The Colorado morning was crisp and cool as the interns gathered around the vans, nibbling the last of their breakfast and sipping the dregs of their coffee that they brought from home. The air is alive with the chirping of birds and smells of summer. The interns spent the previous month and a half working alongside Walking Mountains Science Center staff and U.S. Forest Service professionals as part of Walking Mountains’ Natural Resource Internship in the summer of 2019.

The Natural Resource Internship offers high school students from Eagle County, Colorado, the opportunity to learn about their local ecosystems and give back to the public lands that they have grown up exploring, the White River National Forest.

On this summer day, the intern’s work took them to Camp Hale, the former training grounds of the 10th Mountain Division during WWII, to put the finishing touches on a fence removal project.

Once finished, they will have removed and recycled 23,233 feet of barbed wire fence that historically separated grazing allotments in the area. The project will help the ecosystem by decreasing hazards to wildlife that are migrating through the area.

This fence removal project is one of many long term improvement efforts that the interns contributed to during the summer internship. Other projects included:

  • noxious invasive plant removal,
  • decommissioning of social trails,
  • removing unapproved campsites,
  • repairing and installing exclusion fences,
  • restoring established trails, and
  • assisting with long-term effectiveness monitoring of previously National Forest Foundation funded stream restoration projects.

In addition to work completed, the Natural Resource Internship helps the interns learn about local ecology while exploring career opportunities in land management and biological sciences. Through hands-on education and working alongside scientists and professionals, the interns studied life zones in the Rocky Mountains, natural resource management, and how land managers plan effectively for local and large scale ecosystems.

The Natural Resource Internship with Walking Mountains Science Center and the Forest Service is entering its eighth summer thanks to funding from the National Forest Foundation Ski Conservation Fund. Many interns who have participated in the Natural Resource Internship have gone on to pursue degrees in environmental science or land management fields, but ALL of the interns have finished the summer with a deeper respect for our public lands and a renewed dedication to help conserve them for future generations.

In addition to the high school Natural Resource Internship, Walking Mountains’ also offers seasonal summer and winter naturalist internships, sustainability internships and the Foley Graduate Fellowship Program.

National Forest Foundation