The NFF will work with Northern Arizona University and the Tonto National Forest to develop a youth engagement program that connects highs school students with drone technology, GIS analysis tools, and restoration of the Lower Salt River.

The National Forest Foundation (NFF) is proud to announce the award of $100,000 from The Boeing Company for development of a new youth program designed to foster and strengthen the interest in STEM career paths through the lens of local stewardship, public lands management, and drone technology.

Through this funding, ”Green Drone AZ” will meaningfully engage diverse high school students in the Phoenix metropolitan area with training for basic level Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or drone technology and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology while connecting them to college students and professionals in the STEM/conservation field.

The NFF will collaborate with several local partners to engage students across STEM interest areas and levels of technical expertise in a real-world river restoration project – on the Lower Salt River, using data collected by students to help guide scientists and land managers in decision making. The program will bring together the NFF, Audubon Arizona, Northern Arizona University (NAU), Arizona State University (ASU), the Tonto National Forest, and Phoenix-area Public High Schools.

The Salt River is a crucial source of water, life and beauty for Arizona, acting as a major artery through the watershed and for city water supplies in the Valley of the Sun. Yet the function and health of the Salt River has degraded over the last several decades, largely by nonnative plant species, which outcompete and use more water resources than native vegetation.

With a shared vision of restoration, NFF, partners and Green Drone AZ students will be stepping up on the Lower Salt River to make real, measurable change to benefit the river, birds and wildlife, for people from near and far, and for the state’s tourism economy.

“We are proud to kick off an innovative youth program in Arizona with this funding. Boeing’s gift will further our mission at the National Forest Foundation to engage young Americans in meaningful connection with our National Forest System. This partnership demonstrates the deep commitment that Boeing has to developing the next generation of skilled workers and public land stewards. We are grateful to Boeing for helping us accomplish work that improves forest health and engages new champions of technology in restoration,” said Mary Mitsos, NFF president.

We are excited that these high school students are working with college students and professionals to solve real world problems unique to our community like water conservation. It is important for them to have access to role models and be exposed to potential STEM career pathways that Green Drone AZ provides.

Boeing Community Investor Leann Shaffer
National Forest Foundation