Yellowstone Youth Conservation Corps

Yellowstone Youth Conservation Corps

Why this work matters

Each year Yellowstone Forever’s members and corporate partners help fund the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for 62 teen enrollees and staff to live in the world’s first national park while working on important conservation projects. Without this funding, many of these teens would never have the chance to visit Yellowstone.

What needs to be done

Every winter hundreds of 15-18 year olds apply for approximately 60 spots in the Yellowstone Youth Conservation Corps (YCC). In 2019 alone, more than 700 teens applied! No previous experience in the wilderness is required, but a willingness to learn new skills and work hard is necessary. The accepted teens are split up into two month-long summer sessions.

As a work-based learning program, the primary goal of YCC is to connect youth to Yellowstone through a mix of work projects, education and fun. An average day might include the installation of new bear-proof storage boxes in Yellowstone campgrounds, followed by an educational session with a naturalist, followed by a sunset hike! Alongside the advertised benefits of education and a chance to live in Yellowstone, YCC has an extra perk — or challenge. There’s little to no service in many locations in Yellowstone National Park, and the teens must leave their phones behind. 

Funding from Yellowstone Forever’s donors allows these teens to experience an unplugged and unparalleled summer in the park. Funding needs are ongoing.

What the YCC has accomplished

Projects completed by the YCC are a mix of important maintenance projects, restoration projects, and social science projects. These projects are necessary and often would not be completed without the help of the YCC. In 2019 alone, the YCC:

  • Installed 96 bear-proof food storage boxes
  • Installed 35 trailhead signs
  • Installed 18 new water bars
  • Installed 5 new drains
  • Cleared 40 drains
  • Installed 67 check dams
  • Peeled 6 logs
  • Brushed 13,382 yards of trail (7.6 miles)
  • Rehabilitated 18 social trails
  • Installed 80 gargoyle rocks to define trails
  • Installed and painted 101 yards of post and rail fence along campground trail
  • Surveyed visitor use patterns for 30 days
  • Collected data at trailheads
  • Distributed GPS units to hikers to better understand trail usages.

From a participant:

The YCC gave me the foundation for work ethics and an opportunity to see the beauty of the earth. The YCC instilled in me the value of thinking beyond myself. Without my experiences with the YCC, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.