Conservation 101: Stewardship

In the fifth installment of our Conservation 101 blog series, we dive into the world of stewardship. Learn more about what stewardship means at The Mountaineers and how you can give back to the public lands that shape our outdoor adventures.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
October 21, 2022
Conservation 101: Stewardship
Lead image of volunteers clearing trees from a road in Olympic National Forest during an Olympia Branch stewardship activity. Photo by Jim French.

The practice of stewardship brings Mountaineers together from across branches and activities to care for our natural places. By working together to restore and maintain trails, pick up trash, and remove invasive species, we help ensure healthy landscapes that thrive for future generations.

Waking up early, rolling up your sleeves, and putting in a few hours of manual labor is also a great way to meet other outdoor enthusiasts and connect to the natural world. Every small act of stewardship makes a difference, and we have a hunch you’ll head home feeling good about your contribution to Washington’s outdoors.

With lean budgets and a chronic lack of staff and resources, land managers rely on non-profit, volunteer-driven stewardship efforts to maintain and restore our public lands and enhance the recreational opportunities they provide. Growing impacts from a changing climate and soaring recreation make it more important than ever for recreationists to take a break from their adventures to give back to our lands and waters.

What is Stewardship?

The definition of environmental stewardship can vary depending on the context, but at its core, stewardship is the responsible use and protection of the natural environment through conservation and sustainable practices that restore and improve ecosystems. At The Mountaineers, stewardship means protecting, restoring, and maintaining the lands and waters of our region so that they continue to thrive for future generations. It’s important to give back to lands we love by participating in trail work, invasive plant removals, trash clean-up, and other activities, because our small contributions can result in a substantial impact on the environment.

Why Stewardship at the Mountaineers?

Stewardship is a tenet of our conservation program because we believe it’s an important part of adventuring with purpose. Without healthy public lands and waters, The Mountaineers and the recreational opportunities we provide would cease to exist.

However, practicing low-impact recreation alone isn't enough. We encourage our community to give back to the natural world through participation in stewardship activities, and we provide resources and opportunities to do so. Stewardship is a year-round activity in our organization, and each year our volunteers help get hundreds of hands to work repairing trails, maintaining climbing sites, restoring shorelines, and more. Our members' efforts are fueled by their passion for the outdoors.

As outdoor recreation in Washington continues to grow, it’s more important than ever that we do our part to restore and maintain the trails, parks, and forests that afford us transformational outdoor experiences. Increasing numbers of people on the landscape, in addition to the impact of winter storms and summer drought, means that our lands need a lot of love. Together, we can pitch in and help protect the natural landscapes that make our adventures possible.

Give back through stewardship

Giving back to our lands and waters

Local stewardship opportunities can be found in every season, but late spring through the early fall are popular times of year for stewardship events thanks to warmer weather and increased access to the backcountry. Earth Day (April) and National Public Lands Day (September) provide great opportunities to celebrate the places we love by giving back through stewardship. There are many ways to get involved in stewardship, but one of the easiest ways is through Mountaineers-sponsored stewardship activities hosted through our branches.

Branches  Lead the Way

Stewardship at The Mountaineers is led by volunteers and supported by our conservation and programs staff. Several Mountaineers branches are highly engaged in conservation and stewardship efforts. The Everett, Foothills, and Olympia branches have active committees dedicated to developing relationships with land managers and stewardship partners, and providing opportunities for members to get involved in stewardship activities on local public lands - and some privately managed lands as well.

The Olympia Branch’s Conservation & Stewardship Committee partners with Olympic National Forest, Capitol Land Trust, other non-profits, and several state-managed parks and public lands in the Olympia area to activate its members through stewardship. In addition to trail work and other common stewardship activities, the Olympia Branch offers a certification class for crosscut sawing that can be used to obtain the Crosscut Sawyer badge. Find current stewardship opportunities through the Olympia Branch here.

The Foothills Branch Conservation Committee engages our community in conservation using a C.A.R.E. model, emphasizing conservation, advocacy, restoration, and education. The Foothills Conservation committee regularly partners with the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust and others to provide stewardship opportunities that focus on trail work, trash pick-up, invasive plant removal, and restoring salmon habitat. You can find upcoming stewardship activities through the Foothills branch here.

The Everett Branch’s Lookout and Trail Maintenance Committee has a long history of involvement in trail maintenance and fire lookout restoration in the Cascades. The committee works with the Forest Service and Washington State Parks to steward the Mount Pilchuck, Three Fingers, and Heybrook fire lookouts. These efforts involve repairs of the lookout structures, trailwork, and other activities around the lookouts.

Other Mountaineers branches also offer stewardship opportunities, sometimes sponsored by one of their activity-based committees. Start your search for stewardship opportunities by checking out one of our Mountaineers-sponsored activities.

FIND MOUNTAINEERS STEWARDSHIP ACTIVITIES

Stewardship Credit

Our volunteer course leaders play an important role in helping our members become stewards of our public lands. Many Mountaineers courses require the Stewardship Credit badge as a graduation requirement. To earn this badge, individuals must complete 8 hours of stewardship through The Mountaineers or an outside organization. If you attend a work party with another organization, follow the instructions on the Stewardship Credit badge page to receive your badge. We encourage all Mountaineers to maintain a current Stewardship credit badge by giving one full day of stewardship annually.

Powered by Partnerships

Partnerships with state and federal land managers, as well as non-profit stewardship organizations, play a critical role in activating the recreation community to steward Washington's landscapes. In addition to supporting stewardship activities hosted by The Mountaineers, our partners provide many more opportunities to get involved. You might have already participated in a volunteer event hosted by Washington Trails Association (WTA), The Mountaineers to Sound Greenway Trust (Greenway Trust), or one of our many other stewardship partners.

WTA offers numerous trail work parties and other volunteer events for outdoor enthusiasts to help create, improve, and maintain trails in National Parks, National Forests, or state recreation areas. The Greenway Trust regularly hosts environmental volunteer events at parks and public lands throughout the Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area, which stretches from Puget Sound to the Cascades across the I-90 corridor.

You can find more on what to expect from our partners and other local stewardship organizations throughout the Puget Sound region on our new stewardship opportunities resource page.

Get Involved

Whether you’ve participated in stewardship for years or are looking to get involved for the first time, there’s something for everyone. Most stewardship activities require no prior experience or knowledge, and tools and other equipment are generally provided. Mountaineers branch newsletters are a great place to learn about upcoming opportunities - find a stewardship activity near you and get ready to have some fun giving back with your fellow Mountaineers. Any questions about stewardship at The Mountaineers can be emailed to conservation@mountaineers.org.

Find Mountaineers Stewardship Activities

Find More Stewardship Opportunities


Look out for future stories in our Conservation 101 blog series to help you unpack the world of conservation and advocacy. In case you missed them, check out our earlier posts on advocacy, public lands, The Mountaineers conservation history, and our conservation education offerings.


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Peter Hendrickson
Peter Hendrickson says:
Oct 24, 2022 12:44 PM

Illuminating blog post and glad to hear that staff members are supporting stewardship. Who is the GoTo contact? Does "stewardship means protecting and restoring" include "maintaining?

Jim French
Jim French says:
Oct 24, 2022 07:28 PM

Webster’s Dictionary defines the word stewardship as “the job of supervising or taking care of something, such as an organization or property.” To me, Stewardship is caring for public lands (trails, waterways, plant and animal communities) where we hike, scramble, climb, paddle and otherwise enjoy exploring the outdoors.

Conor Marshall
Conor Marshall says:
Oct 25, 2022 11:13 AM

Thanks for sharing, Jim!

Conor Marshall
Conor Marshall says:
Oct 25, 2022 11:56 AM

Thanks for your questions, Jim. Yes, stewardship definitely includes "maintaining" our public lands. Staff support for stewardship is shared by our conservation and programs teams. As a starting place, any questions or feedback can be sent to conservation@mountaineers.org, and we'll make sure it gets to the right place. Thank you!