Wilderness Information Specialist (WIS) Program

The IPWA trains volunteers to work as Wilderness Information Specialists during the busy summer season (between Labor Day and Memorial Day) for half-day shifts in the U.S. Forest Service Boulder Ranger District Office. The district lost funding for seasonal front desk employees, so volunteers provide additional resources to fill the void. 


These volunteers assist the public in the planning of backpacking and hiking trips within the Indian Peaks and James Peak Wilderness Areas including route planning, regulation adherence, and completion of permit applications.

In 2016, the inaugural season of the Wilderness Information Specialist program,seven IPWA volunteers covered 35 half-day shifts from June through September (the length of the active season for this program). By 2017, the IPWA has been able to fully staff these positions in only the second year of the program!


IPWA Volunteer Jim Merryman and USFS Information Services Manager Elaine Wells assist a member of the public


  • Attend the annual IPWA training held the first Saturday in June and sign all IPWA forms.

  • One four (4) hour regularly scheduled time slot per week between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The shifts are on weekdays only between 0830-1230 or 1230-1630 (days of highest need are afternoon shifts on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays).

  • Familiarize yourself with all of the trails/trailheads in Indian Peaks Wilderness (IPW), James Peak Wilderness (JPW), Brainard Lake Recreation Area (BLRA), and the Roosevelt Arapaho Natl. Forest. Hike all you can, read trail descriptions and scan the USFS website. Read IPWA handbook or use lobby computer to review the rules in each area. Additional on-the-job training and guidance will be provided by the USFS manager.

  • At beginning of each shift: Review weather, Boulder Ranger District Update, IPWA trail reports, fire bans and road/campsite status table. Also ensure desk is stocked with permit request forms, permits, pens, sharpie, Backcountry Zones (BZ) Maps, Designated Campsite Maps, and IPW, JPW, IPWA brochures.

One of these volunteers is Janie Stuart and here are some of her thoughts on why she is a volunteer:


"It's my great pleasure to return to volunteer with IPWA. I'm honored to be part of this group of dedicated people who love the backcountry and work to preserve its wildness as a valuable resource for the future. Serving as a Wilderness Information Specialist is enjoyable, because I can share in the visitors' excitement as they plan their adventure. Also, I can nudge in a bit of education about how take to take care of the areas in which the they'll travel and camp, while helping them chose a route that's appropriate for their experience level."