April 2014

Dear Environmental Advocate,

Because you are environmentally focused professionals, we thought you may be interested to know that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is kicking off “Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month” in a very big way. Invasive species feast on and infest America's agriculture, damage our parks and forests, wreck our gardens, and throw our ecosystem off balance. In an effort to reduce the threat of these "Hungry Pests," the USDA launched a national initiative to increase awareness of the issue and empower people to take action. 

We have a wealth of short & sharable videos, social media graphics, messaging and outreach materials on the Partner Tools page of the Hungry Pests website.  All materials are share and print-ready, easily downloadable, and available free of charge.  Additionally, the social media posts in the attached flyer are ready to be copied and pasted into your channels right now, with or without customization.

In addition, we have just rolled out these new outreach items:

1. A series of eye-grabbing, slightly eerie videos starring Vin Vasive, the anti-hero of USDA’s Hungry Pests program.  Vin is made up entirely of invasive pests, and he reveals—in a maniacal way—how he gets around in the things people move and pack.  Then USDA provides the voice of reason and explains how to defeat Vin and “Leave Hungry Pests Behind.”  See the first in the four-part series here: http://youtu.be/2iZda5T-ICg.

2. A USDA Blog: “Help USDA Stop Invaders that Could Devastate U.S. Crops and Forests”


3. A two-minute USDA TV feature: “Invasive Plant Pest and Diseases Awareness Month” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9jtiPtOtIU.

4. USDA press release: “USDA Empowers Citizens with the Knowledge to Prevent Invasive Pests” http://www.aphis.usda.gov/wps/portal/aphis/newsroom/news?1dmy&urile=wcm%3apath%3a%2FAPHIS_Content_Library%2FSA_Newsroom%2FSA_News%2FSA_By_Date%2FSA_2014%2FSA_04%2FCT_invasive_pest_month.

Please consider publishing this content and taking advantage of other related outreach opportunities throughout April and beyond.  Scientists estimate that invasive species cost the United States approximately $120 billion a year.  The stakes for our crops, forests, and economy are extremely high.  Feel free to reach out with any questions about the campaign.



United States Department of Agriculture

I recently took a Wilderness First Aid course in Jacksonville, Florida. Phil Hart and Deane Hodde are without a doubt two of the most amazing instructors I have ever encountered. The evaluation sheet provided did not allow me to give the appropriate feedback these course instructors deserved.


I currently work as an industrial corporate photographer for Siemens in the Americas region. I enjoy taking various courses to gain experience in different fields while acquiring new skills . The various courses I have taken range from ACA Kayak/Canoe coaching, National Geographic Photography School to Critical Rescue workshops. All of these classes are beneficial since my job requires me to climb wind generator towers that are located in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean and in the mountains of Oregon and Washington. Of all the classes I have taken in the last 15 years, I have never met a team of teachers that compliment each other so well together. Not only was I impressed by the experience they brought to the class, but I was amazed at the overwhelming enthusiasm and commitment level they displayed throughout the week. I am convinced that there is no better way to learn than to simply enjoy what you are learning.  I wish that my certification was only good for 6 month instead of 2 years so that I would have an excuse to take the class again in the near future. I look forward to taking more courses with Landmark Learning!


Thank you for the experience,

Gil Hidalgo

Rob and Kevin just finished a springtime course at the Landmark Learning base in Cullowhee and had a small class of 11 eager students.  Thanks for a great week!  WFR student Jenna Gosa from Atlanta shared her experience:

I am extremely grateful for having the opportunity to earn my WFR at Landmark Learning.  I have always thought about a career as an EMT or Paramedic but am currently content working as an outdoor educator at an adventure based camp.  Earning my WFR allowed me to gain basic knowledge of wilderness medicine and apply that to my current career. The Landmark base in Cullowhee, NC was serene and beautiful.  We were tucked away between small mountains next to a creek and had plenty of space to play, cook, and hang out.  We had a small class of 11 students and we quickly became a small family over our 9 day course.  We were only 10 minutes from the town of Sylva and frequently went out for dinner and random grocery or personal needs.  Class was intense with a wealth of information but the instructors different teaching styles kept us engaged with a variation of lectures, videos, scenarios, and role playing.  We also had structured guided practice with newly aquired skills such as splinting.  Our instructors,Rob and Kevin, were outstanding.  The are both extremely knowledgeable and absolutely hilarious.  The told many stories from their experiences which is always helpful.  I had no previous knowledge of wilderness medicine and felt comfortable with the pace of the curriculum.  I am extremely ecstatic to go back home and brag about my new certification.  I may even check some vitals and splint some arms!


Jenna Gosa

Climbing and mountaineering are inherently dangerous of course, but for those of us that hold climbing dear to our hear, it is painful to hear of tragedies of this magnitude. We could be looking at the biggest, certainly one of the biggest accidents in the history of climbing Everest.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to the climbers and sherpas, those potentially still entrapped, the rescuers heading up to help, and the families that are required to stand by with questions and scant information as the rescue develops. To read the developing story, click on the link below.



With sub freezing temps in the wake of an ice storm on course start morning the stage was set for an adventurous 9 days of Wilderness Medicine in the shadow of Table Rock Mountain at the historic North Carolina Outward Bound TR Base camp.  Eleven students in the midst of a 50 day outdoor leader course with OB were joined by eleven students from the general public to form a well rounded and diverse class.  Students hailed from all over the US as well as Mexico, Columbia, Sweden and China! 

Over the course of the eight days that followed instructors Scott and Rob kept the students on their toes and out over their skis with a mix of lessons and scenarios to help them develop the critical thinking, decision making and medical prowess necessary to deliver exceptional patient care in remote and challenging environments. 

In addition to the rain, wind, ice and snow the course was highlighted by a mass casualty scenario at the Balance slab requiring the students to work as a team and face challenging triage and evac decisions with limited equipment and resources available to them.  Then, a few days later they were tested again in much smaller groups as unforeseen emergencies presented themselves under the cloak of darkness on the eastern rim of the Linville gorge.

All and all the course was a tremendous success. By late afternoon on the 26th, 21 brand new Wilderness First Responders were sent out into the world ready to use the skills they had worked so hard to acquire should the situation arise. 



Rob and Dan recently finished the March Wilderness First Responder class at the Landmark Learning base.  The instructors and students experienced some serious spring fever with the predictably unpredictable mountain weather starting with snow and transitioning into beautiful sunny days.   Students came from as far as Alaska, but we had an unusually strong local representation from right here in Jackson country, North Carolina.  Thanks for a great week everybody!  We're looking forward to hearing some WFR stories from our latest bunch!

“It’s about having different tools, so when one tool fails you have another one,” said Justin Padgett, instructor for the swift water rescue course and co-founder of Landmark Learning, the Cullowhee-based outdoor training school administering the course. “A lot of what we do is to help our students develop judgment, and they develop judgment with experience.” Recently, Holly Kays interviewed Justin Padgett and wrote an article "Climbing to the top: Local school a hub for outdoor training", featured in the Smoky Mountain News.

This article describes some of the hands-on experiences that students delve in to during a typical Landmark course and outlines Landmark's mission for the school and vision of it's capabilities. Check out the entire article here.


Instructors Justin Padgett "Padj" and Justin Doroshenko "Doro", were proud to visit and teach the researchers and field technicians at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration office in Oakridge Tennessee.  These folks use their WFR on remote trips across the country to build, maintain and repair weather stations.  Most of these students are career folks with over 20 years doing what they do.  Extraordinary folks with a passion for meteorology and gizmos create data.  It's rewarding to teach folks that recognize prevention trumps medicine.  Smiles from Cullowhee, NC to our friends at NOAA.  


Justin Padgett was requested by the New York Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to conduct a presentation on the Landmark Learning Community Relief Medic program in Montour Falls, NY March 29-30, 2014.  It seems that the time is appropriate after what we have learned in large disasters since 2001.  The opportunity to expand the role of First Responders affiliated with Fire and Rescue services is here.  The Community Relief Medic training program promotes advanced refusal of care plans (disposition) and advanced decision making on the part of first responders to care for and make transport decisions with patients in the time of disaster. These first responders will serve as triage for Emergency Medical Services and potentially limit the number of persons taxing the resources of local and regional hospital systems.  We have to start locally with our fire district members who are the most available, live in their districts and are incredibly capable.  Around the county First Responder and EMT numbers compared to the number of paramedics is 10:1. In New York it is 15:1 - so it makes sense that we make better use of these human resources.   "We need to work smarter not harder in times of disaster."  

The first time that I ever heard of Landmark Learning was during a 6 week Americorps program while in Arizona. During my time there while participating in an outdoor leadership development, one of our assisgnments entailed detailing a plan for our short term goals. I was already apiring to start in the field of wildland/structural firefighter but I knew that training in EMS would greatly help me with both of those jobs. I also knew that I wanted to start down the path of a career that involved medicine, but was not sure on even when to get started. My Crewleader suggested that I begin by taking an EMT-Basic course. He spoke of Landmark Learning as a highly regarded NOLS affiliated program that was based in North Carolina. When I started investigating, I was thrilled to learn that Landmark also accepted Americorps vouchers. 


At the time, I was not able to envision the impact that Landmark would have on my life. Before getting started,  I was really nervous trying to anticipate all of the things that I would need to do to get started, but the office staff did an excellent job making the registration process painless.With no medical experience entering the program, I was able to be sucessful right away and found the first week of the EMT-Basic Intensive exciting and challenging. The campus where the course was taught was gorgous and the instructors were all incredibly good at their jobs. Our class turned into a little family over our three week stay there. I'll never forget any of them. Before I knew it, graduation was upon us. The instructors made sure that we were prepared to perform excellent EMS services before ending the session.

Since taking the class, everywhere I look I am able to see scenarios that we role played in class and I am cofident in the skills that I aquired at Landmark. Six months after recieving my National Registry EMT-B certification,  I am now one of three EMTs at a local volunteer fire department where I live. I am also currently enrolled in the paramedic program at my local community college. The time I spent at Landmark Learning has prepared me well and jump started my road to success. Thank you to everyone in the program that helped me get here!


-Anthony Gantenbein