HELENA — The Youth Forest Monitoring Program is entering its 25 years this upcoming summer and applications are now live.
“It's just such a great opportunity to get your foot in the door. Usually, you need to be 18 years old to work full summer seasonal jobs. So, this is a nice opportunity as a stepping stone to try something out and maybe find a career that you'll love as much as I do,” says Program Manager of YFMP and Conservation educator for the Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest, Liz Burke.
The program provides high school students the opportunity to learn about forest ecology, as well as monitor forest health and engage with natural resource professionals.
Students monitor lands impacted by wildfire, historic mining claims, watersheds, grazing allotments, and recreation areas.
Many of the students who participate in the YFMP find themselves eventually working in related fields. Burke says that of former participants of the monitoring program who responded to their latest survey, over 60% of them said they are working in related fields.
After working in the field for weeks, the students have the opportunity to share their findings with professionals. These conclusions can make real-world impacts.
“I think it is so important to give a voice to these students. I think so many times maybe we undervalue or, I'm always really impressed and amazed by the quality of students that we get from the area,” says Burke.
Bonnie Griffis was in the program back in 2002. Since then, she’s worked in outdoor-related fields such as eco-tourism, fishery work, and with the forest service. She says the program is a great way for young people to better understand their connection to the place they live.
“And I think YFMP is important because it allows younger people to go and experience public lands, science and they can feel like they're a part of it,” says Griffis.
The program is for students entering grades 10-12. Applications for the program are due April 14.