Written by Cora Stewart
The Forest Stewards Youth Corps (FSYC) program has provided outdoor opportunities and trainings for New Mexico youth, ages 15-25, for over 15 years. This year, the summer program supported five crews across Central New Mexico, each crew consisting of four to five members. Crews gained experience and education in a variety of natural resource management fields such as recreation, fire, archeology, range, forestry, and botany. With these experiences, it is the goal of the FSYC program to build the next generation of forest stewards in rural New Mexico.
In 2022, the Guild partnered with the Santa Fe National Forest, Cibola National Forest, and the Pueblo of Jemez Natural Resource Department to have crews in the following Ranger Districts and Pueblo; Mountainair, Mt. Taylor, Las Vegas/Pecos, Coyote, and Pueblo of Jemez. Each crew worked closely with their prospective department to learn more about the natural and cultural history of New Mexico, and how to care for it.
The FSYC program prioritizes training and education to build long-term capacity and efficacy. To start off this season, crew members participated in a 3-day training, where they learned about the history of the Guild, self-care, how to change a tire, fire ecology, leave no trace principles, and monitoring principles. Throughout the season, crews continued to learn through on the job training in resume building, tree and plant identification, archeological site identification, soil and water monitoring, pest identification, and fire management. This year, the Guild held its first mid-season meet up for crews. This meet up was a time to celebrate getting half-way through the season and to learn how to be an active by-stander. Crews learned about tools for interrupting uncomfortable situations and acting. This is important to instill early on in people’s careers and lives, to create a work environment that is safe for all.
One of the biggest challenges was the many forest closures due to the Calf Canyon – Hermits Peak fire. These closures prevented crews from getting to planned project areas and slowed down the summer. Despite this, crews worked hard and were able to complete over 13 miles of trail work, 17 miles of fencing, remove noxious weeds (Russian and bull thistle) from 60 acres, monitor over 20 plots for range compliance, and monitor 15 plots for water quality and sediment quality. The Las Vegas/Pecos based FSYC crew had the unique opportunity to assist in a Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) on recently burned allotments. The crews and Guild staff celebrated these achievements and wrapped up the season with a graduation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was a mix of education and fun; crews played minute-to-win-it games, learned about the many natural resource management career paths, and reflected on lessons learned during the season.
Almost as soon as the summer program wrapped up, the fall program began. In 2022, the FSYC fall program hosted three crews located in the Jemez Pueblo Natural Resource Department, the Espanola Ranger District, and the Mountainair Ranger District. The three crews met together for an orientation, and then jumped right into a 2-week training. This program provides wildland firefighting and chainsaw training to crew members, alongside certifications. Once members complete an arduous pack test, carrying 45 pounds for 3 miles in under 45 minutes, they are given a red card that can be used in Federal agencies. Crews learned about fire behavior, how to use drip torches, how to properly use a chain saw, and most importantly, how to stay safe while on a fire site. Fall crews are now back at their sites, doing on– the–ground projects, such as identifying tree planting sites for restoration, creating brush piles, and posting fire signage.