Photo By Carol Broeder/Gila County Administrative Services: Gila County District 3 Supervisor Woody Cline visits with Youth Conservation Corps Crew Members and Mentors along with U.S. Forest Service staff, during their work last month at Pioneer Pass Camping Area, about nine miles south of Globe.
GILA COUNTY – Gila County’s Board of Supervisors approved funding for a Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) team two years in a row – but received no applicants.
What a change this year – when 31 youths applied for the seven spots on the team – and they have been busy for the past eight weeks.
Based in Globe from the U.S. Forest Service Ranger Station, the YCC crew tackled projects from both Globe up to Tonto Basin, even helping with Desert Tortoise monitoring research in Superior.
Rebuilding campsites in the Pioneer Pass recreation area was one major accomplishment – repairing the damage done by the Telegraph Fire and learning about recreation operations and management in the towering ponderosa pines of the Tonto National Forest.
The crew installed campground signs, informational kiosks, and firepit rings – dug holes, set posts, installed signs, and replaced old grills with new ones.
Gila County Dist. 3 Supervisor Woody Cline visited the Youth Conservation Corps crew at their worksite in Pioneer Pass on the east side of the Pinal Mountain range, saying: “It was a real pleasure to meet these young people and see the work they have accomplished. They worked on trails, cleaned up campsites, got involved in surveys, and explored botany.”
Cline described the youth as “all excited about their work,” adding that several reported wanting a career with the Forest Service.
Despite great intentions – and $70,000 funding – in 2021 and again in 2022, partners in this venture were unable to recruit enough applicants to field a crew, which is made up of seven youths and two mentors.
“We did have a crew in 2020 in the Payson area, but in 2021 and 2022 we did not have a crew,” explained Cathy Melvin, who is Supervisor Cline’s executive assistant.
Undiscouraged, Supervisor Cline and Gila County staff collaborated with Conservation Legacy and the Tonto National Forest again this year – and were pleased with 31 applicants from across southern Gila County.
“We were only able to fill one YCC crew this year,” said Cline, adding, “Hopefully next year we will have two.”
Want to apply for next year’s crew? Call/text Lee Gault at 928-864-6355, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Crew members receive hourly pay for participating in conservation projects, plus a bonus stipend for college, as well.
As to their own motivations, YCC crew members working at Pioneer Pass last month cited things like meaningful work and even future careers as wildland firefighters.
“I was looking for something different to do,” said Kylynn Cluff, of Globe. “I wanted to work outdoors. This job is really a breath of fresh air.”
Cluff said that joining a YCC crew was part of her plan to later earn First Aid certification and become a wildland firefighter.
Asked about her favorite part of the job, Cluff replied, “Getting to see all the places where we get to work.”
Those places included Roosevelt; San Carlos; Tonto Basin; Superior and Globe.
Jarek Lechuga of San Carlos just graduated from San Carlos High School when he applied to become a YCC crew member.
“I enjoy hunting and hiking and I like being outside,” said Lechuga, adding with a grin, “I figured this job would be better than working at a fast-food place.”
Like Cluff, Lechuga wants to become a wildland firefighter and, more specifically, one of the Geronimo Hotshots.
Asked about his favorite task so far, Lechuga replied it was cleaning up and painting campsites at Roosevelt Lake.
He talked about looking around the campsite at day’s end and seeing what YCC crew members had accomplished.
“It’s good to see everything come along,” Lechuga said. “It was fun for me.”
Kevin Upshaw III, of San Carlos, said he applied because he likes hard work and working on trails, and wanted to be “more outside.”
His favorite activity? “Using the sledgehammer,” replied Upshaw, who was helping demolish old firepits slated for replacement that day at Pioneer Pass.
Like many of his YCC colleagues, Upshaw plans to become a wildland firefighter in Arizona.
All three YCC crew members we spoke with encouraged local young people to apply next year, and some of them already urged their siblings, classmates, and friends.
The crew’s Mentor, Adrian Scott of Orlando, Fla., was visiting southern Gila County for the summer when he applied.
“I was unsatisfied with my own job and looking for a service-based job—one helping people better themselves,” said Scott, who also hopes to one day become a wildland firefighter.
As to his favorite part of the job so far, Scott said it occurred one day a few weeks earlier when YCC crew members were helping conduct a Desert Tortoise survey in the Superior area.
“I watched the kids run around like kids,” he said. “They had a great time.”
“This is the first time that I have felt job satisfaction,” Scott said.
YCC participants earned $600 per week, plus a bonus education award of $1,374 for those who worked the full eight-week commitment.
Read more and apply for 2024 at azcorps.org/member-positions.