The USDA Forest Service and Unity College in Maine have a mutual interest in the management of public lands in northern New England. While the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF) contains nearly 800,000 acres of land and receives heavy recreation-related visitation there is currently a staffing shortage due to fiscal constraints. Unity College’s mission is to provide dedicated, engaged students with a liberal arts education that emphasizes the environment and natural resources. Both institutions have a shared interest in the responsible stewardship and future condition of the WMNF. Based on this shared interest the two parties have formalized a mutually beneficial partnership.
The USDA Forest Service and Unity College have provided Unity College students in relevant degree programs with an intensive introductory work experience with a federal public land management agency.
This partnership was forged by two alumni with mutual interests: to provide an educational opportunity and promote environmental stewardship of the WMNF. Justin Preisendorfer ‘99, Pemigewasset Ranger District Recreation Specialist and Nicole Collins ’00, Director of Career Services were instrumental in facilitating a formal internship partnership that will fund 3 students in a 12 week internship program focused in wilderness and recreation in the Pemigewasset Ranger District of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Positions will have housing provided and a small stipend. A pilot program was completed with great success in 2013 and funding has been secured for a 2015 program. Collins was inspired to rekindle this relationship because he was involved in a similar backcountry ranger cooperative education program during her time at Unity College. “Without Justin’s support and advocacy this partnership would not be possible.”
Students will serve in positions with a primary focus on wilderness and recreation management. They will work alongside WMNF seasonal and permanent staff to accomplish tasks such as performing maintenance/construction/reconstruction on foot trails, bridges and signs; performing maintenance on backcountry shelters, cabins, and campsites; providing services directly to WMNF visitors through face to face contact while promoting Leave-No-Trace principles; and compiling field data used to support future management decisions. Students will also have the ability to gain experience in other program areas such as wildlife biology, botany, forestry and law enforcement through short work assignments and interaction with WMNF program staff. The work will be conducted primarily out of the Pemigewasset Ranger District but students will have the opportunity to work on each of the Forest’s three districts.
Work assignments will initially focus on working in small teams while later assignments will often require students to work independently in remote locations. Most work assignments will be completed with day trips but some assignments may require the students to camp in backcountry locations.
Participants are expected to be comfortable working in remote locations, able to carry a backpack up to 60 pounds, and willing to endure rain, bugs and long days in beautiful locations. Students in all relevant degree programs can be considered. The most applicable majors currently offered by the College include Parks and Forest Resources, Conservation Law Enforcement, Adventure-Based Environmental Education, and Environmental Policy, Law, and Society. Wilderness First Aid (or a higher medical certification) and Leave No Trace training is preferred but not required. The ability to think critically and use good judgment is paramount. Safety, efficiency and a high standard of customer service are top priorities for all positions associated with the Forest Service.