Eight area high school students made an impact on the ground this summer for the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG). Through the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) program, four students from Montrose, one student from Delta and three students from Grand Junction spent their summer re-routing and maintaining hiking trails, restoring impaired watersheds and wetland sites, creating check dams to improve wildlife habitat, dismantling poorly placed campfire rings and tent sites in wilderness areas — all while getting exposure to various natural resource careers with the Forest Service.
These teens, ages 16-18, were part of two YCC crews employed by the forest for the summer.
The YCC has introduced young Americans to conservation opportunities on public lands since the program was created in 1970. YCC members work federal lands restoring, rehabilitating, and repairing natural, cultural and historical resources. Typical projects include fence construction, invasive plant removal, trail maintenance, campsite restoration, habitat preservation, and visitor use assistance — just to name a few. Many employees working in land management agencies today were first introduced to their profession through the YCC.
This is the first year the Ouray Ranger District has organized a YCC crew, while the Grand Valley Ranger District has hosted a crew for the past few summers. "These kids are hardworking and enthusiastic and help us get more projects accomplished during the summer while getting first-hand experience in natural resources management," said district ranger Tammy Randall-Parker.
Grand Junction crew members Logan McGovern, Josh Padilla and Jose Rodriquez spent their summer working alongside a seasonal trail crew. Together, they were able to reroute the Kannah Creek trail and maintain other trails on the Grand Valley Ranger District. "This is a great way to get your foot in the door and show that you can do the job," said former YCC crew member Hunter Longcarich. Longcarich and Casey Dorsett, another former YCC crew member, were hired by the Forest Service to work on trail crews this summer.
"This is about the fifth time we hiked the Blue Lakes trail," said Andrew Maher, the leader of the Ouray Ranger District YCC crew. "After heavy rains, we need to remove debris and trees blocking the trail. The kids are getting pretty good at using picks, shovels and handsaws," he added. As crew leader, Maher schedules the projects and organizes the logistics. He places a big emphasis on safety with tail gate safety discussions each morning.
Clayton Beutler, a senior at Montrose High School, enjoyed working with the Ouray Trail Group maintaining trails outside of town. "We get a chance to interact with the public and I like that," he said. Nayeli Zavala, a 16-year-old from Montrose, spent many days improving trails and building water check dams. "I probably wouldn't spend much time in the forest if I was not on the YCC crew," she said. "I like learning new things," she added.
The Ouray Ranger District YCC crew spent a few days working with other Forest Service field crews including the timber, trail, watershed and range crews. Levi Wrich, a Delta High School student, hopes to pursue a career in natural resources so this summer job was a perfect opportunity. "After marking trees for the Smokehouse timber sale, I have a better idea of what a timber job is all about," he said.
What was their most memorable part of the summer so far? Beutler recalls hearing an aspen tree fall, "that was pretty cool." Dana Shellhorn, another Montrose student, quickly added, "I was pretty excited to see a moose and a boreal owl." During the 10-week summer program, the students worked on various projects in all five of the ranger districts within the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests.blog comments powered by Disqus