May 30th, 2012 by

Credit: a loves dc/Flickr

Memorial Day weekend is viewed as the official kickoff of summer. This past weekend, many folks headed to the beach or gathered at backyard barbeques to celebrate the holiday. It’s also the time of year when schools let out, and young people start looking for summer jobs. But unlike the flocks of interns that flood D.C. in the summer, some young people are planning to spend their summers working outside. Thanks to a new federal grant program, there are even more opportunities for youth to work outside this summer. With $3.7 million available for conservation projects, the grant will help employ more than 500 youths over the summer, adding to the existing 20,000-plus youth summer employment opportunities in national forests, parks and wildlife refuges.

Since President Obama launched his America’s Great Outdoors Initiative back in 2010, conservation and outdoor recreation have been highlighted as ways that we can protect our natural heritage. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Department of Interior (DOI), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) worked together to develop a conservation action plan after receiving more than 100,000 public comments.

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Summer Intern. Credit: YouthGO.gov

In response to the Obama administration’s call to expand youth engagement in the outdoors, DOI Secretary Ken Salazar, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley recently announced the creation of a new competitive grant program to expand the summer youth corps on public lands. The grant program is part of a new Youth Initiative funded through the Bureau of Land Management (part of DOI), the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the U.S. Forest Service and private partners from the America’s Great Outdoors development initiative. The initiative’s website serves as an educational resource for youth, provides an events calendar to find local opportunities to engage and even has an online job search available.

Secretary Salazar noted the importance of engaging young people in working on public lands and developing the next generation of land stewards: “President Obama’s call to expand summer job opportunities for young people is helping us engage and train the next generation of natural resource professionals and build a workforce that represents all of America.” So, whether it’s indoors or outdoors, an intern at an environmental nonprofit or working in a national forest, it’s encouraging to see how summer jobs are shaping the future of conservation.