Meet Megan: WWA’s New California Stewardship Manager

Please join us in welcoming and learning more about Megan Fiske (she/her/hers), our newest team member!

Photo courtesy Megan Fiske

(6/26/2024)

Megan Fiske is a biologist and activist who has worked as a Backcountry Ambassador for Winter Wildlands Alliance (WWA), and Outreach Coordinator for Calaveras’ Community Action Program (CAP), and Watershed Management Instructor for the Yosemite Community College District (YCCD). Starting July 2024, she will be taking over WWA’s California Stewardship Manager position. 

How did you get into environmental fieldwork, and what prompted you to move into nonprofit and advocacy work?

“I started as a biological technician for the Forest Service, but after five seasons, I was hired by a local grassroots nonprofit. I got involved over a proposal to expand a water bottling operation on the National Forest, and I haven’t stopped engaging in advocacy since. It has always been a part of who I am. In the sixth grade, I circulated a petition to allow students the option to snowboard on the school ski trip (back when people strongly believed that snowboarding was more dangerous than skiing). Even though every student signed it, they still didn’t let us snowboard that year, but I didn’t let that discourage me. I didn’t end up going on the ski trip, or getting on a snowboard until I was 26, but I got there eventually!” 

Can you tell us how you first got into splitboarding, and what about it drew you in?

“I wanted a way to get outside in the winter, so I bought myself some snowshoes. That allowed me to start tagging along with some local backcountry folks and ultimately inspired me to learn to snowboard. I bought a season pass at the local resort and dedicated myself to learning to ride. At the end of my first season, I bought my first splitboard. The idea that I could enjoy such exhilaration as dropping into fresh lines in the solitude of the backcountry really drew me in. The last day of my first season riding, I carried my board and an overnight pack on snowshoes to spend a night in the sidecountry. It was very empowering to get out into these landscapes that used to seem so inaccessible, and do it in a way that was a ton of fun too!”

Photo by Stan Dodson

Photo by Stan Dodson

How can others get involved in advocacy work?

“I really encourage folks to connect with their local, grassroots nonprofits. Getting involved can look like anything from learning to use the RIMS app to help collect data for WWA to volunteering your technical skills for website support to showing up at public meetings and writing letters. Grassroots nonprofits are always stretched thin, and there are more ways to get involved and help than you could imagine.” 

What does being a Backcountry Ambassador for Winter Wildlands Alliance entail? Why is it important?

“Collecting winter recreation data and assisting with placement of educational signs on US Forest Service (USFS) lands seems to be the most important role that a Backcountry Ambassador can currently fill. They can also be a good resource for providing information to winter users who are new to an area. Since USFS staff are often limited in winter and primarily stay in the parking lot and on groomed trails, a Backcountry Ambassador can make it possible to monitor areas outside of that limited scope. This can involve getting out on backcountry skis/splitboard, or on a snowmobile to reach more remote areas of concern. Maintaining strong communication and a positive working relationship with USFS staff is also important so that recreation issues can be identified and addressed promptly.” 

What is the most difficult and most enjoyable part of being a WWA Backcountry Ambassador?

“The most difficult challenge of being ambassador I don’t encounter often, but it is trying to educate folks who aren’t receptive and are defensive. The most enjoyable part is sharing the stoke with folks on the snow.”

What support does winter recreation on public lands in California still need going forward?
  • “Improved parking and access for backcountry users to access public lands in winter.”
  • “Minimizing littering, pet waste, illegal parking, and user conflicts along backcountry routes.”
  • “Creating more equitable access by establishing areas for all users, including users that engage in snowplay (families with plastic sleds, making snowmen, etc.). This creates access disparities for families and people coming to the mountains from city areas or populations who want to engage with the snowy mountains but don’t have the means to be a part of winter sports such as skiing or snowmobiling. Encouraging the Forest Service to serve these often underrepresented populations will help create equal access for all.”
  • “Bringing winter recreationists together through avalanche education and expanding avalanche forecasting.”
Favorite close to home winter spot?

“Sonora Pass.”

Email Megan at mfiske@winterwildlands.org for more info.