The Arthur Carhart National Wilderness Training Center was established August 1993 to preserve the values and benefits of wilderness for present and future generations by connecting agency employees and the public with their wilderness heritage through training, information, and education. The vision for establishment of the Carhart Center can be largely attributed to Jim Bradley, staff to Congressman Bruce Vento, MN, 102d Congress, and the idea for a wilderness training center was articulated in 1992 in House Bill 4325. The bill stated that the purpose of the training center was to: 1) strengthen leadership in educating employees, other agencies and other nations on quality wilderness management, and 2) to educate the American people on wilderness laws and policies, values of wilderness, wilderness ecological processes and ways to minimize visitor impacts on the wilderness resource (HR 4325. 1992). Bradley established a close working relationship with John Twiss, then National Wilderness Coordinator for the Forest Service. Together, and with significant support from the Northern Region of the Forest Service, Lolo National Forest, and others, they successfully built a shared vision for establishment of a national wilderness training center among Congress and field-going, regional and national level wilderness managers.
In keeping with Bradley's vision, the Center was named in commemoration of Arthur Carhart and located at the Ninemile Ranger Station and Remount Depot, outside Missoula, Montana. Arthur Carhart was a Forest Service landscape architect who in late 1919 became the first official in a land management agency to advocate for the designation of wilderness. Ninemile Ranger Station and Remount Depot is an historic Forest Service facility having provided leadership in fire fighting and wildland stewardship training since 1932. Start up funding for the Center was provided by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management and staff was limited to a director, a part time wilderness technician and shared administrative support - all Forest Service employees. Products and services were limited to one training course and a mix of varied, loosely related activities including production of wilderness displays and support materials. A highly passionate and dedicated group of volunteers from the field were instrumental in helping the organization develop initial products and services. Interagency communication was practically nonexistent.
The Carhart Center has grown from its original staff of one and a half Forest Service employees to an interagency staff of seven with representatives from the Bureau of Land Management, Fish & Wildlife Service, Forest Service and National Park Service. Each of these agencies contributes funding in support of the organization. Using an interagency team approach, the staff works with experts within and outside the agencies to develop comprehensive interagency solutions to critical wilderness stewardship issues. Achieving interagency staffing, funding, and product development has been and continues to be one of the most demanding, challenging and rewarding accomplishments of the Center. The interagency development of products and services highlights what are sometimes significant cultural, legal and operational differences between the wilderness stewardship agencies and it takes longer to work through these differences than it would if a single agency stepped out on their own. Despite these challenges, the Center remains firmly committed to an interagency approach as the process and the final products generate increased consistency and continuity in wilderness stewardship within and between the four agencies and across the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS). These interagency efforts move us ever closer to forging an integrated and collaborative system of wilderness across the four agencies.