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Friends of the Inyo’s Stewardship Program – Caring for Payahuunadü All Year Round!

Stewardship is the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care. For us at Friends of the Inyo, that means lands throughout Inyo and Mono Counties that we care for in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and hundreds of Community Members and Volunteers, including the original stewards of the Eastern Sierra, Local Tribes who named these precious lands Payahuunadü: “The Land of Flowing Water.”

Come along with us on a through-the-seasons view of Friends of the Inyo’s stewardship activities, so you can understand the impact of our Stewardship Program and consider its many needs as we humbly appeal for your support. 



From late June through summer’s end, it is easy to associate Friends of the Inyo’s stewardship activities with our highly visible Trail Ambassadors (or TA’s): physically fit, highly trained, ecologically-minded, caring individuals spread out across the Inyo and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests, from Bridgeport to Lone Pine. TA’s are desperately needed at a time when federal budgets are dwindling while millions of visitors continue to trek to the Eastern Sierra each year, subjecting our public lands to the adverse effects of usage in the form of trail maintenance backlogs, trash buildup and habitat degradation.

As the word “Ambassadors” implies, Friends of the Inyo’s TA’s are our envoys out in nature. They are Land Stewards, Guides, Teachers, Volunteer Leaders & Role Models, helping resource-strapped U.S. Forest Service staff with trail maintenance, as well as leading FOI’s popular FREE interpretive hikes and volunteering events, and teaching Leave No Trace principles for the benefit of Eastern Sierra visitors, locals, and our incomparable natural lands. 



Once the summer season has ended, it is time to put trail maintenance equipment in storage, schedule our vehicle fleet for end-of-season service and repairs, and tally up accomplishments for grant reporting. 

At Friends of the Inyo, we are proud of our team’s trail maintenance and Wilderness restoration work, along with their record-keeping accomplishments. To use 2023 as an example—which was a particularly challenging stewardship year because of damage caused by record snowmelt plus heavy rains from Tropical Storm Hilary—our five seasonal staff:

  • Served every National Forest Ranger District from Mt. Whitney to Bridgeport;
  • Led interpretive hikes and yoga classes for 165 participants;
  • Maintained 782 miles of trail;
  • Removed 781 downed logs (5x more than the previous year!);
  • Cleared 3,782 lbs. of trash;
  • Educated 3,285 visitors on The 7 Principles of Leave No Trace;
  • Hosted 2 backcountry volunteer work weeks, maintaining trails and removing obsolete cattle fencing in hard-to-reach Wilderness areas; and 
  • Recruited and engaged 149 community volunteers who delivered 785 hours of service valued at $29,300. 


The Sierra may be blanketed in snow with many plants lying dormant in winter, but not so our hard-working Stewardship Director, who is busy organizing and leading such activities as:

  • Volunteer Stewardship Projects in collaboration with: The American Alpine Club’s Craggin’ Classic Climbing Festival, Bishop Area Climbing Rangers, and the Flash Foxy Climbing Festival;
  • The Backcountry Film Festival in partnership with Winter Wildlands Alliance (WWA), to showcase inspiring cinematic stories of winter adventure in the backcountry, outdoor stewardship, grassroots policy and advocacy work, all while fundraising for…
  • SnowSchool: an outdoor education program offered to Inyo and Mono County fifth graders, also in partnership with WWA and the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association, to help them learn how to strap on snowshoes, dig snow shelters, study snow crystals, and learn about their watershed, including snow-to-water ratios, and animal survival strategies during the harshest season of the year; and
  • Winter Data Collection, engaging the public who recreate in the Inyo National Forest in easy-to-collect citizen science data to help the U.S. Forest Service make informed decisions about Winter Recreation and Over Snow Vehicle use.

The importance of educational and research activities in winter cannot be overemphasized. Snow is part of the Sierra Nevada’s name, which in Spanish means “Snowy Mountain Range.” Activities like SnowSchool and Winter Data Collection educate the next generation of land stewards regarding the importance of a healthy watershed, and assist the Forest Service in fashioning healthy land and water management plans that can protect species and ecosystems.



As the days get longer and the weather warmer, it is time to start preparing for summer again, and begin recruiting and training the next crop of Trail Ambassadors. There are job announcements to post; applicants to screen, interview, hire and train; crosscut saws and other tools to get cleaned and sharpened for use in the backcountry; pre-season service to be done on our vehicle fleet; and summer interpretive hike and volunteer events to schedule.

But that's not all that occupies our Stewardship Director's time: In April, Earth Day is a HUGE event for us and other environmental organizations. For more than a decade, Friends of the Inyo's Stewardship Progam, has been collaborating with the Inyo County Office of Education and a number of other nonprofit and agency partners to deliver Round Valley Elementary's Earth Day Fair. Kids learn about ecology, recycling, composting, fire safety, local food sources for wildlife (including for migrating birds), responsible recreation in nature, and more! We take very seriously the training of young minds that could be inspired to become tomorrow's Ansel Adams, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson or Greta Thunberg.

And our Stewardship Staff also assists with "other duties as assigned" during FOI's participation in local Municipal and Tribal Earth Day celebrations, as well as the hosting of our own Owens Lake Bird Festival in Lone Pine.


As you can see, there is never (ever!) a dull moment in the Stewardship work of Friends of the Inyo: It is an “All hands on deck!”  (or rather, “All hands in the forest!”) type of operation. Our work is not financially supported by the U.S. Forest Service or any other public agency: We raise the money for our Stewardship Program entirely on our own. Costs are always rising, and the need for our services never goes down. Please consider becoming part of the solution by giving to support our work. Our staffing, equipment and vehicle maintenance, event hosting, outreach/education and other needs cost approximately $250,000 a year. Your tax-deductible donation can go a long way in helping to meet program needs.

Please give today in one of two ways:

  • Online by clicking on any of the photos in this appeal, or the link to the Donation page of our website, FriendsoftheInyo.org/Donate; or
  • By mail: Make your check payable to Friends of the Inyo and be sure to write “Stewardship Program” on the memo line, and mail it to Friends of the Inyo, 621 W. Line St., Suite 201, Bishop, CA 93514. 

Please receive our heartfelt thanks for your support.


Wendy Schneider, Executive Director

Lindsay Butcher, Stewardship Director 


Friends of the Inyo
621 W Line St Suite 201  | Bishop, California 93514
(760) 873-6500 | info@friendsoftheinyo.org

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