The Youth Conservation Corps provides great summer jobs and serves a valuable role on our national forests
In 1971, the Ochoco National Forest hosted its first Youth Conservation Corps program; thirty-five years later, `YCC' is still strong and thriving in central Oregon. Over the past ten years, more than 400 young people from communities surrounding the Ochoco National Forest have participated in the program, gaining job skills, earning wages and learning about the natural environment.
YCC is modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, and the objective is to increase leadership skills, work ethic and employability of participants, as well as to rehabilitate, restore and enhance ecosystems and watersheds on the Ochoco National Forest. A very important aspect of the program is that it takes young adults from all social, economic and racial backgrounds and places them on crews together where they learn to work as a team and to take personal responsibility for their own success in the program.
Working in partnership with Heart of Oregon Corps, Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, and Oregon Youth Conservation Corps, we have developed a program that annually employs more than 50 youth in Crook and Jefferson counties to accomplish a wide variety of stewardship activities on national forest lands. We will have nine crews in operation on the forest this year. They will be maintaining hiking trails, reducing hazardous fuels, pulling noxious weeds, constructing fences around riparian areas and thinning juniper trees.
Our Forest and National Grassland provide an exciting and scenic work environment for youth. Activities such as constructing a hiking trail instill a strong sense of accomplishment, and participants can feel pride in seeing measured, long-lasting results from their efforts.
Hands-on science education is an important element of the program as well; it helps the crewmembers make the connection between their work projects and the value of that activity to the health of the land and the ecosystem. This summer, crews will assist fishery biologists, botanists, wildlife biologists and hydrologists in monitoring specific sites on Trout Creek, conducting culvert surveys and plant and wildlife surveys, removing noxious weeds in riparian zones, maintaining and constructing riparian exclosures, and other associated work. All activities will enhance habitat for steelhead and red band trout present in the watershed and for reintroduced spring Chinook salmon in 2008.
There is still time to apply for this summer's program. Applications are available at the local high schools and at the Ochoco National Forest headquarters. They must be submitted by April 27th. Applicants must be between 16 and 18 years of age.
I consider YCC an important and vital program on our forest. Not only does it provide a great summer job for young men and women, it benefits our individual communities and enhances our public lands for all to enjoy. When you total that up, everyone wins!