Leemon receives Wilderness Risk Management Award
NOLS Director of Risk Management Drew Leemon has been awarded the Charles (Reb) Gregg Wilderness Risk Management Award at the 20th annual Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC).
The Charles (Reb) Gregg Award for exceptional leadership, service, and innovation in wilderness risk management recognizes extraordinary contributions to the outdoor education community, to adventure and service organizations, and to programs and businesses that utilize wild places for their activities. Recipients of the Reb Gregg award have contributed significantly to the practice of wilderness risk management by raising standards of practice, providing valued service to an industry committed to connecting people to wilderness, and supporting the stewardship of wilderness.
Leemon has been in wilderness education for 34 years, including as the NOLS risk management director for 18 years. He has also committed 18 years to the WRMC steering committee and six years as its chair. During his tenure with NOLS, he designed and implemented the NOLS accepted field practices, a tool for communicating NOLS' best field practices, supervises training and continuing education opportunities for field instructors and led initiatives such as NOLS' incorporation of satellite phones and personal locator beacons on field courses.
Leemon’s colleague, NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute Curriculum Director Tod Schimelpfenig introduced him at the WRMC award ceremony.
“[Leemon] has created an atmosphere of openness in risk management and incident response, a culture where it's acceptable to investigate, report, and learn from our experience. In a world that can be secretive, suspicious, closed, and defensive when problems arise, field staff trust that field incidents will be handled thoughtfully, carefully, thoroughly, and respectfully. NOLS—and Drew—plays a large role in this process: sets a standard for communicating lessons learned.”
Upon accepting the award, Leemon noted the passion that brings together the WRMC, himself included:
“We’re all here because we know that adventure, experiential education, and being in nature exposes us to physical and emotional risk, but that this risk is what allows us and our students to grow and become better people. This duality of risk means that while we risk loss, we also gain by taking risks,” he said.
Cycling and board meetings
For the past seven years, NOLS Advisory Councilmember John Whisnant has led the “Tour de Lander” during the annual board meetings here at NOLS Headquarters. This year is no different. Tour de Lander VII began Tuesday, and daily stages have departed from the Pronghorn Inn parking lot to tour the area.
“The weather cooperated, the bikes cooperated, and the dirt roads mostly cooperated,” Whisnant noted in an email inviting participants to jump in on later stages. “On Tuesday, we were stopped after three miles on the Louis Lake dirt road by ice covering the road.”
However, the cyclists found plenty of road to explore for the rest of the week. Wednesday and Thursday saw successful rides for the three regular cyclists on this annual tour.
NOLS Advisory and Board of Trustee members converge upon Lander each year for board meetings that culminate in a staff celebration on Saturday evening. Perhaps next year the celebration will include a yellow jersey for the dedicated participants in the grueling Tour de Lander.
Former NOLS Chair honored
The Murie Center presented former NOLS Board of Trustees Chair Gretchen Long with the third annual Spirit of Conservation Award last week.
Long is a 1991 graduate of the 25 and over Baja Sea Kayaking course and was named chairman of the NOLS Board in 1998. She is also an emeritus board member of The Murie Center.
The Murie Center Spirit of Conservation Award is presented to an individual whose life work demonstrates a commitment to conservation, civility, and community—trademarks of the Murie family legacy. The Murie Center, in partnership with the Grand Teton National Park, engages people to understand and commit to the enduring value of conserving wildlife and wild places.
NOLS' Own Marco Johnson Gets More Than He Gives
NOLS is a remarkable place. Long-time NOLS field and WMI instructor Marco Johnson realized that shortly after hearing about his friend’s semester experience. The two young men were working a summer outdoor education program leading trips in the Adirondack Mountains. It took him all of five minutes to decide that he wanted a similar experience and education.
Marco’s student course so many years ago not only taught him leadership skills, but also to let things roll off his back. His instructors helped him to be successful, but they also allowed him to make mistakes.
“I learned that good leadership was taking responsibility for my mistakes not just my successes,” Marco recalled.
One such lesson came on the winter section of his 1981 Semester in the Rockies. Marco and his tentmates were almost done building their quinzee but made a mistake while digging. The snow shelter collapsed. Instead of getting frustrated or angry, the group laughed it off, zipped three sleeping bags together, and used the fourth for a quilt. They then crawled into bed and fell asleep beneath the stars above the Wind River Mountains.
Four years later, Marco took his instructor course and began teaching for the school. After working full-time for NOLS for over 28 years, Marco has 628 weeks in the field, worked as a program supervisor in Alaska and Patagonia, instructed many Wilderness First Responders and WEMTs, and currently serves at NOLS headquarters as the Field Staffing Director.
“I have had the privilege of working beside the most fantastic group of people and educators I know,” he explained. “The students I have spent time with in the field and classroom have given back to me so much more than I believe I provided for them.”
NOLS is a remarkable place, and, Marco believes, a unique one.
“How many people do we know who can truly say, ‘I love what I do and who I work with? What I do makes a difference.’”
Not that many, in his estimate. Which is why Marco demonstrates his belief in the power of a NOLS education by giving back to NOLS financially.
“I want the possibility of a NOLS education to be available to anyone who desires it. I believe that my donations to NOLS, no matter the size, make a difference.”
To learn more about philanthropy at NOLS or to make a gift, visit giving.nols.edu.
ABC 6/26 Graduation
Congratulations to all our super star Students from the stand-a-lone Australian Backpacking course!
Yesterday our students rolled into Base after spending a couple of days with a local aboriginal community, concluding their hiking course in the Northern King Leapold Ranges. All the students were "A grade" when it came time for cleaning, repairing, counting and putting expedition gear away! We can't thank them enough for their top class expedition behaviour, finishing their course in style.
It was awesome to hear their expedition highlights; from wildlife encounters, making a good pizza to finding an amazing pool to soak their tired feet! All smiles and found memories!
Here are a few shots from their end of expedition clean and mend day.....
Pacific Northwest Outdoor Educator Mountaineering 5/15
The first Outdoor Educator course out of the NOLS Pacific Northwest was a success! With 10 students and two instructors, the group spent 20 days mountaineering the North Cascade Mountains, with a focus on crevasse rescue. The final 10 days of the expedition were spent climbing in Leavenworth, Washington.
In the news: Tolerance for adversity
“When you exhibit a strong sense of purpose by doing something difficult, even if you begin alone, others will follow,” states a June 27 article in Fortune with the headline “On Wendy Davis and the power of tenacity.”
A recent, powerful example of tenacity in leadership, Texas Senator Wendy Davis has become a household name this week for her famous filibuster of Texas bill SB5. In the Fortune article, she and NOLS graduate and former NASA space shuttle commander Jeffrey Ashby are held up as shining examples of self leadership, tolerance for adversity, and vision and action—all leadership skills NOLS courses cultivate.
“Even some of her opponents nodded to her conviction before questioning her on technicalities of the bill,” the article states. Regardless of what you think of SB5, Davis’ leadership skills are admirable and an example to learn from.
Read the full article here.
Sally Jewell: the Right Choice for Outdoor Recreation in Wyoming
This opinion piece by NOLS Executive Director John Gans was first published in the Casper Star Tribune in Wyoming April 15.
One week ago, The United States Senate voted overwhelmingly to confirm Sally Jewell as the next secretary of interior. At the helm of the federal department that encompasses the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and other agencies responsible for stewardship of our public lands and waters, she will have a positive impact on Wyoming’s outdoor recreation economy, while being mindful of our energy portfolio.
Jewell’s resume demonstrates the balance sought when managing diverse interests on federal lands. She spent her early career as a petroleum engineer, and evolved to become the chief executive of outdoor retailer giant REI. Through her experience, Jewell understands that our nation’s public lands directly support the economy, both through responsible energy development and through access to recreational opportunities.
In Wyoming, we know that having a robust energy portfolio does not require sacrificing our inspiring landscapes. Careful planning and local input ensure that we can have both. The success of the Wyoming Range Legacy Act is an excellent example of our state’s ability to achieve that balance. With the focus on activities in the outdoors that Jewell would bring to the Department of Interior, Wyoming’s record of success can be a model for the nation.
Outdoor recreation is already a significant economic driver in our state. It generates $4.5 billion in consumer spending and $300 million in state and local tax revenue (based on a report by the Outdoor Industry Association based on surveys taken in 2011 and 2012). It directly sustains 50,000 jobs in the state, and supports $1.4 billion in wages and salaries. Towns like Cody, Lander, and Jackson are heavily dependent on the outdoor recreation economy.
Indeed, most of us live here for the outdoor opportunities available. Whether hiking, climbing, horsepacking, four-wheeling, biking, fishing, hunting, birding or myriad other activities, we hold dear our access to public lands and the opportunities they provide. Jewell, too, thrives outside, and is an avid skier, kayaker and mountaineer.
Jewell’s values are reflected in her advocacy. In her time at REI, she was closely involved in efforts to promote opportunities on public lands. She engaged in the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, which fostered a national conversation on connecting people with the outdoors, providing access opportunities, and seeking out partnerships. Through her close association with the initiative, she gained a solid understanding of the ongoing priorities for the Department of Interior.
At the National Outdoor Leadership School, we are keenly aware of the value gained from having someone with an understanding of the significance and the benefits of recreation on public lands as the secretary of interior. From national parks to the Bureau of Land Management, NOLS operates extensively on Department of Interior lands across Wyoming and the American West. Teaching in these unique landscapes provides immeasurable opportunities for our students to develop as skilled outdoors people and mature into positive ethical leaders who understand complex land use issues.
With this new face of leadership at the Department of Interior, we have high hopes that our priorities in this state will be reflected in the management of the BLM and the national parks. Getting young people into the outdoors, making public lands accessible to outdoor enthusiasts, and supporting the economy that continues to thrive on these values need to be priorities as we progress in the 21st century.
NOLS SW SOE: Digging for Bighorns
Howdy from NOLS Southwest! Staff members recently joined a Southwest Outdoor Educator (SOE) course for volunteer work. Since I did not attend due to sushi plate complications, Kathryn Sall represented interns at this event. Luckily between splitting wood and cleaning groovers after her adventure, she was able to give a quick interview. Here's how it went:
Welcome back, Kathryn! Do you mind telling me a little about where you have been the past couple of days?
Hi, Sarah. Thanks for having me on. Great to be here. What would you like to know?
What was the purpose of your volunteer project?
Protecting the Bighorn sheep is one of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's objectives in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. A while ago, a dam was built to create a watering tank for the sheep. The dam created a pool that filled with gravel over years, which prohibited access to drinkable water. Also, the dam was seeping and needed to be patched.
NOLS Southwest staff and SOE students met in the Kofa for the service project, which involved digging gravel so water could collect in the dam again; a fair amount had accumulated. The last time the gravel had been cleared was 1985! We also laid out .7 miles of hose from the road head to the dam to refill the tank.
Tell me a little about Bighorn sheep in the Kofa.
A decade ago there were about 800 Bighorn sheep in the Kofa. Over the course of two or three years, the population shrank to less than half of that for no clear reason. However, during the past few years there has been a steady incline in population. It now hovers over 400. The current SOE has seen one Bighorn sheep on their course and they are hoping to see more!
Sounds like a worthy cause, Kathryn. Thanks for taking the time out of your day to talk to me about this.
You're most welcome. Check out these pictures from the trip!
SOE students enjoy a campfire with representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service the night before the volunteer project. This offered good eats, many laughs, and learning about the purpose of this project - protecting a water source for the Bighorn sheep in the Kofa.
Lizann Peyton: Donor Inspired by Her Daughters
If there is one thing that we love to hear from our graduates or their parents, it’s that they continue to be leaders and positive motivators in their communities after their NOLS education. NOLS parent and NOLS Annual Fund supporter Lizann Peyton, a non-profit consultant, remains inspired by the strength and outgoing nature of her daughters, Natalie and Emily Clark, both NOLS alumni.
She continues giving to NOLS because of the overall calm-confidence she has witnessed in her daughters.
The girls have grown even more confident in traveling abroad and their ability to navigate peers calmly through fatigue and conflict. Lizann has seen her daughters encourage others to get out and explore.
“I wanted to be able to provide this experience to someone that may not be able to afford it otherwise,” Lizann explained.
Emily and Natalie have used the desire for challenge and adventure gained at NOLS to pursue worldly educations, further leadership opportunities and the confidence to share the wilderness experience with others.
At the age of 16 after returning from her first NOLS course, Alaska Backpacking, Emily took it upon herself to encourage and teach her family to backpack the White Mountains of New Hampshire. She continues to pursue leadership positions, most recently forming an outdoors club in her International Relations graduate program in Bologna, Italy.
Natalie will soon be studying abroad in Copenhaagen, pursuing an education in sustainable architecture. While her daughters are out exploring the world, Lizann has begun to host through hikers attempting the Appalachian Trail. She enjoys listening to the inspirational stories of adventurers, and much like those that resonate from her daughters, these stories have transferred into her overall approach to life. Families like these—those that motivate each other to get out and test their strength and good will—are just what makes the NOLS community so uniquely inspiring.
Campaign NOLS: Endowing Our Core Values challenges NOLS to raise $20 million by the end of 2013, ensuring long-term stability for the school so that we can continue to support scholarships and other essential programs. To learn more, visit our website or give us a call at 1-800-332-4280.
Written by Meredith Hardwick, NOLS Alumni Intern