Friends of Nevada Wilderness celebrates 40 years as statewide non-profit organization

March 21, 2024 – While some folks who shared a passion for conserving public lands as Wilderness Areas had already been volunteering their time and energy for many years, a fledgling young group called Friends of Nevada Wilderness made it official in 1984 when it filed incorporation papers as a statewide non-profit organization.  The purpose, the founders agreed, was to give Nevadans a strong voice in how their wild public lands would be managed for them and for generations to come.

So, in 2024, Friends is celebrating not only its own rich history, but also the 60th anniversary of the 1964 Wilderness Act that created America’s first Wilderness Areas, including the 64,000-acre Jarbidge Wilderness Area in northeast Nevada.

“My dear friend and mentor, the late, great Marge Sill, was instrumental in securing the designation for Jarbidge all those years ago,” recalled Friends Executive Director Shaaron Netherton. “She showed us how it could be done. She, Roger Scholl, John and Hermi Hiatt, Karen Boeger and so many others, created a movement that eventually led to the organization we have today. Thanks to the tremendous support we’ve had along the way, especially from our amazing corps of volunteers and leaders like Senator Harry Reid, we have been able to accomplish so much.”

Friends has a three-pronged mission statement: to advocate for new Wilderness Areas and other conservation designations, to steward Nevada’s public lands to enhance their natural values and outdoor recreation opportunities, and to educate the public about the benefits of protecting public lands.

The Friends advocacy campaigns have resulted in the designation of more than 3.6 million acres of public land in Nevada as Wilderness Areas, forever protecting those lands from any use other than the peaceful solitude of dispersed recreation and the conservation of critical water resources, wildlife habitat and uniquely dark skies. Protected Wilderness Areas include popular iconic areas like the Mount Rose, Mount Charleston and Ruby Mountain Wilderness Areas, as well as dozens of more remote areas that await the adventuresome explorer. In total, working with Nevada’s Congressional delegation over the years, Friends has successfully advocated for the designation of 73 Wilderness Areas.

Friends has also been instrumental in establishing another 3 million acres of public lands as National Monuments, National Conservation Areas and the Great Basin National Park.

“We’re proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish over the years,” said Friends Founding Member and current Board Chair Roger Scholl. “But given there are millions more acres with Wilderness qualities that still lack a protective designation, we have a lot of work left to do. I’m just thrilled that Friends has been able to instill the passion for public lands conservation in so many younger people. It gives me great hope that the work will continue for years to come.”

The Friends stewardship program was established to restore and protect Nevada wildlands and introduce scores of volunteers to Nevada’s stunning backcountry so they too could learn to appreciate them. The program has engaged thousands of volunteers of all ages who trek out into some of the most remote and scenic wild areas of the state to complete a variety of projects to give back to their public lands. Long-standing programs include:

  • the Weed Warriors who pull invasive thistles in the Mount Rose Wilderness, then spread native plant seeds to restore natural habitat;
  • removing graffiti from boulders that line popular hiking trails in the Mt. Charleston Wilderness;
  • removing nearly 400 miles of barbed wire fencing from the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge to allow wildlife to roam free of entanglement;
  • repairing and maintaining more than 50 miles of trails every year in some of the states most beloved national forest Wilderness areas;
  • restoring valuable native Lahontan Cutthroat habitat in remote streams;
  • monitoring sensitive springs in southern Nevada that are critical to the survival of desert plants and animals;
  • and many more…

The stewardship program has received numerous awards, including (twice) the Group Excellence Award in BLM’s annual Making a Difference National Volunteer Award competition, the Wilburforce Conservation Leadership Award and the National Wildlife Refuge Association National Refuge Advocate of the Year award.

 One of Friends most inspiring programs combines stewardship and outreach. The annual Alternative Spring and Summer Breaks give young outdoor enthusiasts opportunities to get away from crowded campuses and get out into wild Nevada. The multi-day experiences include learning about the environment they’re in and about careers in natural resource management, as well as boots-on-the-ground projects like cleaning up recreation areas, restoring trails and other stewardship work.

Friends engages in community outreach year-round, partnering with businesses to host the Wild and Scenic Film Fest, tabling at special events, co-hosting an annual Dark Sky Festival, making special presentations and seizing a variety of other opportunities to share information about the value of conserving public lands and how people can help.

Perhaps the most valuable thing Friends does is simply encourage people to get out and explore Wild Nevada, to see for themselves why we work so hard to protect it. Toward that end, Friends just released a 60th Anniversary Edition Jarbidge Mountains Recreation Map. It includes trails, campgrounds, local food and lodging, detailed topography of the entire Wilderness Area and information on how to explore the area responsibly by leaving no trace behind. Friends staff and volunteers spent countless hours in the field collecting data for the map, which was produced in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and with funding from the Nevada State Recreational Trails Program.

“It’s hard to believe how far we’ve come in 40 years,” Scholl observed. “I’m so proud of how we’ve been able to do such great work with a relatively small, but mighty staff supported by thousands of passionate volunteers. Protecting the places Nevadans love is what we’ve done and will continue to do.”


About Friends of Nevada Wilderness

Founded in 1984, Friends of Nevada Wilderness has helped protect nearly 3.6 million acres of Nevada’s wild lands by leading efforts in the expansion or designation of all 73 Wilderness areas in the state. Over the past twenty years, the Wilderness Stewardship Volunteer Program has generated over $3 million of in-kind services to benefit Nevada’s public lands. For more information visit


Nevada’s Protected Places (pdf) – a list and map of all of Nevada’s protected places

Jarbidge Wilderness Area - photo by Chris Cutshaw

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