Excel as a High-Performing Agency

Discovery Camp shares the Forest Service with American Indian students

NEW MEXICO – The Work Environment and Performance Office and the Southwestern Region of the USDA Forest Service formally partnered with the Society for Range Management, the Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute, the Mescalero Apache Tribe and Animo Partnership in Natural Resources to offer a “Natural Resources Discovery Camp” to thirty-three American Indian students. The camp took place June 10-14 in Mescalero, New Mexico.

Participating students from SIPI, Mescalero High School and Tularosa High School were introduced to career paths through experiential activities with agency and tribal staff members. Students also engaged in problem-solving activities that helped them learn how they can apply science to the study of natural resources. Students were selected based on criterion developed by SRM, SIPI and the USDA Forest Service, including enrollment in natural-resources related academic programs at the postsecondary level, as well as high school students with an expressed interest in studying and working in the field of natural resources. Federal and Tribal employees assisted in hands-on curriculum designed to enhance student awareness in career paths related to range management, forestry, fire ecology, wildlife ecology, fisheries, recreation and soil science through presentations and field activities.

“I was so impressed with the caliber of students and their level of engagement,” said Jennifer Hickman, forest soil scientist with the Lincoln National Forest. Hickman, a registered member of the Navajo Nation and whose father is Mississippi Chocktaw remarked, “As a Native professional, it is endearing to see young Native students interested in pursuing natural resources careers.”

During the week-long camp, post-secondary institution partners from SIPI provided instruction in how to apply geospatial science to natural resource studies that helped students develop problem-solving skills. In addition to the field activities, “Tips for Jobseekers” workshops were conducted to familiarize students with careers in the USDA Forest Service, how to apply for federal positions on USAJobs, Pathways Program and third-party internships, and interviewing skills.  

The Natural Resources Discovery Camp was in direct alignment with Forest Service core values, affecting meaningful connection of ordinary Americans, particularly underrepresented minorities, to the land, to the Forest Service, and to efforts aimed at conserving our natural resources. As in all work-related matters, recognition of the interdependence between the Forest Service and the people and communities served was truly evident through productive and engaging discussions with representatives of the Mescalero Apache Tribe and the diverse students from various indigenous backgrounds who attend SIPI.

Instructor shares knowledge with students
Participants in the Natural Resources Discovery Camp learn from Larry Cordova, wildlife biologist at the Smokey Bear Ranger District, Lincoln National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.
Instructor shares knowledge with student out in the field
Jennifer Hickman, forest soil scientist with the USDA Forest Service, reviews burn severity mapping protocols with Chantell Victorino, SIPI freshman, at Soldier Canyon as part of the Natural Resources Discovery Camp. USDA Forest Service photo.
Speaker addresses crowd of gathered students
Arthur “Butch” Blazer, President of the Mescalero Apache Tribe and former USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment, welcomes students and federal partners participating in the Natural Resources Discovery Camp. USDA Forest Service photo.
Group photo
Students from the Mescalero Apache Tribe and Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute participated in a Natural Resources Discovery Camp in Ruidoso, New Mexico, June 10-14, 2019. USDA Forest Service photo.
Couple of students using a range finder out in the field
Andrea Hepting, first-year SIPI student from Acoma Pueblo, uses a range finder to collect data while classmate Levi Shije, Zia Pueblo, takes field notes at the Natural Resources Discovery Camp. USDA Forest Service photo.
Student studying a bullfrog
Mescalero High School junior Floyt Klinekole, studies a bullfrog near Red Cabin Pond during the Natural Resources Discovery Camp. USDA Forest Service photo.