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What is the Northwest Youth Corps Tribal Stewards Program?

By Peter Chesser

The goals and objectives of Tribal Stewards is to deepen the connection of tribal youth to their ancestral homeland, provide career mentorship and professional skills development, and prepare tribal youth for a possible career in conservation, while addressing challenges in central and eastern Oregon. Projects are designed by professionals from federal land management agencies, nonprofits, and tribal natural resources departments. More than the improvement of land, completion of these projects increases youth interest and gains in skills, leadership abilities, and interest in new career paths. Tribal Stewards Funders in 2020 includes the National Forest Foundation, the Greater Hart-Sheldon Conservation Fund, and REI.

Trainings received by Tribal Stewards participants include trail maintenance and construction; fence maintenance and construction; plant identification; riparian habitat restoration; using Avenza and inReach mapping software on a tablet
to track their assignments; and using and caring for hand tools. Team members participate in educational discussions at least two times a week including talks about land conservation philosophy; create Individual Development Plans to foster self–improvement and reflection; and gain technical skill development. Program and agency staff also provide career mentoring, and context for how each project fits into a broader conservation strategy to improve land and water resources.

For their efforts, each program graduate earns a living allowance of $2,420, a $1,538 AmeriCorps Education Award, plus all needed food and housing during the program. Later, as Tribal Stewards graduates advance in their careers, and
move into leadership positions within their tribes, they can serve as champions for conservation, while ensuring that a greater diversity of individuals enjoy Oregon’s high desert. As one of our graduates said, “It was an amazing experience being a part of the crew! I can’t thank the program enough for opening so many doors for future career opportunities!”

Peter Chesser is the communications officer for the Northwest Youth Corps. He can be reached at 541-654-4707 and peterc@nwyouthcorps.org.

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