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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

YCC Students Work to Benefit Refuges and Nature

Region 8, September 6, 2018
San Luis NWR Complex YCC crewmembers. Top left to right: Sebastian Cardoza, David Rostro, Emily Hodak, Daisey Briceno, Sarah Knorr. Bottom left to right: Dayana Fernandez, Jacob Beltran, Caleb Root, Alexander Gonsalves, Eric Macias, Anna Torres.
San Luis NWR Complex YCC crewmembers. Top left to right: Sebastian Cardoza, David Rostro, Emily Hodak, Daisey Briceno, Sarah Knorr. Bottom left to right: Dayana Fernandez, Jacob Beltran, Caleb Root, Alexander Gonsalves, Eric Macias, Anna Torres. - Photo Credit: n/a
Wildlife biologist Fumika Takahashi helps crewmembers set up a remote camera to monitor for the presence of nutria on the San Luis NWR.
Wildlife biologist Fumika Takahashi helps crewmembers set up a remote camera to monitor for the presence of nutria on the San Luis NWR. - Photo Credit: n/a
San Luis NWR Complex YCC crewmembers spruce up a waterfowl hunt blind for the upcoming season by making repairs and applying camouflage.
San Luis NWR Complex YCC crewmembers spruce up a waterfowl hunt blind for the upcoming season by making repairs and applying camouflage. - Photo Credit: n/a
Crewmembers Eric Macias and Emily Hodak collect plant material while conducting residual dry matter surveys.
Crewmembers Eric Macias and Emily Hodak collect plant material while conducting residual dry matter surveys. - Photo Credit: n/a

By Madeline Yancey


This year marks the 13th consecutive year the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex has sponsored a Youth Conservation Crew. This year’s crew employed 11 high school students from the nearby communities of Los Baños, Dos Palos, and Hilmar.

During the eight-week work season, these students learned all the benefits of a summer job: they received a paycheck, they had the opportunity to develop skills needed to enter the workplace after high school or college, and they learned the importance of being punctual and productive. For many this was their first “real” job and an opportunity to work as part of a team that collaborates and works harmoniously to accomplish a task. Their summer with the YCC provided all that – and so much more!

Throughout the summer, their work activities varied and included maintenance and upkeep of facilities and equipment. Gates and fences were painted including the prep work of cleaning, sanding, and removing rust before even getting to the painting part.

Maintenance in open public areas of the refuge included trail maintenance (tree and shrub trimming); removing invasive weeds from trails, fishing areas, and parking lots; and graffiti removal. Crewmembers commented that it made them proud to see that their work resulted in a more pleasant place for visitors to spend time and enjoy the refuge.

“Shop Days” spent at each of the Complex’s three refuges taught the young workers the importance of properly maintaining, organizing, and storing one’s equipment; and resulted in workplaces cleaned, spruced-up, and safer for everyone.

A week spent on maintenance and painting at the Fire Cache provided the crew a chance to work side-by-side with refuge firefighters as they cleaned and organized fire hoses and other equipment and washed fire engines. They also learned to use a power washer to prep storage buildings for painting.

When the work was done, firefighters shared personal stories of the training they went through to become wildland firefighters, and a review of the techniques they use when fighting fire.

There were other valuable work opportunities – unique to being on a wildlife refuge – when YCC crewmembers worked alongside refuge staff, particularly the refuge biologists. Activities like the seasonal tule elk survey, nutria monitoring, fire fuels and residual dry matter monitoring, and upland vegetation monitoring allowed crewmembers to get closer to wildlife and habitat while learning and using scientific procedures and protocols important to the success of wildlife and habitat conservation.

An annual task that always ranks high on crewmembers’ “likes” is the annual cleaning of the waterfowl hunt blinds. The blinds always provide the surest opportunity to get up-close-and-personal with wildlife. The YCC never knew what awaited them when they raised the blinds’ lids – snakes, spiders, mice, birds! On their last day of work, the YCC’s tenure at the refuge was celebrated; the crew compiled a group presentation to share with the staff and each member shared their reflections of working on a wildlife refuge.

To date, 137 young people have gone through San Luis’ YCC program. For many, their time spent on the wildlife refuge was their first exposure to the natural world and wildlife. Many never even knew the refuges were here until they applied for the job. Now, those crewmembers and their families are ambassadors in their communities for the San Luis NWR Complex, the work of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the value and importance of wildlife trust resources.

"It is refreshing and inspiring to work with youth that truly care about the environment and are so willing learn," said Kathryn Heffernan, San Luis NWR Complex wildlife biologist.

Judging by their comments, these young people have begun developing a lifelong interest in nature and wildlife. Since they spent the summer working on public land and witnessed how their work positively affected refuge visitors, they have built a sense of civic responsibility and service to community, as wellB

 

Madeline Yancey is a visitor services specialist at San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Los Banos, California.

Contact Info: Pam Bierce, 916-414-6542, pamela_bierce@fws.gov