Despite the abundance of wild places in Alaska, many young Alaskans have never had the opportunity to explore Alaska’s vast expanse of public lands. The Chugach Children’s Forest – a partnership between Alaska Geographic and the Chugach National Forest – addresses this disparity by bringing underrepresented youth into their wild backyard, organizing outdoor adventures and introducing youth to outdoor recreation, stewardship, and career paths on public lands.
On Sunday, June 5th Chugach Children’s Forest youth spent the day aboard the Kenai Star for a glacier tour. Participants had the opportunity to witness the magnificent scenery of Prince William Sound including the towering glaciers of Blackstone Bay. Thanks to the generous donation from Major Marine Tours, Alaska Geographic and the Chugach National Forest were able to offer the trip for free to Chugach Children’s Forest participants.
The trip served as the “kick-off” event for the exciting Chugach Children’s Forest experiences planned for the summer. Already, nine middle school students from across Alaska have spent eight days aboard the Babkin Marine Research Vessel in Prince William Sound on a Marine stewardship expedition. The students engaged in hands-on learning about a range of topics including oceanography, plant ecology, fisheries and issues facing the Sound such as lingering oil from the Exxon-Valdez Oil Spill and coastal accumulation of marine debris.
Middle school youth had an amazing time aboard the Babkin Marine Research Vessel
On June 30, ten high school students from urban and rural communities across Southcentral Alaska celebrated the completion of a three-week Leadership Development course coordinated by the Chugach Children’s Forest and the Chugach School District. During the first week and a half, the students learned outdoor skills, first aid protocols, and leadership strategies. The teens then ventured out to Prince William Sound to spend 10 days completing stewardship projects on the Chugach National Forest, improving their leadership skills, and learning more about way-finding, trip planning, local ecology, natural history, and Leave No Trace principles.
Chugach School District students worked to naturalize an old cabin site with the U.S. Forest Service
A second 10-day Habitat Restoration Kayak Expedition launched on July 6th. Students are en route to Eshamy Bay to assist Chugach National Forest staff with a range of work from surveying and removing invasive weeds, to cleaning up marine debris and trash from beaches, campsites, and cabins.
Students prepare to take a water taxi out to Prince William Sound for the second kayak expedition of the summer
These trips are just the beginning for Chugach Children’s Forest youth. The Chugach Children’s Forest long-term goal is to sustain lifelong stewardship and to introduce youth to careers on public lands and natural resource conservation. To keep youth involved, we keep these young Alaskans engaged through our outdoor club, youth leadership team, internships, and mentoring programs. Since we launched the programs in 2008, many Chugach Children’s Forest alumni have gone on to enroll in public lands-related degrees as first generation college students, work for conservation organizations and public land management agencies, and serve as youth advisers to organizations seeking to increase youth engagement in the outdoors.