Ambassadors for Responsible Recreation
Our Ambassadors for Responsible Recreation program includes full- and part-time summer and winter positions as volunteers for the USDA Forest Service on the BTNF. Summer Ambassador jobs range from educating visitors and locals about the importance of recreating responsibly to manning desks at area visitor centers, doing outreach on behalf of the forest, cleaning toilets, monitoring campgrounds, patrolling popular trails and trailheads, and helping recycle bear spray, among other duties. Even with campgrounds closed and buried beneath feet of snow, Nordic Ambassadors patrol popular trailheads, remind people of wildlife closures, ensure pets don’t leave a souvenir on the forest, and reinforce being kind while out on trail.
Ambassadors for Responsible Recreation is a forest-wide initiative supported by Teton County lodging tax dollars, Friends of the Bridger-Teton, and private donations.
Ambassadors make a difference. The past couple of summers, Campground Ambassadors extinguished hundreds of campfires, any of which could have become a wildfire, and helped prevent wildlife-human conflicts by educating visitors about food storage and safe travel in wild areas, particularly ones in which bears live. Ambassadors are a resource for forest users, whether these users are locals or visiting for the first time, and protectors of the forest.
Thanks to BTNF Ambassadors, last summer there were no wildlife conflicts in designated dispersed camping areas.
Any of these could have become a wildfire.
Volunteers have helped install more than 400 stainless steel fire rings in designated dispersed camping areas on the BTNF.
Ambassadors range in age from their mid-20s to their 70s. Some work in retail; others are retired. “There is no ideal candidate,” FBT Executive Director Scott Kosiba says. “There are so many different Ambassador opportunities.”
“When an Ambassador loves the Bridger-Teton, that comes through in their interactions with visitors.” —Friends of the Bridger-Teton executive director Scott Kosiba
Requirements for becoming an Ambassador vary. The specifics of each position are detailed at volunteer.gov. The main volunteer requirement is a passion for public lands.
After this, the Ambassador job requirements are as broad as the need for Ambassadors. Bill Baehr, one of the first Ambassadors (Bill and partner Sandy Cabral started as Camping Ambassadors at Toppings/Spread Creek in 2017) shares one requirement he’s learned to be important over the years:
“You have to enjoy talking to and helping people.”
The benefits of volunteering as an Ambassador vary but might include, during the summer, a site to park a camper or pitch a tent in one of the dispersed camping areas on the forest for the duration of their service. (Usually these sites have a five-day stay limit.)
Making a difference on the BTNF
Many Ambassadors find working on behalf of the Bridger-Teton rewarding. Julie Butler, who is stationed at the forest’s Curtis Canyon dispersed camping area with her husband Chris MacMillan, says, “I love the Bridger-Teton so much and this job allows me to help protect it and to educate others about why it’s so special. We feel like we’re really making a difference.”