Since its founding in 2016, Blackrock Field Camp has helped several hundred campers from the Wind River Reservation develop and deepen their awareness of their ancestral and/or public lands; connect with and learn from elders of their tribes; foster a spirit of respect, interest, and appreciation for the natural world; learn skills ranging from deploying bear spray to using a cross-cut saw; and just have a day of fun outside.
“For us as the Forest Service, we’re super excited to share our enthusiasm about the resources that we manage for the public and we hope BFC helps the kids understand that the forest is their public land and that they have this special connection to it through their cultural history,” said Jackson District Ranger Todd Stiles, who brought the idea of an educational day-camp for kids on the BTNF with him when he transferred here (in 2015) from Montana’s Custer Gallatin National Forest.
While modeled on the Custer Gallatin camp, BFC is fundamentally different because its campers are students from the Wind River Reservation; the CGNF’s Bear Creek Camp was for students in Bozeman, Montana. “To bring [kids from the reservation] over to what is their homeland is kind of cool,” said Stiles in the Jackson Hole News & Guide in 2017, when he was the Blackrock District Ranger. “One of the neat things about Jackson is the amount of environmental education the kids get exposed to. It’s unbelievable, and that’s great, but my guess is the kids over there, generally speaking, aren’t getting near as much exposure.”
The partnership between the BTNF and Wind River tribes makes “Blackrock Field Camp pretty unusual,” says BTNF North Zone Fire Prevention Manager and BFC co-founder Lesley Williams. “It may well be the only program of its kind in the country—a program where the USFS partners with tribes to help kids experience their culture and public lands.”
Wilmot, who has been involved with BFC since its founding, first as a biologist and, since 2022, as Blackrock District Ranger, says the plan is for the camp to continue, and possibly grow. “It has been, and will continue to be going forward, a Forest priority,” he says. Eastern Shoshone Historic Preservation Officer Joshua Mann says, “I think Blackrock Field Camp is a really important cause and I’m supportive of the BTNF crew for organizing and promoting it every year. It seems like it gets better every year and I know the tribes would be interested in seeing the camp expand.” The BTNF’s David Wilkinson says, “Having the help of the Friends of Bridger-Teton, and of other local partners, is huge to making the camp happen.”