Youth Conservation Program Thrives at Grand Teton National Park

July 10 , 2008
Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott salutes the Grand Teton National Park Foundation for their invaluable help in establishing and supporting the Youth Conservation Program (YCP) at Grand Teton National Park. Thanks to generous donations made by several donors through the Foundation, the park has been able to offer this youth employment opportunity for the past three years. This year’s program includes 17 YCP crew members—with enrollees from as far away as Florida and California. The 2008 crew represents an increase of five members over last year’s crew, three of whom returned after participating in the 2007 program.

YCP crews work with National Park Service (NPS) staff to improve trails and structures throughout the park. Their efforts include the rehabilitation of trails and backcountry areas through projects like brushing, hazard tree removal, and construction of water bars and drainage swales. Participants also pull exotic weeds, clear vegetation, build fences, construct stone masonry, install bear-proof containers, repair historic structures, and repair and launch the ferry boat at Menor’s Ferry Historic District. NPS teams work with the YCP teens to provide a unique educational experience that includes park history, as well as training in safety, fire, and rescue operations. Crew members work primarily for the NPS Trails Branch, but they also collaborate with other park divisions in order to gain a well-rounded understanding of the variety of resource protection and management issues that the NPS regularly encounters. Through their diverse tasks and exposure to park operations, YCP members are able to see firsthand the value of land stewardship and develop personal conservation ethics. This year, a previous YCP member obtained a seasonal position at Grand Teton, while two others are in the process of securing seasonal federal employment elsewhere.

The YCP is a summer employment program for high school students, ages 16 to 19. YCP enrollees develop an understanding of NPS conservation ethics as they assist with projects to complete critically-needed maintenance and rehabilitation on park trails and other resources. Participants work alongside NPS crew leaders and become familiar with NPS stewardship goals, while learning essential trail maintenance skills. YCP participants also serve as park ambassadors, as they complete project work on some of the most visible, and most impacted, park trails—trails like Jenny, String, Taggart and Bradley lakes, and the trails near Colter Bay. The YCP program runs for ten weeks, from mid-June through mid-August.

As an extension of their mission to support new and innovative projects that add value to the park, the Grand Teton National Park Foundation provides funding for salaries for YCP participants, as well as some of their work gear and transportation to and from Jackson.

For more information about YCP and how to contribute to future YCP activities, or other Foundation programs, please call Leslie Mattson at 307.732.0629, or email