Forest Stewards Youth Corps 2017

The Forest Stewards Youth Corps program has been on-the-ground supporting youth and public lands for over 20 years. Through the program, we’ve created opportunities for over 500 young people from rural communities – training them to work safely in forests and rangelands, decreasing fire risk, collecting monitoring data, removing invasive plants, protecting endangered species, and restoring streams. Through strong partnerships with the USDA Forest Service, the New Mexico Youth Conservation Corps Commission, and many other supporters (large and small), we connect young people with adult mentors, job skills, and career and education opportunities, while earning a paycheck and college credit.

Every year Youth Corps Members count on support from forest stewards like YOU.  Can you help us inspire more youth and conserve even more forested acres by contributing today?

Communities in rural, northern New Mexico experience a higher rate of poverty and unemployment and lower economic growth than metro areas in New Mexico. There is a high demand for work and training. Additionally, these communities are surrounded by fire-adapted ecosystems in need of management to reduce the threat of high intensity wildfire and improve watershed conditions. The Forest Stewards Youth Corps program addresses these needs by empowering young people from underserved communities to care for their environment through outdoor, experiential, on-the-ground conservation projects that promote ecological health on public lands while learning forest stewardship principles. Youth Corps participants are recruited from many villages, towns, and pueblos in McKinley, Cibola, Rio Arriba, Torrance, Santa Fe, San Miguel, Mora, and Sandoval counties. The training the youth receive is equally important as the paychecks because it gives them job skills and supports them with credits towards higher education goals. Each year, the Guild has the pleasure of watching these students of forest stewardship grow and learn in New Mexico’s forests.

During each season, crew trainers work with Guild staff to document the myriad of accomplishments, and it’s always an impressive tally. In 2016 alone, crews worked 16,945 hours, received 1,274 hours of training, and received 92 college credits from Santa Fe Community College. During that time the crews built, improved, prepared, removed, or protected significant resources:

  • 21 miles of fence built or improved to improve understory plants
  • 1 spring improved for livestock
  • 76 acres of noxious weeds removed
  • .34 miles of fence now wildlife friendly
  • .5 acre of endangered species habitat protected with a fence
  • prepped and marked boundaries for 10,500 acres of forestry treatments
  • collected stand data at 20 plots to prepare 200 acres for forestry treatments
  • cleared 4.5 miles of fire line for that enabled 300+ acres of prescribed burns
  • removed noxious trees (Russian olive) across 48 acres of riparian forest
  • helped build gabion wall to stabilize stream banks,
  • built storm-water structures in campgrounds,
  • improved 4 miles of fence to protect cultural sites,
  • protected cultural site by removing modern garbage dumped above it
  • 27.3 miles of recreation trails maintained and improved
  • 7 recreation sites improved
  • 29 signs installed
  • 6 grills and 12 tables improved
  • 2 administrative sites improved
  • 1 well improved
  • 1 cattle guard improved
  • 1 historic building improved with leadership from a preservation crew.

The value of the conservation work is just part of the value of the program. FSYC makes a difference in the lives of each of the crew members and crew trainers. In addition to gaining a forest stewardship ethic, they gain a work ethic and increase their own self-worth. We see crew members for interviews when they are shy and awkward 15 year-olds struggling and see them returning summer after summer to graduate high school and head off to college (with some credits ready to transfer!). Some gain seasonal or permanent employment with the U.S. Forest Service, and some like Julio Serna or Shawnee Suazo serve as crew trainers when they are old enough to give back to their communities and share what they have learned. One of our FSYC graduates, Renai Nez, is now president of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society at NMSU. You can read more about how the Guild helped shape Renai’s career path in a recent interview.

Each year, Guild staff work with our partners to learn, adapt, and improve the program. Each year also grows the Guild’s impact in the stewardship of New Mexico’s forests and communities as we inspire and grow a new generation of conservation leaders.

While we look forward to another year of growth and progress, we know that every acre we conserve and every young person we inspire begins with YOU! Please help us put even more young people on a path to success by contributing today. We can make simply no better investment in the future of conservation and a positive future for young people.