Final Thoughts from the YCC

Over a month ago, I met four vibrant teenagers, between the age 15 and 16, who were eager to learn about wilderness conservation and preservation by immersing themselves within the Tongass National Forest.  This Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crew hailed from as far as Mobile, Alabama and as near as Tenakee Springs, Alaska. After a whirlwind of activities that had the crew building a community greenhouse in Angoon, working trail crew on the Cross Admiralty Island Canoe Route and removing an invasive plant in the Kootznoowoo Wilderness, I am confident that four new defenders of wilderness were born.

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The Youth Conservation Corp crew walking in Angoon to go berry picking; (from left to right: Elizabeth Crawford, Breeze Anderson, Travis Maranto and Jaxon Collins)

Watching four teenagers develop into wilderness stewards was truly a delightful experience to witness. These four individuals have now returned to their respective homes, and I know that conversations with family and friends have been sparked about the need for conservation and preservation initiatives throughout the United States.

Let’s hear for ourselves what these new wilderness defenders have to say about their experience.

 

Breeze Anderson: Anchorage/False Pass, Alaska

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What did you like most about the YCC experience? Do you have a best memory?

What I enjoyed most about the YCC experience was getting to meet new people and being able to help the environment out. My best memory was … I don’t know. There are a lot!

You’ve been in Southeast Alaska for a month now. What are your impressions of it now?

It is really pretty and really different from what I’m used too. There are so many trees! It is also really wild and has a lot to offer.

What is life in the field really like? What are the best and most challenging parts of living at a wilderness base camp?

Life in the field is pretty great. When you are in the field, you focus on one task without the distractions. There is solitude to think about what your task is without having the distraction of phones. Also, the dinners aren’t bad either!

What did you learn from your experience?

I learned that there is a lot going on that you can be blissfully ignorant towards. You could be walking down the trail not knowing the work that goes into it or walking down the beach without knowing that there is an invasive species taking over an area. This experience showed me that there is a lot more going on in an area than what I know.

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Breeze and Dana Kimbell (U.S. Forest Service) boating across Lake Alexander

 

Travis Maranto: Sealy, Texas

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What did you like most about the YCC experience? Do you have a best memory?


I liked getting to be in the Togass, because you can’t get this experience in Texas. There's practically no public lands or forest stewardship in Texas.  My best memory is catching my first pink salmon and cooking it in the field! I also enjoyed foraging for berries and tea and hiking.

You’ve been in Southeast Alaska for a month now. What are your impressions of it now?

Beautiful, breathtakingly beautiful. The wilderness is always harsh, but loving at the same time.

What is life in the field really like? What are the best and most challenging parts of living at a wilderness base camp?

It is challenge to hike gear back and forth between the kitchen and camp. Overall, I loved soaking up the sun and enjoying life.

What did you learn from your experience?

I learned more about how to protect and conserve wilderness areas. Also that many Forest Service employees got their start in YCC programs, and that I have a career to look forward to and a goal to strive for.

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Travis celebrating the finding of a bear bone

 

Jaxon Collins: Tenakee Springs, Alaska

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What did you like most about the YCC experience? Do you have a best memory?

Working together with strangers as we developed a better sense of wilderness and the problems that are occurring to wilderness right now. The whole experience was great. I don’t think I have a best memory.

What is life in the field really like? What are the best and most challenging parts of living at a wilderness base camp?

Life in camp is like a puzzle. Some things are really easy to find and put together, but sometimes the piece just doesn’t fit. Arguing happens, but it usually comes together to make one great picture.

What ended up being the biggest challenge during this time?

To me, the biggest challenge was picking up beach trash. It seemed like a never-ending task and that people will continue to destroy marine habitat.

What did you learn from your experience?

I learned that even if you have complete different opinions, you can be working to fight for the same thing. For example, [John] Muir and [Gifford] Pinchot.

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Jaxon working on a trail structure in the Kootznoowoo Wilderness

 

Elizabeth Crawford: Mobile, Alabama

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What did you like most about the YCC experience? Do you have a best memory?

I like being in Alaska. I love how beautiful it is here. I don’t want to go home. Meeting everyone was a highlight of the experience.

You’ve been in Southeast Alaska for a month now. What are your impressions of it now?

It is beautiful. From what everyone keeps saying, I imagine the weather has been remarkably nice. We were told it was going to be really rainy, but it really hasn’t been too rainy. 

What is life in the field really like? What are the best and most challenging parts of living at a wilderness base camp?

Life in the field requires a lot of hiking, and hiking is really hard. But it is also really rewarding.

What did you learn from your experience?

I learned how to hike. I also learned that boats and planes are fun.

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Elizabeth and myself on the second flight of her life, which happened to be in a float plane

Although federally designated Wilderness Areas may have the highest protection of any public resource, Wilderness Areas are by no means void of threats that degrade their wilderness resource. The YCC crew worked to mitigate some of these threats, as we collected an abundance of beach trash and pulled thousands of invasive weeds. We also spent time reflecting on the best strategies and techniques to preserve wild places. As a group, the YCC decided that the best way to protect these places is to bring people to these areas, because spending time in the grandeur of wilderness allows the land to most eloquently speak for itself and inspire its preservation. Since the founding of the Sitka Conservation Society (SCS), SCS has also believed in this technique and remains committed to connecting people to Wilderness Areas throughout the Tongass. Working with the Youth Conservation Corps and the U.S. Forest Service during this time has been a pleasure, and we are thrilled to have four lively youth added to the network of millions of people working to protect our Wilderness Areas. 

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Practiced wilderness steward Dana (left) shares the view of Mole Harbor with emerging wilderness stewards Breeze (middle) and Jaxon (right)

 

For more information about my time with the Youth Conservation Corps or about wilderness stewardship in the Tongass, please contact me at mike@sitkawild.org.


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  • published this page in Stories 2015-07-24 13:24:48 -0800

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