Plumas National Forest trains teens to be forest caretakers

Student Trail CrewQUINCY, Calif. – Caring for the more than one million acres of scenic mountain lands in the Plumas National Forest takes an enormous amount of time and energy, which happen to be two things teenagers have in abundance.

A partnership between the forest and Plumas Conservation, Restoration and Education in Watersheds (P-CREW), aims to bring the enthusiasm and longevity of youth to bear on conservation efforts.

Every summer, the forest hosts collaborative efforts with community partners to teach high school students the fundamental skills of trail maintenance and construction, ecological restoration, fuels reduction, and wilderness survival. This is the first year of partnership between the forest and P-CREW, according to Michele Jimenez-Holtz, an education liaison and fire restoration coordinator for the Mt. Hough Ranger District of the Plumas National Forest.       “The students help us get a lot of work done on the ground,” said Jimenez-Holtz. “And we’re giving them an opportunity to learn about watersheds, ecology, and fire-adapted ecosystems.”

P-CREW is the result of coordination between Plumas National Forest and the Sierra Institute, pairing high school students from Plumas County with youth from Oakland and other cities in the San Francisco Bay area. During two five-week internships, a total of 24 high school students learn how to manage forest lands during the recovery period after wildfires. In addition to the knowledge they receive in forest management, the students claim the experience of building a team in a diverse, multicultural environment is invaluable.

“Everyone’s different, and it’s important to take other people’s needs into account, as well as your own,” said Owen Gleaton, a participant in P-CREW.

Eric Willadsen, an adult crew leader for P-CREW, believes the water resources in Plumas County have been the key to bringing the geographically and culturally diverse group together, because of the wider impact on northern California.

“The water in the Plumas National Forest is the drinking water for the Bay Area,” said Willadsen. “That’s been a huge connecting theme between the students from the Bay Area and the local students.”

In addition to studying water-related topics, the students of P-CREW have participated in numerous fuels reduction and noxious weed removal projects, achieved their CPR certifications, and surveyed owl and goshawk habitat with wildlife biologists.