a permit holder on public lands, we have an important role. We have built relationships with land management agencies that allow us to weigh in on key issues such as land use, access, and permitting. Additionally, our department works to help NOLS minimize its impact, finding creative ways to reduce our use of natural resources, and restore and enrich the world around us.
The roots of ES&S go back to 1991, when the first public policy intern was hired. In the beginning, we focused on the critical issue of access to wilderness classrooms. We worked to raise the level of awareness within the school about the important role NOLS plays as a steward of the land through our actions as a permit holder. The first NOLS book about land management, An Introduction to Wildland Ethics & Management, was published during these early days.
In 1996, the school created a full-time position to oversee public policy initiatives. The Public Policy Coordinator supported NOLS locations on access issues and raising the visibility of the school in Washington, DC, by representing the school in key conversations about recreation permitting, outfitter policy, and wilderness management. We established friends in DC and we became a resource for national groups and partners sharing common issues.
As the pressure on public land began to grow from increasing use and development, the department expanded its work in the area of wilderness classroom protection. We began to speak up when proposals to develop backcountry operating areas threatened to compromise the wilderness experiences of our students. Our voice as a Wyoming-based, non-profit business whose programs depend on healthy public lands was unique in the region and we found our place connecting with groups who shared common goals and establishing effective coalitions.
In response to this work, we established a second full-time position in the department, the Wilderness Advocacy Coordinator, who became our main resource for responding to threats to our classrooms. This has allowed NOLS to expand our involvement in regional issues related largely to pressure from oil and gas development in the Rocky Mountain West.
In 2008, we established a third position, that of Sustainability Coordinator. The Sustainability Coordinator leads the school’s efforts to reduce our global carbon footprint by setting climate protection goals and establishing programs that minimize our impact on the environment.