Conservation Corps students clearing invasive species in Seabranch Preserve State Park.
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Youth Conservation Corps: How Teens Are Working Together for a Better Environment

Youth Conservation Corps employs teens at national and state parks on conservation service projects. Here's how to apply.

Some high school students take on retail or food jobs during the summer, while others take the summer off after a busy year of studying and sports. But there's another option for those who want to conserve public lands for future generations—and learn some wilderness skills along the way. Young people who love conservation and nature can do some good in their state or national parks during the summer months by joining the Youth Conservation Corps.

What Does the Youth Conservation Corps Do?

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Created by the federal government in 1971, the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) is a collaborative youth summer work and education program with the National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The YCC gives young adults an opportunity to make a difference on public lands by helping protect natural resources while gaining valuable conservation work experience. Participation in the program also lays the groundwork for a successful career in environmental land management and other conservation-related vocations. Crew members work in national forests and parks, fish hatcheries, and wildlife refuges. Crews work 40 hours a week for three to 10 weeks, depending on the program's location, with teamwork being a key aspect.

"The day starts off with a safety briefing from their supervisor on the type of work they will be performing, followed by gathering personal protective equipment (PPE), water, supplies, materials, heading to the worksite, and begin work for the day," says R.W. Jenkins, program manager for the Gulf Island National Seashore Youth Conservation Corps.

Service projects completed by members each year include:

  • Fence construction
  • Historic structure preservation
  • Boardwalk repair
  • Boundary marking signage
  • Wildlife research assistance
  • Bridge construction
  • IT work
  • Energy retrofitting
  • Visitor use assistance
  • Trail construction
  • Campsite/campground restoration
  • Habitat preservation

Youth Conservation Corps Program Requirements

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To participate in YCC programs, applicants need to fulfill specific requirements. According to the YCC Crew Member application, potential participants must be 15 years old when the program begins and 18 when it ends. Potential participants must complete the YCC application at

Jenkins said the program receives around 200 applications for its Florida District and 100 applications for its Mississippi District from all over the country. However, many programs are local and require participants to have reliable transportation to and from the park. Yellowstone National Park is the only program within the NPS that has a residential option. The U.S. Forest Service also has a few residential programs that allow participants to stay on-site.

Other than a desire for to serve civic duty and environmental stewardship, applicants don't need any formal background in conservation to apply. They just need to be a permanent U.S. citizen without a criminal record. If participants are under the legal work age for their state, they need to be able to qualify for a work permit. However, it's helpful if applicants enjoy activities such as hiking, backpacking, climbing, biking, and kayaking.

Each park pays differently, but the stipend typically is equal to the state or federal minimum wage, depending on the program. All YCC opportunities with the National Park Service can be found on the NPS website.

If you aren't near a park but still want to get involved in conservation efforts, you can contact other federal or local organizations to see if they have a youth program. For example, AmeriCorps partners with local communities and nonprofit organizations to plant trees, remove invasive species, preserve buildings, and more.

Why Get Involved with the Youth Conservation Corps

Youth Conservation Corps members work to remove brush in Los Angeles, California.

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While the extra hands help out the parks, Jenkins points out that there are many benefits to participating in the Youth Conservation Corps, including:

  • Environmental education
  • Conservation education
  • Historical perspective and relevance
  • Education enhanced by quality work projects
  • First aid/CPR and safety education
  • Development of personal responsibility and self-reliance
  • Cultivation of a good work ethic

Crew members also have the opportunity to develop long-lasting relationships with crew leaders who, in some cases, become life-long mentors. For others, this is the first step in a long and fulfilling conservation career.

READ MORE: How to Find a Summer Job in the Outdoor Industry