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Youth Conservation Corps summer program on national forest changes lives

VALLEJO, Ca. — The Mount Shasta McCloud Management Unit of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest hosted the Youth Conservation Corps program for local area youth for the 42nd year.

Participants in this popular summer program, which runs from July through mid-August, compete via lottery for 24 coveted positions where they will earn $10.50 per hour and work 40-hours per week. Crewmembers are 15 to 18 years old, and for most, this is their first job. But it’s unlike most jobs as it provides the freedom of being outdoors. Crewmembers work on locations both in the forest and in their local communities. Participants are also given the opportunity to come back for a second year as youth crew leaders—this year, two came back to lead their peers.

In seven short weeks, they learn skills such as teamwork, trail building, invasive species removal, seed collecting, tree planting, painting, basic construction, and are even given a basic course on firefighting.

It’s hard work, but there are rewards. Participants go on field trips to local businesses like sawmills, tour the Redding Smokejumper Base and Shasta Dam, and at the end of hot days sometimes get to cool off by swimming at Lake Siskiyou. Camaraderie and friendships are built along the way.

Many hope to move on to careers using the skills they learn—two of this year’s participants have already submitted applications to be firefighters with the Forest Service. “We are happy to see the full circle of these young people wanting to come and work for us after their positive experience on the crew,” said Jon Dove, YCC program coordinator.

“The skills and work ethic that YCC crew members learn during their tour are invaluable. This program changes lives and creates future leaders,” added Marcus Nova, assistant recreation officer.

A line of young men and women in hard hats and firefighting gear march along a dirt trail.
Youth Conservation Corps members march to their field day portion of the “Basic 32” wildland fire basic training class on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. Forest Service photo by Jon Dove.
A line of young men and women wearing hard hats use firefighting tools to cut a line in a forest.
Youth Conservation Corps members learn to cut a fire line on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest during their field day portion of the “Basic 32” wildland fire basic training class. Forest Service photo by Jon Dove.