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Haaland launches Indian Youth Service Corps to benefit young people and public lands

Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps crew planting along the Queen Valley Road in areas disturbed by vehicles.jpg
Michael Faist
National Park Service
Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps crew planting along the Queen Valley Road in areas disturbed by vehicles.

News Brief

Brittany Chavarria’s relationship with the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico started when she was 13.

Chavarria is from the Pueblo of Isleta, and now she’s an intern at the refuge through the Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps. She wants to encourage others to get involved, too, through a new program called Indian Youth Service Corps.

“Our ancestors have stewarded this land and passed on traditions that teach us how to respect and care for not only the land, but for one another. That’s why I’m inviting Indigenous youth like myself to become involved with public lands that are also the traditional homeland of our people,” she said.

Chavarria spoke during a June 10 press call with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announcing the new IYSC program.

The IYSC was first established in 2019 as part of an amendment to the Public Lands Corps Act, but now Haaland has published guidelines for people to start building out the corps.

One of its goals is to foster natural resource and land stewardship skills for tribal members aged 16 to 30, or 35 if you’re a veteran – skills Haaland said can translate into jobs.

“From trail building and reforestation activities, to erosion control and fire fuels reduction, to water sampling and invasive species removal, these projects will infuse traditional Indigenous knowledge with ongoing conservation priorities,” Haaland said.

The Indian Youth Service Corps will work on publicly managed and tribal lands.

To help, the National Park Foundation announced it would fund $1 million of the IYSC projects, and the Forest Service will chip in up to $5 million more.

This new corps builds upon ongoing tribal youth programs, including one in the Southwest called the Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

I'm the regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau at Boise State Public Radio.