I am writing to invite applications to the Steger Wilderness Center Residents Program, described below, for this coming summer of 2018.

Please pass along this letter to anyone you think may be interested in applying and/or feel free to post this letter where appropriate applicants can see it.

The Steger Wilderness Center is located ten miles northeast of Ely, Minnesota, on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness which, with the bordering Canadian Quetico, is the largest contiguous, motor-less canoe area in the world.

The Steger Center, founded with the dual goals of providing applied education through partnerships with technical and training schools; and serving as a convening center to address critical human and environmental needs, occupies 240 acres of glaciated bedrock ridges, wetlands, and Pickett Lake.

Since its inception in 2004, the Steger Wilderness Center Residents Program has grown to eight Residents in 2017. We have openings for eight Residents in 2018.

Essential Features of the Residents Program:

Role of the Residents Program

  • Residents play a central role in the life of the Steger Center, communicating and embodying the Center’s values to everyone who works at or visits the Center.
  • Residents are committed to sustainability in all aspects of their work and life at the Steger Center.
  • Residents work collaboratively in forest management, carpentry, construction, and the regular welcoming and hosting of visitors to the Steger Center.
  • Residents lead the creation of community within their own Residents Program and throughout the Steger Center during the summer.
  • I live at the Steger Center during the summer and have daily contact with the Residents as we teach and mentor them in the work of the Center.

Three Months

The 2018 Program will run for three months from Monday, May 28, 2018, to Friday, August 31. We make reasonable scheduling accommodations to coordinate with our Residents’ education or work schedules.


Residents live in their own tents which they have freedom to pitch in designated areas of the Steger Center forest.


Residents are provided healthy, free meals weekdays prepared by a full-time cook at the homey Steger Wilderness Center Lodge which also serves as a computer work space, library, music room and informal gathering place.

Work Schedule

Residents typically work an 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. schedule. Regular two-day breaks are provided throughout the summer. Everyone works some evenings and some weekends to fulfill the Residents Program role of welcoming and seeing to the needs of day and overnight guests in connection with the Center’s program, fundraising and governance work.

Days Off

The Center encourages Residents to take advantage of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area during their days off. Loaner canoes and paddles are available for sign-out.


Swimming and canoeing are available on the Center’s Pickett Lake which is bordered by bedrock ridges and outcroppings. The sauna on Pickett Lake is available two days a week. The surrounding forest, wetlands and glaciated ridges provide a wild, peaceful daily setting.


$1000 for the summer.


For the first time in 2018, the Residents Program will have a Director that guides and schedules the work, serves as a teacher and mentor, and develops skill positions among the Residents.

To apply to the Residents Program:

  1. First, please study the website of The Steger Wilderness Center and the Role of the Residents Program as described in this letter.
  2. Send us an email letter with your full name; full contact information; date of birth (must be 18 to apply); resume; and the name, address, email address and telephone number of two references.
  3. Include in your letter a 100-200-word statement of why you think you would be a good choice as a 2018 Steger Center Resident.
  4. Send your letter and resume to
  5. Application deadlines:
    • Preferred Deadline: March 1, 2018. Applications received by March will be given priority.
    • Final Deadline: April 1, 2018.


Thank you,

Will Steger

Founder, The Steger Wilderness Center


Forming a nonprofit board is serious work and no different than forming any team. Once you commit to your team, there’s no turning back. The board members at the Wilderness Center are a team of extraordinary individuals with exceptional and diverse talents. They are Jerry Stenger, Kimball Knutson, Peter Wahlstrom, Julie Ristau, Melanie Waite-Altringer and Craig Tarr.

Whether assembling an expedition team or a board of directors, my process occurs in two stages. First, the initial founding members are friends I trust and have worked with closely over time. We know each other well and what to expect so there are no surprises.

I’ve never been all-knowing, so I rely on others to advise me. In forming the Center’s initial board, I turned to Jerry and Kim first. Both were on my founding board for Climate Generation. They’re like the keel of my ship. Sometimes I have a tendency to take a few risks. As close advisors, they help me keep my keel in the water.

I’ve had a 10-year working relationship with Peter. From the beginning, he has been completely committed to the Center’s vision. He is always there for me and I draw a lot of strength from him. He’s a special advisor.

Board chair Julie Ristau came to the Center through Kim. I couldn’t believe my good fortune in meeting someone of Julie’s caliber. Furthermore, she was interested in being on the board. I’ve only met one other person with her top-level organizational and leadership skills. Early on at the Center, she served as a consultant in forming the nonprofit and tended to the detail work. She has an incredible gift as an advisor. She’s like my other half.

With the initial board members in place and a clear vision established, we begin the second stage. We seek people who have areas of expertise and compatible personalities that align themselves with the Center’s mission.

Craig is a brilliant engineer. That’s a complete relief to me because I’m not; the heating and electrical systems had become a burden. Now, he coordinates all energy systems at the Center. I also learn a lot from his ability to organize and chart out a complex situation.

Melanie is a strong educator, a real doer and on the pulse of sustainable energy education. She’s also well connected with important players in the energy industry. Those two assets are priceless for a new board and organization.

The board’s dedication to the Center, its mission and enhancing the environment are stellar strengths of the Wilderness Center. Here’s an opportunity to know the board as individuals. All six of their profiles are featured in this newsletter.


The departure point of this year’s solo will be 150 travel-miles northeast of Ely, Minnesota, in northwestern Ontario. I’ll start at Burchell Lake, the headwaters of the Waweag River. It features small creeks and streams that gradually increase in volume as the Waweag flows into Kawnipi Lake in the northeast sector of Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park.

I chose this route because it offers the greatest challenge and the best opportunity to build new skills. The spring thaw appears to be under way in the North, which makes these rivers quite dangerous. They present a combination of thin, unpredictable ice with flowing current underneath. I expect the first part of the expedition to be slow and tedious.

Once on Kawnipi, my route will take me over rivers and lakes as they begin break-up. I expect to return to my cabin north of Ely around April 10th.

You can follow this year’s adventure with me at this link. Each night, I’ll transmit reports via satellite phone and share my present location on Google maps. There will be a lot of unknowns along the way. I look forward to checking in with you.

Will Steger

Follow the expedition, click here for live updates: