In March of 2018, in partnership with many local organizations, the National Forest Foundation supported and held the first week-long Earth Conservation Internship Program outside of Tucson, Arizona on the Coronado National Forest.

The penultimate week of March marked the start of the first ever Earth Conservation Internship (ECI). This program was developed as a collaboration between the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Forest Foundation, Arizona Conservation Corps (AZCC), Youth Career Connect and Pima County One Stop

ECI aimed to give high school students an opportunity to participate in environmental conservation, develop leadership skills and learn about career opportunities in environmental science. 

Program staff selected 11 Juniors from Tucson’s Sunnyside High School as Interns. They were then paired with a mentor from the AZCC. At the end of the week each group was asked to write a short description of the events of one day of the week, including highlights that stood out to them, things they learned, or projects they felt proud of. 

The following is a short description of each day’s events, and the Mentor/Mentee group quotes. Enjoy! 

Tuesday - Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum 

On Tuesday the interns enjoyed a day at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum where they met live animals, learned about career fields like Naturalist & Wildlife Biologist, and then met their Arizona Conservation Corps mentors!

“On Tuesday it was the beginning of our journey. We began with an intro with animals. We touched three different animals. We also were given an intro to a vast majority of conservation careers. After our intro we met the Arizona Conservation Corps members and our mentors. We then learned each other’s names. Then they gave us a little lesson on how to use the tools.” 
ECI: Luis Rosas, Noah Rios, Noe Carrasco | AZCC: Trever Ducote, Lamoni Mora

Photo by Michelle Dillon Photography

Wednesday - Mt. Lemmon Biome Exploration & Erosion Work

On Wednesday Interns were ALL over Mt. Lemmon learning about geology, flora and fauna.  We began our work projects with the AZCC by learning about water’s relationship with trails, camped for the first night and met by the fire with Mindi Lehew from the US Forest Service who spoke to the interns about the Pathways program and answered all of their questions about wildfires!

“On Wednesday with our AZCC mentor we re-established the entrance of Box Camp Trail on Mt. Lemmon. We learned that water damage on the trail caused it to have the need to be remodeled to prevent further erosion. It was really eye opening to learn the type of work that is necessary to have a safe and efficient trail. We also learned how to safely set up camp. We had a lot of fun!”
ECI: Sophia Garcia, Krisna Lopez | AZCC: Connor Tipping

Thursday - Mt. Lemmon & The Arizona Trail

On Thursday our trail restoration projects were based out of Molino Basin and Bug Spring. We worked to clear and redefine trails and parking pull-offs in these locations, and to deter the creation of social trails which destroy the natural environment. 

“On Thursday we worked with our AZCC Mentors and focused on the maintenance of one section of the Arizona Trail located at Molino Basin campsite. Being able to work with these mentors exposed us to the various leadership skills necessary to work in conservation.”
ECI: Sharon Vega, Jordan Moreno | AZCC: Sophie Maas

Photo by Michelle Dillon Photography.

Photo by Michelle Dillon Photography

Friday - Sabino Canyon Public Spaces

On Friday the interns and AZCC channeled their efforts into giving the Sabino Canyon Visitor Center a fresh face! They planted prickly-pear cacti around to create new landscaping and to keep visitors from walking in potentially dangerous areas! Then the whole gang met with the Fire Crew for a BBQ lunch at the Firehouse!

“This week was a week of many firsts, however Friday was saturated with them. We worked to conserve our land by planting cactus. Not only did the cactus teach us agricultural skills, it also allowed us to obtain leadership and teamwork abilities. These experiences opened a gateway to bond with our AZCC mentors and US Forest Service employees.”
ECI: Angie Pichardo, Veronica Portillo | AZCC: Michael Frogner

Photo by Michelle Dillon Photography.

Photo by Michelle Dillon Photography.

Saturday - Sabino Canyon VS. Buffelgrass / Learning Celebration

The interns spent Saturday morning working hard pulling buffelgrass in Rattlesnake Canyon. The crew cleared a huge area and then enjoyed lunch to discuss their week together. To end the week everyone enjoyed a Learning Celebration with families and friends at the Cactus Picnic Area where interns discussed what they gained from the week, and AZCC mentors gave out Awards for the Interns’ hard work! What a fabulous way to end an amazing week!

“On Saturday we met at Sunnyside High School and then traveled back to Sabino Canyon to pull buffelgrass with our AZCC mentors. Buffelgrass is an invasive species that has taken over our desert, bringing intense fire and suffocating our saguaros. By the end of the day we cleared 78,040 square feet of buffelgrass from Rattlesnake Canyon. After that we enjoyed pizza for lunch and also saw a Gila Monster!”
ECI: Alyssa Vildusea, Mya Phelps-Ulloa | AZCC: Anna Fluri

Learn more about the National Forest Foundation's work in Southern Arizona. 

Thank you to Michelle Dillon Photography for donating services for the program. 

National Forest Foundation