Wilderness Agency Partner of the Year Award presented to Beth Boyst

California’s High Sierra harbors some of the most sublime scenery on earth – no doubt this region’s wilderness areas exemplify America’s reasons for creating protected areas. The John Muir Trail winds over the often-snowy High Sierra crest—the original section of the Pacific Crest Trail which helped inspire the other 2,400-some miles.

This year, I am overjoyed to report that Beth Boyst, the U.S. Forest Service PCT Administrator and close friend of the Pacific Crest Trail Association, was awarded Wilderness Agency Partner of the Year by the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance (NWSA) for her supreme work in helping to steward the John Muir Trail section of the PCT. Over Beth’s 30-year Forest Service career, her commitment to and love of the PCT has been unmistakable.

Beth Boyst (left) with former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

As one would expect, thousands visit this spectacular place each year. Increased visitation results in challenges for land managers and presents complexities related to resource protection, visitor management and administration.

Imagine this: the JMT section of the PCT traverses four wilderness areas (Yosemite, Sequoia-Kings Canyon, Ansel Adams, and John Muir) and across five management units (Yosemite National Park, Devils Postpile National Monument, the Sierra and Inyo national forests, and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park). Additionally, at least four other national forests issue permits for sections of the JMT. This means, for example, one unit within the Department of Interior may issue a permit for Department of Agriculture lands, which could inadvertently increase crowding or break exit-quotas. Sound confusing? That’s because it is – incredibly.

Beth on a PCT project with crew members from the American Conservation Experience.

Beth, a tireless champion of partnerships, went above and beyond to gather wilderness managers from across the central Sierra to form the Pacific Crest Trail/John Muir Trail Collaborative. This group of managing partners, which includes the PCTA, confers on management issues across agency boundaries. The group provides a forum for the sort of in-depth teamwork that such a complex resource demands. Beth has brought wilderness managers from all of these units to one table, has facilitated our meetings herself and worked with researchers from Virginia Tech, Penn State, Humboldt State and California-Merced to ensure we are making data-driven decisions.

The tangible benefits of this collaboration are increased ongoing communications, integrated transboundary patrols (agency staff and volunteers), monitoring, mapping, educational efforts and a far better understanding of how permits are allotted across unit boundaries.

Basically, without Beth taking this on, the iconic John Muir Trail section of the PCT would still be managed by a disjunct conglomeration of individual agency units and partners, with less coordination and credence to varying missions and mandates.

One of our most exceptional and most emblematic wilderness trails has been made better by Beth’s vision of partnership.

Beth on her beloved PCT.

Author: Ben Barry

PCTA's Southern Sierra Regional Representative. Ben originally started with the PCTA as a volunteer in 2012, then returned as one of our Trail Crew Technical Advisors in 2015 and 2016. He became a permanent staff member in 2019. A native Californian, Ben traveled far and wide working on trails seasonally, including time on the Appalachian, Florida and New England National Scenic Trails. Most recently he was the trail manager for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s southern regional office. Ben graduated from Humboldt State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Natural Resources and did graduate work in wilderness management at the University of Montana. Happy to be back in his home state, Ben can be found climbing high in the Sierra or untangling his fly line on the banks of the Kern River.