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Youth Corps Program Investing in the Future

Youth Corps Program Investing in the Future

Youth Corps Program Investing in the Future

For a small collection of area teenagers, the Clearwater Basin Youth Conservation Corps program presented an eye opening experience this past summer.

Twenty area youth between the ages of 16 and 19 recently completed eight weeks of training and employment through the Clearwater Basin Youth Conservation Corps (CBYCC) program.

The CBYCC program builds on the familiar Youth Conservation Corps and Idaho Youth Conservation Corps programs. It was initiated in 2013 when the Clearwater Basin Collaborative, Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests and Idaho Department of Labor became partners developing a youth program responsive to legislation authorizing the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP). That language encouraged CFLRP participants to provide local employment or training opportunities for youth.

“Individually none of us could have pulled this together. It took a true group effort to make this happen,” explained Tera King, Clearwater Basin Collaborative coordinator for the effort.

Program participants were recruited by the Idaho Department of Labor in May. After an interview and selection process, they were assigned to one of four work crews—two in the Kooskia area and single crews in Grangeville and Orofino.

In June, the crews began an intensive training and work program designed to expose participants to an array of natural resource careers and experiences. Entry level forest work was provided and overseen by the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management and Idaho Firewise. The program was administered by Framing our Community and the Clearwater Resource and Conservation Development (RC&D) program.

It’s all about teamwork on a trail clearing operation.

Crews participated in a well-rounded program featuring lessons and work experience in the fields of silviculture (the growing and cultivation of trees), engineering, aquatic habitat and stream monitoring, and wildlife habitat monitoring and restoration. They also learned about the importance of defensible space, removing vegetation to create firebreaks. Members received instruction regarding maintenance needs at recreation sites and worked to spruce up some the area’s beloved sites including Lookout Butte, Hemlock Lookout, the Lochsa Historic Trail and the Lewis and Clark Trail.

“They get so much out of it,” said crew leader Nat Davis, who said working in this capacity has been personally very rewarding.

“This year’s crew really jelled,” he said. The program is transformative for young people, he explained. “They come into it timid and unsure. They don’t even know what questions to ask. What you observe week to week is confidence building and team building.

Everybody lets their guard down and see the possibilities of what we can get done. It’s an eye opening experience.

“He said the morale and camaraderie amongst the group was excellent. “They didn’t complain hardly ever,” he noted, despite being worked hard.

Crew leader Melanie Martinez agreed. “Over the course of the season, I noticed my crew support one another and encourage each other.

“The benefits to participants of a YCC crew are many; crew members gain self-esteem, learn work ethic, discover unique talents, learn to use various tools, learn problem solving skills, gain appreciation for public lands and stewardship of them, earn money, learn time management, preparedness and responsibility. Along with all of this, the crew experience our beautiful Idaho wilderness and avenues to natural resource careers.”

The program gives youth a taste of everything and encourages critical thinking on how to manage the land. It also motivates youth to look beyond where they are and the possibilities of a career in any number of fields, explained Davis. “By the time they get done you have a graduate who is tailored to what professionals are doing out of college.”

At the conclusion of the program all participants received instruction in and building a resume. Most of all, they appreciated the opportunity to do “real work.”

The program officially concluded Aug. 6 with a celebration of accomplishments. On Aug. 7 a committee met to evaluate the 2015 program and begin planning for 2016, a year King hopes will see an even better program with diversified funding and more partners.

Individuals who are interested in the continuation and improvement of this youth program can donate to the Clearwater Basin Youth Conservation Corps program through the Clearwater RC&D website: www.clearwaterrcd.org/donate.

-Article taken from Clearwater Progress, Kamiah, Idaho  August 13, 2015

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