Ellie Duke Interview – Glacier Youth Corps Partnership

This summer, a diverse group of young adults came together, from as far away as New York City and as close as Hungry Horse Montana, and worked to build not only new skills and work experience, but an enhanced affinity for the outdoors and Glacier National Park. The Glacier Youth Corps Partnership, a new volunteer partnership program supported by the Glacier National Park Conservancy, Montana Conservation Corps, National Park Foundation, and Glacier National Park, has just finished up a very successful first season. Thirty five youth, ages 17-24, received the experience of a lifetime by getting exposed to a wide-range of career paths at Glacier National Park through immersive projects across several Park divisions over the course of the summer.

A favorite project for many crew members included working with the GNP Fire Management division to create wildfire defensible space around historic structures and patrol cabins. Brad Harris, Glacier NP Fuels Specialist worked directly with the crew and noted, “This small but productive work force exceeded my expectations of the type and quality of work the GYCP program provides. This work will go a long way in making these structures more defensible to wildfire in the future.” The project included work in front and backcountry locations teaching the crew not only the importance and ecology of wild land fire mitigation, but also exposing them to the rich archeological history of several of these structures, and the importance of preserving that heritage in Glacier.

All told, the Glacier Youth Corps Partnership crews provided 10 weeks of labor amounting to over 3,000 hours at little or no cost to Glacier National Park, all at a time when National Park Service funding is continually being cut by Congress.

The crews experienced a large diversity of projects at many locations within Glacier, and were able to accomplish the following: construction of 91 trail structures including bridges, drainage and turnpikes, 8 acres of wild land fire mitigation at 5 historic structures and patrol cabins, 5 miles of trail maintenance including downfall clearing, brush clearing and drainage maintenance, 20 community education exhibits maintained, 12 GNP buildings maintained. In addition, the crews conducted 110 citizen science surveys at 32 sites across the Park, collecting valuable data on Pika, Mountain Goats, Bighorn Sheep, Loons, and invasive plants.

Probably the greatest value of the GYCP lies in the fact that it connects these young people in a deep and meaningful way to Glacier National Park, building a new generation of leaders and stewards for our parks and public lands. It fosters a broader view of the world and pushes participants past comfort zones which ultimately increases their self-confidence and leadership capabilities. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell recently asked, “What happens when a generation who has little connection to our nation’s public lands is suddenly in charge of taking care of them?” As we continue to invest in this important program, we welcome you to join with us in this “Call to Action” to make a difference in the lives of our youth and the future of Glacier National Park.

To help invest in stewards of tomorrow like Ellie Duke, visit our Donation Page and be part of Glacier’s Call to Action!

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