Inaugural grants awarded by the Connie Saylor Johnson Wilderness Education Fund | North West

Grangeville Elementary School and the Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute in Moscow are among the first recipients of a new wilderness grant program created in honor of the late Connie Saylor Johnson, longtime educator and champion of the wilderness of Idaho and Montana.

The Connie Saylor Johnson Wilderness Education Fund was established by Connie’s friends and family to honor her work in providing hands-on wilderness education experiences for people of all ages. The fund has grown steadily since Connie’s death in 2018, thanks to contributions from wilderness education supporters. The fund is administered by the Selway Bitterroot-Frank Church Foundation for which Connie served from 2009-2018 as a staff and board member.

The first round of $1,000 wilderness scholarships were awarded to five organizations in Idaho and Montana.

A grant was awarded to a team of teachers for grades two and three at Grangeville Elementary School for field trips to local natural ecosystems to learn about the wilderness.

A grant was awarded to the Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute in Moscow for supplies for an outdoor winter education program for students ages 6 to 12 to learn about leaving no trace camping, lighting the fire and wilderness survival.

Saylor Johnson, who lived in Nezperce, disappeared from a hunting camp where she worked as a cook in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area in October 2018. An extensive search by multiple local, state and federal agencies failed to identify find clues about her. disappearance, although his dog, Ace, returned to the Moose Creek ranger station about three weeks later.

In 2020, Saylor Johnson posthumously received the Connie G. Myers Wilderness Education Leadership Award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. in December for her work educating the public about the wilderness during her 13 years with the Forest Service as a ranger and 11 years in retirement as a full-time volunteer.

The other grant recipients are:

* The Pulaski Users Group in Hailey, Idaho, for a project to develop wilderness logs and information for trail restoration volunteers.

* One Stone Lab 51 in Boise to develop Untrammeled: A Deep Dive into Wilderness, an immersion course for high school students that includes a backpacking trip, readings and interviews.

* Helena Indian Alliance in Helena, Mont., for a weekend retreat for Indigenous Blackfeet Nation youth that will include a camping trip, skill building and conversations with elders.

Applications for next year’s grants will be open April 1 through October 31, 2022. Grants are open to any nonprofit organization, institution, individual, or ad hoc group working in wilderness education. More information can be found at

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