The Cloud Peak Chapter of Wilderness Watch was organized in 1996 to work for good stewardship of the Cloud Peak Wilderness of the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming, adhering to the philosophy of Wilderness Watch to follow the principles of the Wilderness Act. At that time, there were serious issues with the Bighorn National Forest’s management, which threatened the continuity of wilderness stewardship.
The Cloud Peak Chapter has remained a loyal partner to the Bighorn National Forest, contributing volunteer labor on several field projects, commenting on the Forest Plan revision and other proposals which affect wilderness access, developing and revising the Trails Illustrated map for the CPW, and helping to develop informational brochures and signs to educate the public on wilderness stewardship and regulations for visiting the Cloud Peak Wilderness. In 1999 the Chapter received the Forest Service Chief’s National Volunteer Award, recognizing our efforts.
Since its inception, the Cloud Peak Chapter of Wilderness Watch has been propelled entirely by volunteer members, no paid staff, to conduct a number of monitoring projects in and around the Cloud Peak Wilderness in cooperation with the Bighorn National Forest.
The Cloud Peak Chapter and the Bighorn National Forest received a grant to hire two interns to inventory the user-made trails in the Cloud Peak Wilderness. Interns will begin the inventory late in June 2018, and the information will help the Forest Service decide the disposition of user-made trails in the wilderness.
The Cloud Peak chapter is partnering with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to monitor the spread of the chytrid fungus in the Bighorn National Forest. Chytrid fungus was first identified in the late 1990s and has been implicated in amphibian declines world-wide. Although the fungus can severely impact some species, other species are quite resistant to the fungus. The fungus was first discovered in the Bighorn mountains in 2010.
Every five years the Cloud Peak chapter monitors predetermined bare ground sites in the Cloud Peak Wilderness with a protocol developed at the University of Montana. The next round of monitoring will be in 2020. The data helps the Forest Service make decisions regarding areas of high use in the Wilderness.
Contact the Cloud Peak Chapter for more information:
Bob Ahrens, Chapter Representative
Cloud Peak Chapter Wilderness Watch
The Cloud Peak Chapter's Projects
We carry out projects in the Cloud Peak Wilderness as cooperators with the Bighorn National Forest. Members volunteer for outdoor projects, and for other projects that are not as physically challenging. Volunteers with the Chapter get a better appreciation of the need for good stewardship of Wilderness areas and for the preservation of Wilderness values.
Stream Health Survey: In 1998, the Chapter designed a program to gather baseline data on the water quality of streams within the Cloud Peak Wilderness, using techniques accepted by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality. The survey included data on water chemistry, macro- and micro-invertebrates, and the physical condition of a short section of each stream. All field equipment had to be backpacked in to these remote sites, which is why they had not been studied before. Data from the 2000-2002 field seasons on 11 streams was published in CD-ROM format, and is available by writing to the Cloud Peak Chapter. In the project’s seven years, 21 of the approximately 30 streams were sampled, adding unique information to studies already available from downstream sites in Wyoming and the Bighorn National Forest. The Cloud Peak Chapter received a Bighorn National Forest Award for this work.
Trails Illustrated Map: In 1996, the Cloud Peak Chapter raised $13,000 to create a topographic map of the entire Cloud Peak Wilderness, in partnership with Trails Illustrated. The Bighorn National Forest brought the need for this map to our attention, noting that wilderness users had to patch together several maps to get the complete picture. The group submitted revisions for the map in 2001, and continues to be the main Wyoming distributor to retail outlets and the USFS, providing a continuing source of funds to support the Chapter’s other projects.
Educational Efforts: Our Chapter created and distributed educational brochures to help educate Wilderness users about the impact of campfires and regulations prohibiting campfires above 9,200 feet within the Wilderness. We continue to update and distribute these brochures in every Trails Illustrated map and in local sports stores. Also, we supplied the graphics and text for informational signs at popular trailheads, and continue to help maintain and update them.
Bare Ground Survey: These ongoing studies provide baseline data to the Bighorn National Forest. Volunteers identify campsites in the Cloud Peak Wilderness and measure the area of bare ground created by human use. Over a period of years, the survey data has helped the Bighorn National Forest determine whether standards are being met in the Wilderness.
Leave No Trace: As a public service, the Cloud Peak Chapter schedules training in the principles of “Leave No Trace”. This program educates visitors in ways to minimize impacts of their stay, to avoid activities that can damage the fragile vegetation of our high-altitude Wilderness.
Photo: Todd Blythe