May 2020 Newsletter

We know these are tough times. People are dealing with many types of loss right now. Please know that our hearts go out to you, and that you are part of a widespread community of people linked together by a love of wild spaces, a passion for outdoor living, and a commitment to resilient communities. Read on for updates on how WRFI is responding to continued COVID-19 concerns, as well as some other non-pandemic tidbits from our WRFI community.

This time last year, we were preparing for the last leg of our Spring Colorado Plateau course, a canoeing expedition through Labyrinth Canyon on the Green River. If our hopes and dreams hold steady, this time next year will once again look something like this:
Staying in this summer, hoping for field days in the fall

Due to lingering COVID-19 concerns, WRFI recently made the very tough decision to suspend all of our summer courses. This was disappointing, to say the least. In the end, we decided that it would be irresponsible of us to run these courses, given continued restrictions around uncertain health risks. Following are some of the primary factors that led us to this decision:

  • A continued mandatory 14-day quarantine for any individuals entering the state of Montana.
  • A lack of available testing for COVID-19.
  • The need to reduce visitation to many of the rural (and vulnerable) communities we visit during our courses.
  • Continued closures of many public lands facilities that we typically use during our courses.
  • Logistical issues with risk management should a mandatory evacuation (followed by mandatory quarantine) be necessary in the case of illness occurring during a course.

We are hopeful yet that public health will improve and current restrictions will ease over the coming months, and that we will be able to run our fall courses as scheduled. At this point, we are still accepting applications for both Montana Afoot & Afloat (August 27-October 27) and Colorado Plateau: Desert Canyons & Cultures (September 10-November 10), in addition to all of our 2021 courses .

If you know any students who are eager to get outside after a semester of online coursework, please send them our way!

Some good news for WRFI!

From April 30-May 1, WRFI participated in Missoula Gives , our hometown’s annual nonprofit fundraising campaign coordinated by the Missoula Community Foundation. We were blown away by the amount of support we received during the campaign, and we’re thrilled to report that the event raised an astonishing $11,345 for WRFI, far surpassing our initial goal of $5,000, and even our second goal of $7,500. Out of 138 participating organizations, we ranked 15th overall for funds raised and 10th for total number of donations! With gifts ranging from $5 to $1,000 and a total of 114 individual donors, we are so, so, so, so grateful to our far-reaching community of supporters. This fundraiser lifted our spirits after a rather tumultuous spring, and we are more committed than ever to continuing WRFI’s work for years to come. Seriously, thank you. 
Check out our WRFI goods

Missed out on Missoula Gives? Looking for a way to support WRFI that'll get you some quality schwag in the process? Our online store is full of WRFI goodies for those wanting more WRFI in their wardrobe. We’re currently waiting on a resupply of stickers, but we’re stocked with shirts, hoodies, hats, and tumblers galore!
Opportunities to help friends of WRFI

WRFI courses are designed for in-depth exploration of place and relationships, between the lands and waterways of the West and the people and cultures that have long been a part of these landscapes. Between backcountry expeditions on our courses, we are fortunate to be able to spend time with some of the original knowledge-holders in the places we visit, including the Blackfeet Nation, Northern Cheyenne Tribe, Navajo Nation, and Hopi Tribe. In this time of crisis, many people are searching for ways to help. For those in a position to give financially, we recommend checking out the following fundraisers intended to support our friends and neighbors:

Blackfeet Food Access and Sustainability Team (Blackfeet FAST) :

Yellow Bird Life Ways Center:

Navajo and Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund:
Celebrating healthy transportation in MT

May is National Bike Month ! In celebration of bike travel and our beloved Cycle the Rockies course, we’ve posted a blog by WRFI alumna Ruth Crystal, “Advice from a two-time CTR alum,” which details her concerns prior to joining the course, as well as all of the reasons why it was 100% worth it. Cycle the Rockies offers students an opportunity to study energy production and climate change issues in Montana while spending four weeks bike touring across the state (and learning the skills necessary to do it again on their own).

To all our Cycle the Rockies alumni: what’s a favorite memory from your course? Post a photo from your time in the field on Instagram and remember to tag @wild_rockies and #cycletherockies for National Bike Month!
Meet Ben Rutherford
Calling all WRFI alumni: we want to hear what you’ve been up to! Take a minute to fill out our online alumni update form when you have a chance. We’d love to hear from you!
Benjamin Rutherford is an alumnus of WRFI's 2015 Colorado Plateau: Desert Canyons & Cultures course. Ben sought out WRFI as an undergraduate student at the University of Montana, citing his WRFI course as the "cherry on top" of his education, allowing him to connect what he had been learning about in his on-campus coursework with real-world experience in public land management. During his WRFI experience, Ben developed a profound connection to the people and places he encountered, forged by a deep immersion in the landscape and challenging, yet rewarding conversations with people of various histories and perspectives.

After graduating with a bachelor's degree in Parks, Tourism, & Recreation Management from UM, Ben departed his folks' place in North Dakota--via bicycle! His post-grad bike tour took him to the North Woods of Minnesota, where he began a new position as an Outward Bound trip leader. For Ben, the North Woods is his querencia , the place that gives him a source of strength and a sense of home. During the next four years working for Outward Bound, Ben grew to love working with people in the outdoors, especially as he facilitated learning experiences for youth.

Ben has recently returned to Missoula to begin a graduate program in School Counseling at the University of Montana. Once he begins work as a high school counselor, he hopes to have a hand in starting an outing club for students, offering them an opportunity to experience social and emotional growth while interacting with their home landscapes.
To prospective students considering a WRFI course, Ben says: do it! Approach it with an open mind, seize the opportunity to see issues from different angles and to gain a deep, multifaceted understanding of people and place. The natural world brings people together, transcending politics and ideology. Take the opportunity to collaborate and do good work in the world!
Help us foster the next generation of leaders and environmental stewards:
Wild Rockies Field Institute is a 501(c)3 organization. Your gift is fully tax deductible. Our Federal Identification Number is 81-0487425.