The Sawtooth Society’s Austin Kraal Memorial Volunteer program has accomplished a lot since it began in the summer of 2013. The program started as a way to honor Austin Kraal, a youth devoted to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area who worked the trails of the area every summer for the Forest Service before his passing in 2011. What started as an effort to memorialize one boy’s life turned into a program that has affected the lives of many.

The Austin Kraal Memorial Volunteer program has brought over 650 volunteers to the Sawtooth NRA. Of those volunteers, nearly half were urban or at-risk youth who may not have had any other opportunities to enjoy the incredible area. These volunteers dedicated around 4500 hours to the Sawtooth NRA, making the program the largest volunteer effort in the area.

As the program continues to grow, the Sawtooth Society is focusing the efforts of the volunteers on three key areas.

The first is a continuation of an important part of the program: providing urban and at-risk youth an opportunity to visit and work hard in the Sawtooth NRA. This has always been a keen focus of the volunteer program and will continue to be so in 2016 and beyond.

The second area will be projects in the new Hemingway-Boulders and White Clouds Wilderness areas. After the effort the Sawtooth Society put in to help pass the legislation for Idaho’s newest Wilderness areas, they now want to get on the ground and help give the Boulders and White Clouds the gold standard Wilderness protection they deserve.

The third area of focus is the early-season trail clearing. While the Austin Kraal Memorial volunteers have done some trail work every summer in the past, this year the Society is looking to increase its work to 100 miles of trails, much of which will be done early in the year.

“Without regular maintenance, these trails are easily overrun with vegetation and destroyed by foot traffic,” Volunteer and Membership Coordinator Kelly Conde said, “Helping the Forest Service clear and maintain the Sawtooth NRA trails is a very effective and direct way we can give back to the area.”

It will take many dedicated people to reach their goal of 100 miles of trails. The Sawtooth Society is looking for anyone who enjoys the area and wants to give back to dedicate a day or two to trail work. If you are interested in volunteering, call or email Dalton Warr at (208)994-1654 or dalton@sawtoothsociety.org.

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