It pays well, provides job skills, gets them out in nature and looks great on their resumes, so high school students from Upper Rogue schools are going for it this summer, spending two weeks during August in the outback, repairing fire-damaged trails in the Sky Lakes Wilderness Area.
The boys, ages 16 to 18 (girls are welcome, too), will make $12.50 an hour and learn team-building skills that can open up work in other natural-resources positions, says Aaron Nauth of Lomakatsi in Ashland, who hired the boys.
The youths will repair a trail ruined by the 2008 Lonesome Complex fire, which was allowed to burn because it was in a wilderness area, says Peter Mazzini, coordinator of the Upper Rogue Watershed Association.
"The kids are getting a lot of education on wilderness ecology and fire restoration," says Mazzini, during an orientation session held recently at the Prospect Ranger Station on Highway 62. He got a Title II grant for the project, which covers two years.
When fire goes through an area, says Les Moscoso of the U.S. Forest Service's High Cascades Ranger District, "you have a lot of tree fall over trails, and poor drainage from snow melt and rain. We teach them to put in water bars and drainage dips. They pick up a lot of skills and work ethics and learn to work together for a common goal. It helps them land jobs, too. They can work on fire crews, who are using the same tools the boys will be using."
Butte Falls 11th-grader Colton Hanson, one of those participating in the recent orientation, says he applied for the work because, "It gets you out in the woods, it's good money, and it looks good on my resume. When you're stuck in a small town for the summer, this is great."
Prospect 12th-grader Josh Larson says, "I enjoy the woods, and this will definitely give me skills, possibly for logging work, so I'm excited, and these are all guys I know and like."
The boys bring their own food and must be educated about what it takes for long hours of hard rock-lifting, digging and swinging a pick.
The best foods, says Mazzini, are dehydrated, high in protein and complex carbohydrates, such as powdered milk, trail mix (nuts, seeds, raisins), dried salami, canned chicken, tortillas and cheese.
When the interns head into the Sky Lakes Wilderness Aug. 13 to put their training to work, they will be five miles from the nearest road and will get their food resupplied by horses.
The project, says Nauth, is part of Lomakatsi's mission of youth education, and training a workforce that can be called on for future projects. His staff provides leadership on site.
"Most of them respond very positively to the work — and to being away from TV and computers — and they like getting to be in the wild. Some have never camped before. If they do well, they can use us as a job reference," says Nauth.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.