April 2021 Newsletter
HAPPY EARTH DAY, indeed! As people around the world come together to advocate for addressing the planet's environmental issues, we're glad that we once again have students in the field, doing the very same from the landscapes they are currently immersed in. In its 26 years of operations, 2020 was WRFI's first year without courses in the field. There are few words to describe how happy we are to once again be outside, living and learning with students. Our jubilation is perhaps best described by our students themselves:

Our spring semester on the Colorado Plateau is underway! Since their course began on March 24, our students have embarked on two extended backpacking expeditions in the canyons of Southern Utah. They are now gearing up for some time in the front country, where they will be meeting with leaders from Hopi and Diné communities about cultural and community resilience in this ancient desert landscape.

Periodically throughout their course, students will send us blog posts they've written in the field to reflect upon their experiences. Now available on the WRFI Blog: inspired by her backpacking adventure in Horseshoe Canyon, current student Ali Bierman shares her thoughts on disturbance and other impacts in her blog post, "The Marks We Make"; current student Ren Skolnick contemplates the virtues of getting lost in her post, "Wholeness is My Home"; and Colorado Plateau alum Renne Baldwin revisits her WRFI experience via an interview with one of the impactful guest speakers from her course in her post, "Randy Ramsley: Learning to Listen to the Land." Keep an eye on the WRFI Blog for new posts from current students every week or so this spring!

There are still a couple of spots open on our 2021 fall semester on the Colorado Plateau! Visit our website for more info, and contact us anytime if you'd like to chat about how to make a WRFI semester a part of your college experience. We'd love to hear from you!

Join us for our last virtual info session of spring term next week Thursday, April 29 from 11:00-12:00 MST. Everyone is welcome at these sessions, which are meant to be casual, informative conversations for folks interested in learning more about WRFI and how to make a WRFI course a part of a college student's experience. Info sessions are a great way to connect with WRFI staff, alumni, and other interested students from across the country. We hope to see you there!


11:00-12:00 MST

Register for a Zoom link HERE

In collaboration with the University of Montana's Summer Programs Office, WRFI is offering a Summer Exploration course for high school students that will allow them to earn college credit for a week-long field experience this summer. Taught by WRFI Instructors Stephanie Fisher and Ashley Carruth, the course will take place from July 24-31, 2021, and will allow students to earn one University of Montana credit in Environmental Studies:

ENST 191: Climate Change in Glacier National Park: This course takes the study of climate change out of textbooks and into the wild landscapes of Montana's Northern Rockies. Students will camp under the stars, hike through old growth forests and along alpine ridgelines, see the last remnants of Glacier National Park's fading namesake glaciers, and view the region's charismatic wildlife. While exploring this unique landscape, students will examine the regional effects of climate change and they will meet with people who are working to address these issues. This course is perfect for adventurous students who are eager to learn outside, and who are committed to building a world where human and ecological communities can thrive together. 

High school students who are at least sixteen years old, and who will be entering their sophomore, junior, or senior year starting in the fall of 2021 are welcome to apply. The program cost is $1,200 and will include lodging, meals, and programs fees. There is no application fee and scholarships will be available. The priority application deadline is April 30, 2021.
Missoula's annual nonprofit fundraising drive will be taking place from May 6-7 this year! Last year, the overwhelming love and support we felt during the 2020 Missoula Gives campaign helped us to weather the storm of the pandemic and prepare to get back into the field for the 2021 season.

All gifts large and small make a big impact for little organizations like WRFI. Save the date to support a good cause, and consider donating to WRFI during the 2021 Missoula Gives campaign!

Congrats to WRFI Board President and University of Montana Associate Professor Libby Metcalf for recently being named UM's inaugural Joel Meier Distinguished Professor of Wildland Management! This honor recognizes Libby's "exceptional leadership and accomplishments in research, teaching, and service in (and beyond) the parks, tourism and recreation management arena" (UMToday). We couldn't have said it any better. Congratulations for a hard-earned, well-deserved honor, Libby! WRFI is lucky to have you.

Our online store is always open! Check out WRFI clothing, mugs, and other schwag in our online shop.
Meet Maisie Powell
Here at WRFI, we have a special place in our hearts for the fabulous Maisie Powell, whom we have recently welcomed back to the organization as a full-time Program Coordinator! We're thrilled to have Maisie back in our circle—read on for a brief history of this WRFI-lifer-in-the-making:

Maisie first learned about WRFI as an undergraduate student at the University of Vermont. She had fallen in love with Montanan landscapes after spending a summer on a farm sandwiched between the Bridger Range and the Crazy Mountains, and she jumped at the opportunity to spend a semester immersed in the history, geography, ecology, and environmental issues of the place on WRFI’s Montana Afoot & Afloat course.

Maisie recalls her undergraduate classrooms exploring environmental issues in an abstract and obscured way, often highlighting polarized sides and positions and pitting them against each other. Her time in the field on Montana Afoot & Afloat helped her to examine issues more holistically, and she began to grasp the complexities she had previously been missing: different value systems, impacts on livelihoods, cultural differences, evolving policies, and an ever-shifting political landscape. The course’s academic material, class discussions, and guest speakers helped Maisie to evaluate her own values, judgments, and preconceived notions about issues she had once considered to be simple matters of right/wrong and good/bad.

After completing her WRFI semester on Montana Afoot & Afloat, Maisie returned to the University of Vermont with a new sense of clarity and direction. She focused the remainder of her undergraduate coursework on human/land relations—the subtitle of the Montana Afoot & Afloat course—and applied it to environmental education. After graduating, she worked a series of seasonal field jobs in food systems and outdoor education in California, Vermont, Alaska, British Columbia, and Costa Rica—and she also returned to Montana to work as an intern on WRFI’s Montana Afoot & Afloat course! WRFI was, of course, thrilled when Maisie decided to pursue her Master’s Degree in Environmental Studies with a certificate in Natural Resource Conflict Resolution from the University of Montana. As a graduate student, she continued to stay involved with WRFI by working as an admin assistant in the office, helping with gear and food prep for courses, and serving as a Teaching Assistant on WRFI’s Conservation Across Boundaries course.

During Maisie’s time in the Natural Resource Conflict Resolution Program at the University of Montana, she had the opportunity to engage directly with stakeholders and agency experts to work on public land and natural resource issues. Through a Conservation Connect Fellowship with the National Forest Foundation, she facilitated monthly meetings with local collaborative conservation groups as they addressed ongoing timber and trails projects, wildfire mitigation efforts, wilderness management debates, and large landscape-scale restoration proposals. She says that her experiences with WRFI prepared her to feel empowered as a leader in this arena: her interdisciplinary knowledge base allowed her to understand various stakeholder perspectives, navigate Forest Service rules and regulations, connect policy to impacts on local communities, and consider diverse perspectives in important conversations.

As WRFI’s new Program Coordinator, Maisie oversees the behind-the-scenes magic that makes WRFI courses happen, while also continuing to teach in the field. Now that her life goal of working full-time for WRFI has come to fruition, she is in the process of setting new goals for herself. She is eager to continue her work of providing future WRFI students with the same life-changing experience she had as a student seven years ago. She also hopes to continue being involved in local conservation and public lands issues, both as a facilitator and a stakeholder. During graduate school, she discovered a passion for public lands and natural resources law, and she could see herself pursuing a law degree at some point down the road. For now, she is getting to know her Western Montana backyard while trying to be a good steward of the landscape she lives in. For salsa-making, break-baking, kombucha-brewing, compost-loving Maisie, much of this practice revolves around the production and preservation of her own food.

Thank you for being an inspiration to us all, Maisie! We’re so glad you’ll be sticking around for a while. 
Wild Rockies Field Institute is a 501(c)3 organization. Your gift is fully tax deductible. Our Federal Identification Number is 81-0487425.