Several 2019 Youth Corps Members at Silver Reach Preserve. Photo by Faith Buchhilz.
Seven high school students — three young women and four young men from four local schools — spent their spring break with us, learning and working on the land. During their stint as the 2019 Land Trust Youth Corps crew, they learned, hands-on, about land stewardship.
We interwove lessons on topics like forest health, beaver ecology, and wildlife identification with practical stewardship work experience. The Youth Corps members’ workdays were devoted to various jobs on the land — removing harmful invasive weeds, digging for signs of iron in an old wetlands area, and working on trails in one of our preserves along the Duckabush River.
A small garter snake discovered by 2019 Youth Corps members while working at Snow Creek Wetlands Preserve
A few highlights included discovering rough skinned newts, a frog, a garter snake, and some almond scented millipedes while working on various projects. On the banks of both Snow Creek and the Duckabush River, the students observed caddisfly larvae, which is a type of aquatic macroinvertebrate that thrives best in cool, clean forest streams. This makes the larvae a biological indicator of good water quality.
The favorite activity for many of this year’s crew members was a wildlife identification and tracking lesson taught by Sarah Spaeth, our Director of Conservation and Strategic Partnerships. During the lesson, the students were able to use the tracks and signs they found to identify a variety of wildlife that were using one of our nature preserves.
Started in 2017, the Jefferson Land Trust’s Youth Corps program has a dual purpose:
Much of our work caring for our nature preserves is accomplished by amazing volunteers during our twice monthly stewardship work parties; however, some places and certain projects require more time and are in hard to reach places. That’s where our Youth Corps program participants, Washington Conservation Corps members, and even local contractors play a role in helping us care for the land.
Seven high school students from four local schools participated in our 2019 Spring Break Youth Corps program. They are shown above with the WCC crew they worked with and learned from during two days of spring break.
In fact, during two days of their spring break experience, our 2019 Youth Corps members had the chance to work alongside and learn from a Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) crew.
Part of the Washington Department of Ecology, the WCC is an innovative AmeriCorps program designed to build future leaders. Statewide, more than 350 members (18- to 25-year-olds and military veterans) work in partnership with nonprofit and government agencies to restore critical habitat, build trails, and respond to local and national disasters.
Our Preserve Manager, Carrie Clendaniel, who oversees the Youth Corps program was excited to be able to serve more students this year. “We’d only budgeted for five members, but with so many great candidates, including our first ever female applicants, we found a way to stretch our resources to serve two additional students.”
The Youth Corps members accomplished a lot of work, sometimes in tough conditions. According to Carrie, “They were real troopers, even in the rain. And they all had great attitudes.”
She’s excited that several of the students asked if they could apply again next year.
In order to attract as many students as possible, the week-long program includes a $250 stipend and transportation to and from the daily starting point in Quilcene.
The initial funding for the Land Trust’s Youth Corps program was provided by a local student group — the Bet Shira Hebrew School Group — in 2016. The students hold a fundraiser each year and select a cause or organization to support. In 2016, they selected the Land Trust because many of them had participated in one or more of our youth education programs.
Support for the 2019 Youth Corps program was provided by Craft3 and from generous community donations through Give Jefferson, which selected our Youth Corps program as one of the local causes to feature in their 2018 campaign and also provided matching funds. Additionally, 1st Security Bank, one of our business partners, hosted a finance 101 class to provide the students with some of the basics of handling money, including the stipend checks each of the corps members received at the end of their work week!