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Work, learn — and have fun

As part of the Youth Conservation Corps, 16-year-olds Nevada Manning, from left, Jezreel Farrell and Travis Lucas have worked all over the Barlow Ranger District’s nearly 250,000 acres this summer. 	Derek Wiley photo

Photo by Derek Wiley
As part of the Youth Conservation Corps, 16-year-olds Nevada Manning, from left, Jezreel Farrell and Travis Lucas have worked all over the Barlow Ranger District’s nearly 250,000 acres this summer. Derek Wiley photo



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The Dalles High School student Jezreel Farrell splits wood last Tuesday morning at Flag Point Lookout in the Badger Creek Wilderness Area. The firewood will be used by campers this winter.

When private parties rent fire lookouts at Mount Hood National Forest in the winter, firewood is provided at each campsite.

But who splits all that firewood?

Last week it was three 16-year-olds from Barlow Ranger District’s Youth Conservation Corps.

After a fire crew sawed down trees at Flag Point Lookout, The Dalles High School students Jezreel Farrell and Nevada Manning and Dufur student Travis Lucas spent Tuesday splitting wood and then stacking it in a shed they had painted green just days before.

For eight weeks, beginning June 22 and concluding August 14, the YCC worked five days a week from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. They were paid minimum wage — $9.25 an hour — with the opportunity to earn high school credit.

Splitting firewood in the Badger Creek Wilderness Area was one of many jobs the YCC did this summer all over the Barlow Ranger District, which covers nearly 250,000 acres of land from 2,000 to 5,500 feet of elevation.

But preparing firewood was without a doubt the Corps’ favorite task.

“You get to whack stuff,” said Farrell, who loves camping and hiking and found out about the program from friends who had worked there in the past.

With crew leader Ashley Ferro, Farrell, Manning, Lucas and Roman Sarabia, who missed last week to attend TDHS band camp, also spent the summer rolling up barbwire outside of Maupin, pruning pine trees, picking up garbage at campsites, brushing guardrails back due to overarching vegetation and spending a day at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Fort Dalles Museum.

Going to the museums was part of the learning aspect of the program.

“We’ve learned a lot of different species of plants, trees and animals and focused a lot on the different vegetation around us,” Lucas said.

Barlow Ranger District community engagement specialist David Gross said the Youth Conservation Corps program, which was authorized by Congress in 1973, has three objectives written into the law — to provide meaningful work experience to young people age 15-18 from all social backgrounds, an opportunity to do conservation work on public lands and to teach them something about natural environment and natural resources.

“It’s what I call a working, learning and having fun program,” Gross said. “We respond to a lot of different project managers for jobs that come up through the course of the summer. They do all types of different things and it’s all meaningful work. They are paid to do a job.”

Back when Congress funded the YCC, the Barlow Ranger District had a 40-person camp for many years but eventually that funding went away and the district was charged with maintaining a small program.

While there was once 20,000 YCC workers nationwide during a summer, today there’s less than 1,000. Gross said Mount Hood National Forest gets its funding from community partners who see it as a good investment for kids.

Since he can’t take every 15-18 year old that signs up, Gross draws names out of a hat.

When asked by Gross to describe their YCC experience in one word, the lucky kids that took part in the program this summer called it “adventurous, challenging and hardworking.”



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