With summer on the horizon, National Forests and Grasslands in Texas are preparing for the return of the Tribal Youth Conservation Corps program, which provides young people, ages 16-18, hands-on work experience and educational opportunities in nature.
“We are seeking young people who want to learn more about their ancestral lands and connecting with the natural resources that have helped tribes maintain their traditions, beliefs and lifestyle for generations,” said Krista Langley, a regional USDA Forest Service volunteer specialist and a citizen of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas. She helped launch this partnership in 2022.
“We want to inspire the next generations who will steward our public lands,” said Langley. “We have to think about who will manage these resources as we look forward.”
In the first year, teenagers learned about fire management, wildlife, timber and recreation management. For example, they “learned about longleaf pine restoration because longleaf is a culturally significant tree to the Alabama-Coushatta people,” said Langley. She noted that tribal members use longleaf pine needles to create woven baskets with intricate designs.
“In getting the youth to connect with the land, it helps carry the knowledge forward,” she said. “It allows them to apply forestry practices and share what they learn with their tribal communities.”
In addition to strengthening the connection between the Forest Service and the tribe, this program introduces tribal members to how the Forest Service manages nature.
“This experience could encourage someone to pursue an education or career in forestry,” said Langley. “It broadens their awareness of what the Forest Service does.”
This summer participants will learn about infrastructure projects for recreation. “This year, we’re focused on trail maintenance and recreation site refurbishments that will benefit visitors,” said Langley. “We want to improve visitor safety and, hopefully, bolster local economies near the forests by increasing visitation to the recreation sites.”
Kimpton Cooper, forest supervisor of the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas, said that hosting the tribal crews created a deeper connection between the tribe and the Forest Service.
The program is hosted in partnership with American Youthworks, an organization that provides young people with opportunities to build careers, strengthen communities and improve the environment.
Recruiting for the 2023 program is happening now, with work scheduled to begin in early June. Applications should be completed by May 26, 2023. To apply for opportunities with American Youth Works, go to this website:
For more information about Forest Service Youth Conservation Corps: https://www.fs.usda.gov/working-with-us/opportunities-for-young-people/youth-conservation-corps-opportunities.