Inspiring, empowering future conservation leaders in Minnesota

MINNESOTA—In July, the USDA Forest Service looks toward a bright, hopeful future and the next generation. We are working to recruit young people by making them aware of career opportunities within the Forest Service and natural resource fields of study.

A trip to July 11–14 trip to Minnesota’s Chippewa National Forest achieved just that.

Eight youth from the Twin Cities traveled about three hours north to explore natural resources careers, participate in service projects and enjoy fun recreational activities that abound in the national forest. They are associated with three youth employment organizations with a conservation focus (Minneapolis Parks, Green Team, Urban Roots and Urban Boat Builders).

The trip began with a tour of Itasca Community College and the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center in Grand Rapids. At ICC the youth learned about the two-year forestry technician program where graduates can either apply for technican jobs or move on to pursue a four-year forestry degree. At MIFC the youth saw wildland firefighting equipment that can be deloyed nationwide and Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl educational materials that are mailed to customers around the world.

The next day, they spent time with Chippewa National Forest’s recreation staff, who shared personal tesimonies about their jobs. They gave the group up close and personal experience with their day-to-day duties by leading them through brush to clear around the Clubhouse Lake campground and at the historic Joyce Estates.

They ended the day by experiencing the rewards of hard work in the recreation field—swimming and canoeing. It also included some survival skill training—the group learned how to work together in pairs to help right a canoe that had flipped over.

The last day, the youth had an opportunity to learn about another branch of the Forest Service—research—through a tour of the Marcell Experimental Forest near Grand Rapids. The experimental forest contains six experimental watersheds, each consisting of an upland portion and a peatland that is the source of a stream leaving the watershed. Each watershed has been instrumented to study the hydrology, nutrient and mercury cycling, and release of organic carbon and acidity. During the tour, the group learned about an experiment that measures spruce and peatland response under changing environments. The spruce forest and underground peat are subjected to five different temperatures and two increased carbon dioxide levels.

The hope is that connecting youth to the natural world around them will inspire a deep connection and desire to be stewards of the land in both an official and unofficial capacity.

Wilderness Inquiry was a key partner in making this trip possible. The organization provided excellent supervisory staff, meals and camping equipment, as well as transportation.

Photo: A group plays cards around a Smokey Bear bandana.
Members of the group took a break to play cards in the woods. Photo courtesy Wilderness Inquiry.

Photo: Young people stirring several pots of food in the woods.
The young people enjoyed the opportunity to cook their breakfast in the woods. Photo courtesy Wilderness Inquiry.