Youth Conservation Corps

An experience of a lifetime

The Youth Conservation Corps program engages youth in work-based learning projects and leadership education programs. Yellowstone’s YCC program is focused on training and inspiring the next generation of conservation leaders through work projects, outdoor recreation, and resource education. The program allows youth, ages 15-18, the opportunity to experience the motto of Work, Learn, Play, and Grow in one of the world’s greatest protected ecosystems.

Each year Yellowstone Forever’s members and corporate partners help fund the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for teen enrollees and staff to live in the world’s first national park while working on important conservation projects.

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Program Overview

Every winter hundreds of 15-18 year olds apply for approximately 50 spots in the Yellowstone Youth Conservation Corps (YCC). 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. 

YCC 2023 Highlights and Accomplishments

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. Below are just some of the many YCC accomplishments in 2023:

  • Installed 75 bear boxes at Bridge Bay Campground and 22 bear boxes at the Madison Campground.
  • Renovation of the historic Canyon Amphitheater to make it ABA-compliant for universal access.
  • Conducted 80 hours of visitor use monitoring and Canyon and Mammoth Terraces.
  • At Bechler, installed 3 bridges to connect trail turnpikes.
  • Demolished and fully reconstructed one 30-foot bridge at Elk Tongue Cabin.
  • Collected dragonfly larvae for the Dragonfly Mercury Project at 9 sites throughout the park.
  • Surveyed 3 talus fields for pika presence to track changes in habitat that may be linked to climate change.
  • Completed 3.5 days of eDNA data sampling of diverse bodies of water in Yellowstone.
  • At Lamar Buffalo Ranch, built a 145-foot round pen for NPS stock.
  • and MUCH more!

“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.” – Past YCC participant

“The work we do lends itself to bettering us all. It takes both cooperation and compassion to be a member of a team. We have truly grown up and together at YCC.” – Past YCC participant

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

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