HELENA — Two different Forest Service summer programs not only provide great experience and fun, but the possibility of kickstarting a career in nature preservation and conservation.
“I truly believe it's important that everybody has an interest and really understands the value of these forest lands because they're the folks who are going to be voting and making the decisions that impact those lands,” says Liz Burke, Conservation Educator on the Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest, and the Program Manager for the Youth Forest Monitoring Program.
The monitoring program works with high school students to not only learn about forest ecology, but also work to monitor forest health and engage with natural resource professionals. The program has been active for over two decades and gathers data that is used by the Forest Service.
The Conservation Corps program is for 15-18-year-olds who are interested in conservation work in the White Sulphur Springs Ranger District. The participants will work on jobs such as trail maintenance, campground maintenance, fence building, and painting.
Many of the teens who work in these kinds of programs go on to work either with the forest service or in related fields. Liz Burke tells me that, in fact, six of her coworkers were actually in the same monitoring program.
And that according to their most recent survey over 60% of former participants in the monitoring program are working in a related field.
Mike Kaiser, Fire Management Officer for the Helena Ranger District, is one of those such people. He went into the monitoring program back in 2000 which helped provide direction into his work with the forest service.
“It provided a good steppingstone and a lot of good experience into the outdoor work and getting to know some of the people and getting to know the landscape around Helena," Kaiser said. "You get to see a lot of different resource areas and get a little taste of each one. And so, you know, I think it helps guide you to see where your interest truly lie,” says Kaiser.
The deadline to apply for the monitoring program is April 8 and April 15 for the Conservation Corps program.