« Return to this article

for people who care about the West

Serving — and earning — on public lands


In the recent article “The Changing Face of Woods Work” (HCN, 10/30/17), the author describes the challenge of putting young Americans to work in the woods. Though the article was well-written, the author did not mention that there is indeed a new generation of Americans hungry to work outside, to rebuild and care for our public lands.

Nationwide, The Corps Network leads and supports more than 130 of America’s Service and Conservation Corps, which engage 25,000 diverse young people, ages 16 to 25. Projects include building and maintaining recreation and fire trails, planting trees, removing weeds, thinning forests to reduce the threat of wildfire, and improving parks and campgrounds to enhance the recreational infrastructure on which a large part of our region’s economy depends.

Here, the Northwest Youth Corps has provided job skills, education and outdoor experience to more than 20,000 youth since 1984. We operate in Oregon, Washington and Idaho, where we do business as the Idaho Conservation Corps. This year, 870 of our teens and young adults carried out 219,000 hours of conservation stewardship projects for 160 partners. The majority of our project sponsors are Forest Service districts but also include the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Reclamation and the Oregon and Idaho Parks and Reclamation departments, plus many other agencies.

Most participants camp out in tents for five weeks to five months near the job site, but an increasing number serve and learn in their own communities through a “day-program” format. In addition to earning money, these young people earn high school credit and job references, and develop a love of the outdoors. Crewmembers learn about resource management and earn professional certifications to help them land a related career after graduation.

For land managers interested in engaging the next generation on our public lands, we provide all needed support, including supervision, work tools, insurance, worker’s compensation and transportation. We would be happy to put you in touch with previous sponsors in your area. For more information, contact Keith Brown at [email protected], and for Idaho, Tom Helmer at [email protected]

Natalie Whitson
Development officer, Northwest Youth Corps
Eugene, Oregon