By Elisabeth Gustafson, Chugach Children’s Forest SCA Intern
Summer 2013, Prince William Sound: Poking out from the pebbles was an innocent-looking piece of rope. Gloria, collecting marine debris from the rocky shoreline, gave it a tug but as she pulled, the rope got longer, and longer, and longer…
After several hours of relentless teamwork, she and her fellow ‘Habitat Restoration Kayaking Expedition’ crew members wrested a 300-pound fishing net from where it had lain, tangled and buried, awaiting re-emergence as a potential hazard to boats and wildlife during the next storm. Thanks to the teens’ hard work, the huge net was safely recovered by a U.S. Forest Service vessel instead.
Seeds of Stewardship
Similar stories of stewardship in action are told by dozens of urban and rural teens from throughout Alaska who participate in the Chugach Children’s Forest and Alaska Geographic youth programs. These life-changing opportunities take place in Alaska’s wildest places, mixing adventure, service, science learning, and fun to engender a sense of caring and stewardship for natural environments. Youth become empowered when they make a tangible difference; the feeling is electric and the desire to affect even more change takes hold.
To follow their new-found passion, 15 Anchorage teens came together this fall to form the first Youth Leadership Team. At their first meeting, ideas for where to focus their energy ricocheted around the room – from planning adventures for kids who don’t get outdoors (ice fishing was a popular suggestion) to working with scientists to better understand the issues most affecting Alaska’s public lands.
Forests of the Future
In addition to planning activities for themselves and others, the team will be tasked with providing input to public lands agencies seeking youth perspectives – first up, Chugach National Forest’s Forest Plan Revision to better incorporate the insights of youth and young adults. We look forward to assisting the team to accomplish their goals to get themselves and their friends outdoors more for the benefit of public lands.
In Their Own Words:
Dawson missed hockey practice (!) to attend the fall meeting. “Young people need to care more. They will listen to their peers – it’s more motivating when it comes from your friends.”
Here are some other reasons we heard about why these special teens want to be involved:
“I want to set an example for other youth – to let others know that these public lands are ours to explore.”
“I want to inspire others to care about the quality of the environment – the future of the Earth is in our hands.”
“To get to know other kids who care about the things I love.”
“I want to help reach more youth from diverse communities so they can become involved with these programs”
We thank all the great youth involved in the Youth Leadership Team and look forward to a fantastic year!