Today is more Change of Venue than ever before. On this casual Friday, I am pleased to share a guest post from someone who knows what it means to get off the beaten path.

Kate Mackay, today’s author, is the deputy director of the Arizona Wilderness Coalition. Below, she explains how everyone—even lawyers—can get involved in the great Arizona outdoors. She even tells us about the experiences of one attorney from Phoenix. Here’s Kate (all photos courtesy of the AWC):

AZ Wilderness Coalition logo.jpgThe Arizona Wilderness Coalition’s volunteer Wilderness Stewardship ProgramWild Stew, as they like to call it—offers a customized volunteer experience that allows individuals to make a positive impact in managing our wilderness areas simply by doing what many people already enjoy—being outdoors. With more than 4.5 million acres of designated wilderness in Arizona and diminishing federal budgets, our land management agencies need help. This unique service-oriented program leads individuals out into wilderness areas, often for a weekend overnight trip, and engages volunteers in tasks that help AWC collect critical data on the vegetation, wildlife, visitation impacts and condition of the wilderness areas, which is then reported the U.S. Forest Service to improve how they manage the lands. Past trips have monitored for non-native plant species, cleaned up backcountry trails, removed fencing to assist wildlife in reaching water sources, and collected trash from fragile riparian areas. Since its inception, AWC’s Wild Stew program has logged nearly 1,000 volunteer hours on trips to 25 different wilderness areas on the Prescott, Coconino, Tonto and Coronado national forests.

AZ Wilderness Coalition Wild Stew logo

AZ Wilderness Coalition Scott Hulbert Engelman Berger

Scott Hulbert of Engelman Berger

No experience is necessary. Volunteers can either join AWC for a guided volunteer event, or become a trained, individual steward who monitors a wilderness area on their own time. Individual Stewards receive a one-day training on wilderness history, federal wilderness management policy, field protocols and techniques, first aid, backcountry travel preparedness, and more. AWC simply requests your commitment to monitor wilderness conditions twice per year, either in different locations or at an adopted area.

Phoenix-based Engelman Berger litigator Scott Hulbert joins Wild Stew trips about four times a year. In 2009, Scott helped AWC haul more than 100 pounds of trash out of Fossil Springs Wilderness. “AWC does a great job of making the trips fun and worthwhile,” says Hulbert. “Sunday rolls around and you feel like you’ve escaped civilization for awhile, but you’ve also given back to these amazing wild places that make Arizona so unique.”

Read more about why Scott helps out in the Wilderness Stewardship program here.

Cutting in a trail in Arizona's Sycamore Canyon.

Cutting in a trail in Arizona’s Sycamore Canyon.

AWC is leading another trip to Fossil Springs in honor of Earth Day this year, April 20-21. Visit the awzwild website for trip details and a complete list of adventures through December 2013 (listed below too). Find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Hardworking volunteers with the Arizona Wilderness Coalition

Hardworking volunteers with the Arizona Wilderness Coalition

April 20–21

  • Earth Day
  • Fossil Springs Wilderness
  • Coconino National Forest, near Payson
  • Two-day, Backpacking

May 4–5

  • Wet Beaver Wilderness
  • Coconino National Forest, near Camp Verde
  • Two-day, Backpacking

May 18

  • Munds Mountain Wilderness
  • Coconino National Forest, near Sedona
  • Single-day, Hiking

June 22–23

  • National Trails Day
  • West Clear Creek Wilderness
  • Coconino National Forest, near Camp Verde
  • Two-day, Backpacking

September 14–15

  • Kachina Peaks Wilderness
  • Coconino National Forest, near Flagstaff
  • Two-day, Backpacking

September 28–29

  • National Public Lands Day
  • Apache Creek Wilderness
  • Prescott National Forest, near Prescott/Paulden
  • Two-day, Backpacking

October 12–13           

  • Castle Creek Wilderness
  • Prescott National Forest, near Crown King
  • Two-day, Backpacking

October 26 – 27

  • Mazatzal Wilderness
  • Tonto National Forest, near Payson
  • Two-day, Backpacking

November 9–10

  • Mount Wrightson Wilderness
  • Coronado National Forest, near Tucson/Patagonia
  • Two-day, Backpacking

November 23–24

  • Sycamore Canyon Wilderness
  • Coconino National Forest, near Flagstaff/Williams
  • Two-day, Backpacking

December 7–8

  • Superstition Wilderness                     
  • Tonto National Forest, near Phoenix/Superior
  • Two-day, Backpacking