Student Trail Crew assists in Moonlight Fire Restoration

Students Trail CrewQUINCY, Calif. – High above the floor of Indian Valley, near the town of Taylorsville in the Plumas National Forest, the rhythmic sound of picks and shovels displacing earth echoes across the tree-covered slopes of Keddie Ridge. Downhill from charred acreage impacted by the 2007 Moonlight Wildfire, high school students are hard at work, rebuilding a trail altered by landslides.

Plumas National Forest is continuing a productive partnership with the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship Student Trail Crew in the form of a conservation and mentoring program that benefits both forest infrastructure and the students’ lives.

The partnership identifies trails in need of clearing or other improvements, and then completes the work while teaching high school students the profession of trail maintenance, according to Michele Jimenez-Holtz, an education liaison and fire restoration coordinator for the Mt. Hough Ranger District of the Plumas National Forest. Students also learn the mandates of “Leave No Trace” camping, wilderness survival skills, leadership skills, team-building, and personal responsibility.

“We teach them responsibilities like cooking their own meals and cleaning up camp,” said Lathecia Watson, a crew leader for the Student Trail Crew. “They learn a lot of respect for themselves.”

Watson was a participant with the Student Trail Crew for two years before she was hired as a crew leader. She traces her enthusiasm for the forest to her Maidu ancestry and her family’s love for outdoor activities.

“I felt at home on the trail crew the first day I came out for orientation, my first year,” said Watson, a student at Feather River College, majoring in environmental studies and forestry. “I really think this program has changed me—it’s made me a better leader.”

For Michael Fowler, a student crew member from Quincy, the program provides an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors while making a difference. During this year’s iteration, Fowler and his colleagues have repaired and reconstructed portions of both the Peters Creek Trail in Plumas National Forest and the Soda Springs Trail in Lassen National Forest.

“It would be amazing to be a trail crew leader next year,” said Fowler. “This is the best way I can think of to spend my summer.”