- Quechua Arpenaz
“I’m fascinated by how we define wilderness,” says Emily Noyd, backcountry ranger in Yosemite National Park. “The concept of wilderness is so intangible, and it’s fascinating to me that to effectively govern that land we’ve had to develop rules to define it.”
While the concept of wilderness can hold a different meaning to each visitor—granite cliffs, untamed wildlife, breathtaking waterfalls, uninhabited valleys—the Wilderness Act of 1964defines the official land designation. “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”
Management of congressionally designated wilderness areas is spread across four federal agencies: the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “You can think of wilderness areas as a different layer of management,” Emily says. “I always suggest that people check out the great interactive maps online. In Yosemite National Park, for example, 94 percent of the park’s land is wilderness. That wilderness is where I work.”
Her first season as a backcountry ranger was in the North Cascades in 2015, and she moved south to Yosemite for the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Since starting work as a backcountry ranger, she’s also become a Wilderness EMT, a Leave No Trace trainer, and has done extensive search and rescue technical rope training. In the off-season, she works as a ski patroller at Mount Bachelor, which requires that she maintain an Outdoor Emergency Care certification, too.