Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
ALASKA USFWS: Youth, Diverse and Urban are Key to our Future
Alaska Region, October 28, 2011
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Justin, a Fairbanks high-school assesses age of duck egg
Justin, a Fairbanks high-school assesses age of duck egg - Photo Credit: USFWS
The SCA High School Trail Crew, at Alaska Peninsula NWR celebrates a job well done.
The SCA High School Trail Crew, at Alaska Peninsula NWR celebrates a job well done. - Photo Credit: USFWS

In the United States, changing demographics are creating more racial and cultural diversity than ever before. Populations are also more concentrated in urban areas, farther and farther from wildlife and wilderness. As a wildlife conservation agency in the farthest reaches of the country, we face the danger of becoming irrelevant to the majority of American people. Luckily, Region 7 is positioned to transform with the changing population. The Secretary has called us to better “engage people from all walks of life in careers in natural resources;” our national leadership is committed to shaping a diverse workforce (USFWS Diversity and Inclusion Implementation Plan FY2011-FY2015); and a significant percentage of Alaska USFWS employees will be eligible to retire in the next five years allowing us to innovate and diversify through this transition.   

Diverse Stakeholder Engagement
The Region’s greatest success in employing a diverse youth audience is our engagement of Alaska Native youth in our Youth Conservation Corps programs, the Alaska Science and Engineering Program, and partner internships with tribal organizations. For example, the Office of Subsistence Management’s Partners for Fisheries Monitoring sponsors upwards of 30 internships for high-school and college-age Alaska Natives.  In addition to providing diversity, these programs give critical stakeholders in Alaska’s wildlife management the skills to participate more fully in management decisions. 

Urban and Diverse Audiences
Despite our success with rural Alaska Natives, we still face the challenge of engaging an American people who are growing up in concrete environments surrounded by manicured lawns and tamed wildlife.   Many of the youth we employ had their passions sparked earlier in life by a seminal moment in the outdoors, and supportive mentors who guided them to explore their passions.   Many urban youth miss these moments or have no one guiding them toward outdoor pursuits.  If we want to continue to fill our ranks with the best and brightest we need to venture early into these urban jungles with messages that speak directly to these youth.

If we expect a response, messages need to be tailored specifically to this audience.   The lone adventurer in faraway places may not appeal to those comforted by towering skyscrapers and hordes of people.  To create these targeted messages, a cross programmatic group has been formulating an outreach plan.  In 2012, they hope to have tools to interest this audience in employment opportunities. 

In addition to targeted outreach, these youth need to be contacted earlier in their lives and academic careers.  The Connecting People with Nature initiative provides opportunities for this younger age group to connect with the outdoors.  As for their eariler academic careers, a new program piloted by other regions called the Career Diversity Internship Program (CDIP), recruits college freshman and sophomores in fields from Communication to Pre-Med Biology to participate in an internship to connect them to careers in the Service. Interns are mentored by FWS staff and contribute their unique perspectives and skills to field stations. In 2012, Region 7 will participate in this program, which will employ youth and offer mentoring opportunities to mid and late career professionals. 

With our progress toward reaching Alaska Native youth, and our plans to reach out to diverse urban audiences, Region 7 is well on its way to creating an agency capable of  addressing future natural resource challenges with a vibrant, diverse and talented workforce.  Cross programmatic cooperation, mentorship of youth and continuation of successful partnerships are key to these efforts. 


Contact Info: Kristen Gilbert, 907-786-3391, kristen_gilbert@fws.gov
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