Thank you for your interest in volunteering to give back to the Bob! We hope that this experience will be a highlight of your summer. The better prepared you are for this adventure, the better experience you will have. Please take the time to read through these project details.
Considered by many to be the “crown jewel” of the wilderness system, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex is comprised of over 1.5 million acres of untrammeled wilderness that stretches from Glacier National Park in the north, to Rogers Pass to the south in the northern Rockies of Montana. Named after the conservationist and forester, The Bob Marshall Wilderness was created in 1964 with the Great Bear and Scapegoat Wildernesses added in the 1970’s, creating the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.
Straddling the continental divide, the “Bob” as it’s known locally, is comprised of towering limestone reefs (including the famous Chinese Wall), range after range of majestic mountains, lush forests, broad basins and valleys, and two “wild and scenic” designated rivers. It also contains some of the best wildlife habitat in the lower 48 for elk, deer, moose, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, black bear, and the threatened grizzly bear.
The Bob has a healthy grizzly and black bear population. All BMWF trips practice bear aware safety including proper food storage and travel in bear country. Participants are encouraged to bring their own can of bear spray. Volunteers (with the exception of packers) may not carry firearms on BMWF trip per the Forest Service volunteer agreement, regardless of whether they are licensed to carry a concealed weapon.
What kind of work can I expect on a BMWF trip?
When you sign up to volunteer with BMWF you are actually a Forest Service volunteer. As such you will sign the Job Hazard Analysis and be covered under the Forest Service workers compensation program if you are injured. As a Forest Service volunteer you're also expected to put in an 8 hour workday while on trips. Trail maintenance projects involve use of primitive tools such as cross-cut saws, axes, pulaskis, hand saws, shovels and loppers, which you will be trained for and supervised by a BMWF project crew-leader. Weeds projects involve hand pulling weeds, dead heading weeds, and spraying weeds with supervision. There are a variety of tasks on each trip and we encourage volunteers to take turns and try all of them. Volunteers are also expected to help out with camp chores such as cooking and cleanup.
What kind of supervision will we have on a project?
A BMWF crew-leader will be assigned to lead and train you on your project, and will be with your group for the duration of the trip. Our crew-leaders are USFS trained and are highly experienced in trail maintenance, backcountry first aid and safety, bear safety, Leave no Trace ethics, and are knowledgeable about the area you'll be working in.
What kind of safety protocols does the Foundation have for trips?
The safety of our volunteers is the highest priority on our trips. All volunteers undergo two major safety trainings during the trip, as well as daily safety briefings, which include proper use of Personal Protective Equipment, backcountry safety, and tool use. BMWF trips check in via radio with the Forest Service every day and are in regular communication about any hazards such as weather or fire. In addition crew-leaders carry satellite emergency transceivers to check in or summon help in the case of a radio malfunction.
BMWF crew leaders are all certified Wilderness First Responders.
Experience and trip difficulty
What fitness level should I have to safely participate in BMWF trips?
We use a 1-5 rating scale for both the hike in to the base camp and the work difficulty. While we don't expect every volunteer to train like an Olympic athlete, we do expect that you sign up a trip that realistically fits your abilities. Remember, you'll be working with a team in a remote wilderness setting, where simple over use injuries and blisters can become a big deal.
If you're unsure, a good fitness test to to see if you're in good shape for a moderate (3+) rated trip is the USFS 'moderate pack test': hike/walk 2 miles with a 25 pound pack in under 35 minutes without jogging.
Do I need backpacking or backcountry experience to participate in a BMWF trip?
No, you only need to be in good shape and bring the motivation to work. We use a rating system to gauge the hiking and work difficulty for all the projects-- for the most difficult hiking trips you should have some some experience carrying a backpack and hiking long distances over rugged terrain. Just choose a trip well suited for your abilities! If you're brand new to backpacking or the backcounty, BMWF trips are a great way to gain experience!
Do I need trail maintenance experience to participate?
No you don't! Our crew leaders will teach you everything you need to know, showing you how to use the tools and do the work, just come ready to work, willing to learn, and motivated to make the work a success! Check out the work difficulty rating for each trip and find one suited for your physical abilities.
What do I have to carry for the hike into camp and to the work site?
BMWF volunteer packers provide pack support for most trips-- their horse or mule string will carry in group gear (food, the camp kitchen, tools). Depending on the number of stock they have there's a good chance they'll also be able to carry some personal gear such as tents, but volunteers should be prepared to carry all their personal gear. When hiking from camp to the work site be prepared to carry your lunch, water, rain or cold weather gear, personal protective equipment, and tools such as saws, axes, and shovels.
Does BMWF provide the food for the project?
Yes! Unless otherwise stated with a partner group trip, the Foundation provides all the food for the trip. We pride ourselves on providing great food for volunteers-- you won't find freeze dried meals on our trips, instead we like to make curries with fresh veggies, hearty pasta dishes, and filling burritos! When filling out the registration form be sure to let us know about any dietary restrictions, allergies, or preferences to help us with our menu planning. On backcountry trips, diet is very important as you will be working hard and burning lots of calories, so please provide us with plenty of information to help us make a menu that works for you and everyone on your crew!
Will i have time off to explore the backcountry?
Volunteers have free time at the end of each work day to hike, fish, relax or enjoy the backcountry however they'd like. Many longer projects include a rest day where volunteers can enjoy the backcountry all day! Check out trip project descriptions to see if your trip has a rest day.
It is very important to know that you are expected to commit to the project once you sign up. All of our projects take time and effort to organize and we want to make sure that we have full trips so that we can complete the project as outlined by our Forest Service partners. Please do not sing up for a trip unless you are committed to doing it. We do, of course, understand that things happen and circumstances change, so if you must cancel, please do so as soon as possible. Cancellations made less than 30 days before the trip and no-shows will forfeit their project registration deposit as a cancellation fee.
While uncommon, BMWF may find it necessary to cancel a project due to low volunteer sign-ups or safety reasons (i.e. wildfires), but will contact volunteers as soon as possible and typically no later than two weeks before the project start date. For this reason we strongly recommend volunteers purchase trip insurance when making airline reservations or other travel arrangements.
REQUIRED Packing list
- RAIN JACKET AND PANTS!!!
- Warm sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad
- Full set of long underwear
- 1 set of work clothes; pants, long-sleeved shirt, t-shirt
- Work gloves
- Warm pants for evening
- 1 wool or fleece shirt/sweaters/jackets
- Hiking socks
- Sleeping socks (1 pair; you don’t hike in them!)
- Warm mittens or gloves, warm hat
- Hiking boots with ankle support (not tennis shoes)
- Camp shoes/river sandals (keep handy for hike in as you will be crossing streams. no flip flops!)
- Kitchen kit: spoon/fork, bowl/plate (Tupperware or reusable bags work for meals and as a lunch box), & hot mug
- Personal biodegradable toiletries (non-fragrant, bears like smelly stuff)
- Water bottles/Camelback—at least 2 liters (3 recommended). Please don’t overlook this suggestion!
- Sun hat/ sunglasses
- Personal medications (allergies? Epi-pen?)
- Waterproof matches/ lighter
- Medium-Large backpack for carrying all of this stuff!
Optional items-Keep it light!:
- Bear spray (recommended)
- Leatherman or all-purpose tool (not in carry-on!)
- Battery travel alarm clock or watch
- Bug repellent
- Camera (and waterproof bag)
- Garbage bags to line your backpack.
If you do not have all of the required gear, contact the crew leader or the BMWF office staff. Some equipment can be shared with other participants, so if you are coming on your trip with a friend try to combine duplicate items such as toothpaste, bug spray, sunscreen, etc.
Do I need to bring my own gear?
Volunteers need to bring their own personal gear such as a tent, backpack, sleeping bag, work clothes, etc. Kitchen and cook gear will be provided for the group. If you are unable to find any of the personal gear required, let us know!
Pro Tip: Don't wear brand new hiking boots for the hike in! Make sure you take them out on a handful of hikes before!
Can i bring my dog on the trip?
Unfortunately given the possibility of problems arising between your pet and pack-stock, wildlife, or other volunteers we do not allow dogs on BMWF trips. Contact staff for information about service animals on trips.
BACK COUNTRY FIRST AID
Each BMWF Crew Leader is currently certified as a Wilderness First Responder. The crew leader carries a well stocked first aid kit and a Forest Service radio to communicate with the right people, in case a situation should arise. If you are prone to blisters, we recommend you pack a personal stash of tape, band-aids, and mole skin. If you enjoy some ibuprofen, bring a personal stash.
Emergency Communication: Each crew leader carries a Forest Service radio. The Crew Leaders will ‘check in’ with the ranger station each day. In the event that a field volunteer needs to be contacted, please call the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation office. You can also try BMWF staff at any hour in event of true emergency. Phone numbers below.
EMERGENCY CONTACT INFO:
Rebecca Powell, Program Director
Sue Johnson, Program Coordinator
Carol Treadwell, Executive Director
firstname.lastname@example.org Office: 406.387.3847
Additional weeds project information
Are noxious weeds really that big of a problem?
The heath and integrity of our forests and agricultural land are under threat from these invading species. Read this article for more information.
Are herbicides and chemicals safe?
Only about 1/3 of BMWF weeds trips involve spraying herbicides, the rest focus on hand pulling and deadheading weeds. Herbicides are not 100% harmless because they are designed to kill plants. However, the herbicides we use are some of the safest available. it takes approximately 10 years and $150 million worth of testing to get a pesticide on the market. The lengthy and expensive process of approving an herbicide ensures that these products are safe. The Foundation provides eye protection and gloves which all volunteers are required to wear (for trail work or weeds work) and can provide Tyvek full body suites upon request.
What do I need to bring on a weed's project?
Long pants, long sleeve shirt, close toed shoes or boots, and a hat are required for trips where we will be spraying. We will provide protective equipment but it is also fine to bring personal eye wear that you know you will be comfortable in.
Do I have to have experience spraying or pulling weeds to participate?
No you do not. The BMWF weeds crew leader is highly trained and has a pesticide applicators licence. They will teach you how to do the required work, including how to use a GPS unite for mapping weed problem areas.