Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris

Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris naturalist guide Ash Tallmadge takes in the sights as she and her guests watch pronghorn sprint across Antelope Flats in 2019. The company’s founder, Jason Williams, recently helped develop a new guide certification program being offered through the University of Wyoming.

Prospective and early-career outdoor guides looking to add some credentials now have a new way to burnish their resumes through the University of Wyoming.

The Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources has launched a six-week online program that’s geared toward nondegree students whose profession has them guiding clients outdoors.

The curriculum targets no one profession in particular, but rather hunting, fishing, rock climbing, rafting, wildlife viewing, cycling, hiking, snowmobiling, ATVing, horseback riding, skiing and wildlife tour guides.

Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris owner Jason Williams was inspired to approach the University of Wyoming with the idea because he thought there was an empty niche for a broad-based training program targeting guides like those he employs.

“Basically, we as an industry, and as a company specifically, at Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris, have really been trying to professionalize our guides,” Williams said.

The only certification that cuts across disciplines that he’d encountered was wilderness medicine-focused.

“Beyond that, everything was kind of disparate and really specific to each type of guiding,” Williams told the News&Guide.

The noncredited, self-paced course costs $325 and takes approximately 32 to 40 hours spread over six weeks to complete. It’s a blend of videos, quizzes, short assignments and live instructions from a Jackson Hole resident, Whitney Caskey, who was hired on as the curriculum director of the University of Wyoming’s Guide Certificate Program. Caskey was also a part of the steering committee that was assembled to fine-tune Williams’ idea.

“We assembled and consulted with leaders in the guiding industry and federal land management agencies statewide to develop and test the course,” Dan McCoy, the University of Wyoming’s outdoor recreation and tourism management program coordinator, said in a news release.

The steering committee also consisted of LegacyWorks Group senior regional director Doug Wachob; wildlife tracker and ecologist Casey McFarland; Teton Science Schools educator Kevin Taylor; Grand Teton National Park concession management specialist Katy Canetta; and Yellowstone National Park interpretive specialist Dawn Webster. Williams was a part of the committee as well, representing businesses.

The committee steered the program away from a more narrow naturalist guide training curriculum that Williams initially envisioned. The program is not geographically specific to Wyoming or anywhere in particular, and skills learned are designed to be useful whether the guided activity is on the water, in the backcountry or on the road.

The guide certificate program imparts participants with teaching techniques, basic naturalist and risk-management skills, and it also incorporates diversity, equity and inclusion training. Williams is partway through taking the class himself and said he’s found it “really well done” and useful.

“I’d say I’m more on the progressive front of seeking education, but I’ve never been exposed to DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] concepts in a guide setting,” Williams. “It just makes total sense that guides should have a brief exposure to those concepts.”

Classes for the certificate are next being offered from May 17 to June 25.

The certification does not expire, but in order for it to be valid students must have and maintain a wilderness first aid or wilderness first responder accreditation, Williams said.

“Basically, we as an industry, and as a company specifically, at Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris, have really been trying to professionalize our guides.” — Jason Williams Jackson hole wildlife safaris

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067 or env@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them since 2012. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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