Youth Conservation Program Flourishes

During a YCP recognition event, Becca Woolridge reads
an original essay about her summer on the YCP crew

YCP teens learn trail building skills
August 18, 2010
Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott and the Grand Teton National Park Foundation (GTNPF) celebrated the fifth successful season of the Youth Conservation Program (YCP) during a gathering on August 3rd at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center. This year, a record number of YCP teens participated in the program, which ends for the season on Thursday, August 19.

Thanks to generous donations from donors through the GTNPF, Grand Teton was able to expand the program to offer youth employment to 21 YCP crew members for the 2010 season—an increase of seven participants over last year’s crew of 14. The Foundation provided $173,000 in support of the 2010 program, and has given over $500,000 during the last five years.

Since its inception, dozens of teens on YCP crews have worked with National Park Service (NPS) staff to improve trails and structures throughout Grand Teton. Their efforts this summer included re-routing trails and restoring vegetation at Blacktail Ponds, constructing buck-and-rail fences at Lupine Meadows and Inspiration Point, creating new trail structures and causeways on the Emma-Matilda lakes trail, and removing weeds at numerous park locations. Additionally, students helped prepare and launch the historic Menor’s Ferry and assisted wildland fire crews with a hazard fuel reduction project near Signal Mountain.

NPS personnel provided the YCP crew with several educational and team-building experiences that introduced the teens to park operations, fire and rescue activities, history and science programs, and safety procedures. Crew members worked primarily for Grand Teton’s trails branch; but they also collaborated with other park divisions in order to gain a well-rounded understanding of the variety of resource protection and management issues that the park regularly encounters. YCP members were able to see firsthand the value of land stewardship and develop personal conservation ethics.

During their team-building exercises, the students participated in “Ranger Olympics” with the Jenny Lake rangers to gain an understanding of search and rescue operations. This extracurricular activity took place just one day before the park’s largest rescue operation in history occurred when 17 people were struck by lightning on the Grand Teton. Students also met with park wildlife biologists to learn about bears, wolves and cougars, and gain an understanding of the science and resource management program in Grand Teton.

The YCP is a summer employment program for high school students, ages 16 to 19. Enrollees develop 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 to learn essential trail maintenance skills and become familiar with stewardship goals. As they complete project work on some of the most visible park trails, YCP participants also serve as park ambassadors. The YCP program runs for ten weeks, from mid-June through mid-August.

As an extension of their mission to support innovative projects that protect and add value to Grand Teton, the GTNPF provides funding for YCP participant salaries and some of their work gear, as well as their daily transportation to and from Jackson. For more information about the YCP program and how to contribute to future YCP activities, or other programs, call Leslie Mattson at 307.732.0629, or email