USFS, BLM Hire Youth for Public Lands Conservation Jobs

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Funding in Alaska supports migratory bird studies and summer natural resource internships.

This program is putting youth to work on our nation's amazing public lands. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar recently announced that more than $1.4 million from the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management is available to fund conservation projects in 16 states. These projects will provide employment to more than 500 young people through innovative conservation jobs that will expose them to natural resources careers. Non-government organizations provided an additional $2.3 million for the projects.

Vilsack and Salazar made the announcement about the 20 projects along with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation as part of the foundation’s America’s Great Outdoors: Developing the Next Generation of Conservationists initiative - a new National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, USDA Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management initiative to provide grants for projects that are developing innovative conservation job opportunities for youth. Two of the 20 projects will take place in Alaska this summer.

Environment for the Americas, Inc., will collaborate with the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management on Celebra las Playeras (Celebrate Shorebirds), a comprehensive approach to engaging Latinos in natural resource careers and conservation action through internships. EFTA will recruit eight Latino interns (ages 18-25) from colleges and local communities to serve as role models and increase awareness of conservation issues and careers in conservation.

Youth who live near research sites will be given preference to help create long-term relationships between agencies and nearby Latino communities. The interns will engage in field research, training, and data collection at sites in California, Colorado, and Alaska where monitoring shorebird populations is a priority. The BLM and Forest Service will contribute $40,000 each to this project to bolster a grant of nearly $170,000.

In the second project, the University of Alaska, together with the BLM, the Forest Service, a local foundation and several corporations, will expand its Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program. The program will encourage high school and college age Alaska Native youth to pursue conservation careers via mentorship programs and hands-on internship opportunities.

Students will be teamed with practicing conservation professionals as field assistants for tree plantings and riparian/wetland restoration, shoreline restoration, fish sampling surveys, monitoring, and invasive plant removal projects. They will learn about careers available in natural resources management including administrative, economic/ financial, and science-based jobs.

“The Forest Service has employed interns from the ANSEP program for the past two summers,” said Alaska Regional Forester Beth Pendleton, “and last year we had interns on both the Chugach and the Tongass National Forests. This program provides some on-the-ground experience to complement the student’s classwork, and we get to host and mentor what might become a future employee. It’s a win-win program.”

The USFS and BLM will provide $50,000 each for this summer’s program while the University of Alaska provides $100,000 in matching funds.

These two projects were chosen because they have a strong connection to the Alaska’s 22 million acres of National Forest Systems forests and grasslands and the 75 million acres managed by the BLM.

The grants align with President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative to develop a 21st Century conservation and recreation agenda. The initiative also supports the premise that lasting conservation solutions begin with the American public. As part of the initiative, the administration made a commitment to engage young people in conservation and the great outdoors.

“This program is putting youth to work on our nation's amazing public lands,” Vilsack said. “With 80 percent of our country now living in urban areas, we need to continue to find opportunities for Americans to work, live and play on our forests and grasslands. The experiences and memories the participants will gain from these jobs will last a lifetime, and will launch many of them into natural resource careers.”

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