NORTH CAROLINA – Strong community connections are crucial to training the next generation of forest managers to care for the nation’s forests and grasslands across borders and boundaries. Oconaluftee Job Corps Center in Cherokee, North Carolina, provides career pathways in natural resources for youth including young members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Oconaluftee is located on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is neighbored by the EBCI on the Qualla Boundary. Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and managed by the USDA Forest Service, Oconaluftee has an agreement with Cherokee Central Schools that allows tribal members to co-enroll as a resident or non-resident student.
For Oconaluftee Center Director Jim Copeland, shared stewardship of the forests that are an integral part of local communities meant encouraging students to become land managers and engaging community members in their training.
Oconaluftee recently welcomed Larry Blythe, former vice chief of the EBCI, as a Forestry Instructor. Blythe brings experience as a Forest Manager and Assistant Fire Management Officer and a lot of enthusiasm to Oconaluftee’s Fire and Forestry program, which trains students in fire management and timber cruising and marking.
“I am excited to be working with these young folks and support their growth and development as they pursue a career in forestry,” said Blythe.
Blythe provides students hands-on training in timber management on the National Forest in North Carolina, Savannah River Site, and other forests, with a focus on fostering productive and sustainable use of public lands.
Bringing together youth and communities to support the conservation mission of the Forest Service is made possible by USDA’s Agriculture Conservation Experienced Services Program. ACES provides non-federal experienced workers, age 55 and older, the opportunity to assist with conservation-related programs which impact National Forest System land.