Local, national officials push outdoor jobs to youth

BY KATIE HEINE | MARCH 29, 2011 7:20 AM

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Tree lopping wasn’t something Kelsey Boyce did growing up in cities around New York. But the UI sophomore volunteered four hours of her weekend chopping dead wood off trees at Hickory Hill Park on March 26.

Though the project was required for her Environmental Issues course, Boyce said, she purposely chose the course because of her interest in the outdoors.

“I think it’s extremely important that we get involved and that we educate our community in these types of events,” the 19-year-old said. “A lot of us in our generation don’t really think of [the environment] and the outcomes it might have later on and for future generations.”

On a local and national level, officials are attempting to increase the number of young people getting involved with the outdoor jobs.

The Department of the Interior recently launched a new website to help young people find educational resources, events, jobs, and internships related to conservation and recreation.

YouthGO.gov aims to increase the number of young people engaging in outdoor efforts as a part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative.

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More than 21,000 young people were hired by the Interior Department in 2010 after a Youth in the Great Outdoors office was established — a 45 percent increase over 2009, according to a press release.

And in Iowa, officials from the Department of Natural Resources said they continually encourage young people to volunteer and get involved with outdoor jobs.

“As an agency, we think it’s really critical that people all ages find a way of connecting to the land and natural resources,” said Jane Mild, the Natural Resources workforce planning coordinator.

A number of young people — particularly college students — contact the department for opportunities, she said.

Though the department offers numerous internships, Mild said, the majority are unpaid. But the experience is valuable, she said, and many go off to other jobs in conservation.

“We give a lot of responsibilities to students,” she said. “They’re so passionate and creative, we’re really happy to let them go.”

Andy Guyer graduated from the UI in 2009 with degrees in geography and environmental science. The 32-year-old volunteers with Friends of Hickory Hill Park and helped lead a prairie burn preparation with Boyce on March 26.

The Iowa City native also works as a field chemist for Heritage Environmental Services in Iowa City — a waste-management service.

“I’ve always been one with nature,” said Guyer, who said he plans to continue with outdoor jobs in the future.

Another recent graduate, Jennifer Anderson, left the UI in 2010 with an English degree. Today, the 24-year-old lives on an organic cattle ranch in California where she helps a family with their farm work. The job was set up after she joined AmeriCorps.

“As of right now, I can’t imagine having an office job or a job where I couldn’t work with my hands,” she said. “I think I’m going to try my best to stay involved with this.”

Anderson said she had always been interested in the environment but never had a solid idea on how she wanted to contribute.

Though the Council Bluffs native said she originally joined AmeriCorps so she could buy herself some time after graduation, she “fell in love” with what she’s doing and has plans to move to Northern California to intern on another organic farm.

“I never would have thought that this was what I’d be doing after college,” Anderson said. “But I’m helping out the country I live in, which is important to me.”

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