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SAN LUIS NWR: Recruiting and Managing a Successful Refuge YCC Program
California-Nevada Offices , April 16, 2008
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San Luis NWRC YCC crewmember Johnna Prior releases an endangered riparian brush rabbit at the San Joaquin River NWR in July 2007. (USFWS Photo by Chris Jones)
San Luis NWRC YCC crewmember Johnna Prior releases an endangered riparian brush rabbit at the San Joaquin River NWR in July 2007. (USFWS Photo by Chris Jones) - Photo Credit: n/a
San Luis NWRC YCC crew have a good time mapping vegetation inside the elk enclosure in July 2007. (USFWS Photo)
San Luis NWRC YCC crew have a good time mapping vegetation inside the elk enclosure in July 2007. (USFWS Photo) - Photo Credit: n/a
The San Luis NWRC 2007 YCC crew. Back row (left to right): Roneisha Frazier, crew leader Chris Jones, Forrest Hansen, David Souza. Front row (left to right): Constance Menezes, Luis Lin, Elliot Bonior, Carla Ayala, Johnna Prior, Jessica Van Heurck. (USFWS Photo by Jack Sparks) 
The San Luis NWRC 2007 YCC crew. Back row (left to right): Roneisha Frazier, crew leader Chris Jones, Forrest Hansen, David Souza. Front row (left to right): Constance Menezes, Luis Lin, Elliot Bonior, Carla Ayala, Johnna Prior, Jessica Van Heurck. (USFWS Photo by Jack Sparks)  - Photo Credit: n/a

Jack Sparks, San Luis NWRC

The arrival of spring brings with it a bustling of activities at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex as wildlife and refuge staff begin transitioning from winter to summer mode.  One activity that engages staff at the San Luis NWRC and several other field stations in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Region 8 (California and Nevada) each spring is the recruitment and planning for summer Youth Conservation Corps programs. 

 

The Youth Conservation Corps, geared toward students ages 15 - 18, is a summer work program that introduces enrollees to solid work ethics and the importance of natural resource conservation, all while accomplishing needed projects on refuges.  In 2007, ten stations in Region 8 conducted YCC programs accomplishing a variety of tasks including biological monitoring, construction of facilities, and interpretation.

 

The YCC program at field stations begins months before the crew arrives.  Recruiting a qualified crew leader can be a daunting task.  The individual must not only have experience supervising youth groups, specialized education and expertise in human social behavior, but they must also understand the ecology and management of natural resources.  The crew leader is a supervisor, motivator, mentor, educator, and counselor.  The San Luis NWRC has focused recruitment efforts at local universities and was fortunate to have a medical student fill the role for two consecutive years.

 

Recruiting the crew is an easier task because the selection is random.  The Complex has found it beneficial to post flyers at local high schools and attend spring career fairs.  After two successful years, word of mouth about the program has spread among students and the Complex receives more applications than positions available.  Another task that begins long before the arrival of the crew is scheduling work activities.  Refuge managers and programmatic leads at the Complex brainstorm appropriate activities, and the list is then pared to focus on activities that are enriching and educational.

 

In 2006, the San Luis NWRC hosted its first YCC program in nearly twenty years.  The crew was composed of six students and proved to be highly successful for enrollees as well as for refuge staff.  Following this success, the Complex held the program again in 2007, this time with a crew of nine enrollees.  The program was once again beneficial to all.  The success of the San Luis NWRC YCC program can be attributed to two things:  exemplary leadership and engaging work activities for students.  Program emphasis has been placed on including only activities that are enriching, meaningful and important.  The YCC crew has been the lead in conducting several wildlife and habitat monitoring projects on the Complex.  They monitored nocturnal mammalian presence through placement of remote camera stations, mapped native and exotic invasive vegetation to assess the effectiveness of various management methods, participated in the release of endangered riparian brush rabbits, helped band mourning doves, and conducted burrowing owl surveys culminating with the release of a burrowing owl in the survey study area. 

 

 For the 2006 and 2007 seasons, the Complex was fortunate to have the same crew leader - an individual with excellent leadership skills, a passion for the outdoors, and a strong background working with and counseling youth groups.

 

For many of these students this has been their first experience with the National Wildlife Refuge System, and for some the first experience with natural resources.  Providing relevant experience in a positive work environment provides an excellent opportunity to introduce high school students to wildlife and their habitats.  All YCC enrollees have expressed their interest in returning to the program at the San Luis NWR Complex.

 

 


Contact Info: Jack Sparks, 209-826-3508, jack_sparks@fws.gov



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