March 2021 Newsletter
We are over the moon at last week's confirmation of New Mexico Representative Deb Haaland as U.S. Secretary of the Interior. We can't think of a more qualifiedand more neededperson to head the U.S. Department of the Interior, nor a better way to celebrate Women's History Month. In 2018, Haaland became one of the first two American Indian women to be elected to Congress. Now, she becomes the first Native American to ever hold a cabinet position for the federal government.

WRFI courses have long immersed students in the histories and issues of the West's public lands and Indigenous communities. We are thrilled to have Secretary Haaland's fierce advocacy for Native voices and public land protections at the helm of the Interior Department.

That's right: WRFI's first-ever high school course is in the works! In collaboration with the University of Montana's Summer Programs Office, we will be offering a Summer Explorations course for high school students that will allow them to earn college credit for a summer field experience with WRFI. The course will be 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. 

This program will be open to 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. 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. Visit this link to apply online.
We may be on the cusp of spring, but WRFI is thinking ahead to the following shoulder season as we continue to accept applications for our fall semester courses. WRFI's longest-running course is MONTANA AFOOT & AFLOAT: Human/Land Relations, a course that saw its inaugural season in 1995. This course offers students an opportunity to spend two months in the field while earning 15 semester credits in Environmental Studies, Geography, and Native American Studies.

Students on Montana Afoot & Afloat spend a fall semester in the field examining past, present, and future relationships between the human communities and landscapes that characterize Montana's rich and diverse geography. While backpacking and kayaking through various mountain and river systems across the state, students on this course learn about the diverse history of human-land relationships in the region, building the skills necessary to formulate a personal land ethicthat is, a vision of a wise and beneficial way of relating to the land.

"There is no better way to understand complex land and societal topics than by hiking and paddling your way through them!" -Maizie Smith, Montana Afoot & Afloat '17

Accepted WRFI students have the opportunity to apply for a variety of scholarships to help fund their WRFI experience.

GENERAL SCHOLARSHIP: All students are welcome to apply for this scholarship, which is a need-based scholarship that can provide up to 10% of a student's WRFI tuition.

BETH MORRIS SCHOLARSHIP: A scholarship fund for CYCLE THE ROCKIES students in memory of Beth Morris, who spent her life in pursuit of work connecting people to place before she passed away in 2014. Funding from Beth's estate provides up to $1,500 for Cycle the Rockies students who submit a proposal for a media project to be completed after their WRFI course. Applications for this scholarship must be submitted by April 16, 2021 for students on our 2021 Cycle the Rockies course.

MATT THOMAS SCHOLARSHIP: A scholarship fund for MONTANA AFOOT & AFLOAT students in memory of Matt Thomas, one of WRFI's founders and beloved instructors. Matt encouraged his students to consider human/land relationships from multiple cultural and historical perspectives, and to develop personal philosophies for living well with the land. After Matt passed away in 2002, his friends and family established the Matt Thomas Scholarship Fund for students who clearly embody his ideals. This scholarship ranges in $1,000 to $3,000 for Montana Afoot & Afloat students.

Last week was AMERICORPS WEEK, a week dedicated to celebrating the far-reaching impacts of AmeriCorps programs and expressing gratitude for the legion of AmeriCorps volunteers across the nation.

For their service, AmeriCorps volunteers earn a stipend as well as a monetary education award that may be used towards tuition, student loans, or other associated education expenses. AmeriCorps education awards can be applied to WRFI course tuition, and have allowed many volunteers over the years to gain field experience and earn credits with WRFI.

We are still accepting applications for 2021 WRFI courses. APPLY TODAY and use your Americorps award for an outdoor educational experience with WRFI!

We'll be hosting two more virtual info sessions this spring! Open to anyone interested in learning more about WRFI and the courses we offer, these sessions are a great place to connect with staff, instructors, and alumni to ask questions and hear about the WRFI experience from people who have lived it. Register for a Zoom link todaywe'd love to meet you!

THURSDAY, APRIL 1 from 11:00-12:00 Mountain Time: REGISTER HERE

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 14 from 1:00-2:00 Mountain Time: REGISTER HERE


Our online shop is always open! Take a peek if you're needing a new mug, t-shirt, hat, or other form of WRFI schwag in your life.
Meet Sarah Richey
As an undergraduate student at the University of Montana, Sarah Richey took full advantage of the university’s experiential learning opportunities, knowing that they would help her learn and prepare for a meaningful career. To wrap up her degree in Environmental Biology, Sarah decided to spend her final semester of college studying human-land relationships in the West on WRFI’s 1998 Montana Afoot & Afloat course.

Sarah felt that her experiences on Montana Afoot & Afloat helped prepare her for the post-college life she was about to enter. WRFI allowed her to live and work with a small, thoughtful group of students and instructors while facing real people, real issues, and real communities throughout rural Montana. She left her course with a more focused idea of the kinds of work she wanted to do, allowing meaningful, well-grounded questions to guide her perspective of the world around her.

Upon graduating, Sarah worked seasonal jobs in field biology and outdoor education before deciding to pursue a master’s degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana, where she molded her graduate studies after her WRFI experience. Her studies focused on field-based experiential learning as a way to approach tough natural resource management and policy issues. For Sarah, it was important that she combine the social and ecological elements of land issues in order to better understand them. Upon completing her graduate degree, she had the opportunity to circle back to WRFI as an instructor on a few different courses, including Montana Afoot & Afloat! She also served as a WRFI board member from 2012 to 2018, during which she insists that her biggest contribution was hiring Keri McWilliams to be our indomitable Executive Director (for which we are eternally grateful).

These days, Sarah is still based in Missoula, where she is fifteen years into a career in land conservation. She currently serves as a project manager for Five Valleys Land Trust, where she works with private landowners across western Montana who choose to grant conservation easements on their properties. She feels lucky to work with people who are deeply invested in conservation on a personal level—easements are conservation tools carefully crafted around family, landscape, and people’s individual relationships with their land. She loves working with these landowners who are dedicated land stewards and a visionary part of the fabric of natural resource conservation in Montana. Learn more about Five Valleys Land Trust’s work on private land conservation in the short documentary On the Shoulders of Giants.

To this day, Sarah continues to embody the ethos of her experiences on Montana Afoot & Afloat. She and her family remain firmly embedded in the landscapes of western Montana, where she plans to continue engaging with lands and communities in the way she did with WRFI: always curious, recognizing complexity, and appreciating the rich history of place.

We’re grateful to have you as a part of the WRFI community, Sarah!
Wild Rockies Field Institute is a 501(c)3 organization. Your gift is fully tax deductible. Our Federal Identification Number is 81-0487425.