This summer, BLM’s El Malpais National Conservation Area is hosting a Student Conservation Association (SCA) work crew of five members and their leaders to conduct important conservation projects. The labor-intensive work involves building erosion control structures, trail maintenance and rehabbing roads.
For many of the youth, this experience includes a lot of firsts in their lives: their first time in the Southwest, their first time camping, their first time away from the comforts of home.
The SCA provides college and high school-aged members with hands-on conservation service opportunities in virtually every field imaginable. The mission of the SCA is to build the next generation of conservation leaders and inspire lifelong stewardship of our environment and communities by engaging young people in hands-on service to the land. Students range from 15-19 years of age and serve on a crew for three to five weeks during the summer. They live in tents and cook their own meals.
Justin, one of the crew leaders, said he enjoys watching the kids mature during the program. “Whether they know it or not, they are growing up out here. Some of them are cooking their first meals, dealing with laundromats for the first time. Dealing with things you normally figure out while you are in college, only these guys are getting a jump start on those life skills.”
Kate, who is from Florida and doing her first stint as an SCA crew member, said something she has learned through this experience is that “once you come out and do this hard work and visit these beautiful places, you can never go back and just sit on the couch for a summer. It makes you want to continue exploring and learning about the outdoors.”
Maggie, a South Carolina native and also a first-time SCA crew member, added that one important part of this program is that it helps students develop outdoor skills. “You learn about Leave No Trace and how to respect the land and you can bring all that back home with you,” she said.
Shawn, who is doing his second summer as an SCA crew member, calls the opportunity “a chance of a lifetime.”
When asked about why they would want to volunteer their summer break to do manual labor, they all had a very similar answer: It is fun, hard work that is very rewarding. Also, they all mentioned how the SCA program is a good way for them to help the environment, meet new people from all over the country and travel to new and different places.
This is the second summer the BLM has hosted an SCA work crew at El Malpais. Last year’s work crew was such a success that this year we’ll be having two SCA crews in the area.
“We appreciate their amazing work ethic and we would never be able to get this kind of work done without their dedication to conservation,” said BLM’s Supervisory Park Ranger Ken Jones.
For more information about the SCA program or how you can get involved, visit www.thesca.org.