Contributed Article/Heidi Schewel-USDA Forest Service Coronado National Forest
Tucson – The Southwestern Region of the USDA Forest Service has placed emphasis on engaging youth to create connections with the Forest Service and the natural world. The Coronado National Forest embraces this concept as the “Sky Islands Children’s Forest.”
The Safford Ranger District has received funding to employ youth ages 14 to 25 as a means to form and strengthen connections to nature and the great outdoors, and to introduce them to national forest management. The District will offer opportunities for members of youth organizations to perform work on the Forest while earning money for their club or organization.
The District received $20,000 to be used by the end of the fiscal year (September 30). Each club or organization will receive $50 for each eight hours worked, driving time included. The money will fund 400 youth between now and September 30. To date, approximately 280 participants have been identified, with funding available for 120 additional young men and women.
The District has received grant funding of $17,250 for similar use next fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1. That amount will fund 345 young people. Additional funding is being sought to support up to 700 participants in Fiscal Year 2017. At this point, 125 people have been scheduled for next year leaving many opportunities for youth organizations to participate.
Work to be completed will be determined by the size and abilities of each work group. Projects may include, but are not limited to, construction of erosion-control rock check dams, hauling firewood to roads, stacking cut wood for pile burning, cleaning campgrounds and fire rings, and trails maintenance.
Interested youth organizations or clubs should contact Safford District Ranger Kent Ellett at (928) 348-1974 (desk) or (928) 965-4150 (cell), or contact him by email at email@example.com.
The Safford Ranger District has worked with youth over the years to accomplish valued work across the District. They would like to thank the Boys’ and Girls’ clubs of the Gila Valley for assistance with administration of this project, and for supporting this year’s trails maintenance crew of six young people.
Additionally, 15 young men and women have been employed for nine weeks this summer on the Youth Conservation Corps crew with support from the Gila Watershed Partnership, Freeport McMoran, and the Bureau of Land Management.
Through this work, participants not only complete projects which benefit the Forest. They also gain knowledge, technical skills, work ethics, team-building skills, and a sense of pride, accomplishment and ownership from their experiences, which links them to the land, the Forest and each other.