National Forest Foundation

Earth Conservation Internship

Earth Conservation Internship

As part of its Southern Arizona Forest Fund, the National Forest Foundation (NFF) is proud to launch the Earth Conservation Internship, a program that connects underserved high school students to the diverse Sonoran desert ecosystem, provides skills in restoration techniques, and builds outdoor leadership experiences – all on the Coronado National Forest.

The Coronado National Forest, Tucson’s backyard, is a popular recreation area for residents and draws visitors from around the world. But the Forest is under threat - from invasive species, erosion, drought, and wildfire.

In response to these threats, the NFF and local partners are working to support strategic, high-priority restoration projects on the Coronado National Forest. The Earth Conservation Internship is an important part of addressing degraded desert landscapes, and teaching young people about the value of our public lands.

Photo by Michelle Dillon Photography

With our partners at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, we work with local schools in underserved communities to recruit 12-15 high school students for a spring and/or fall break program, where they will be immersed into a hands-on learning environment.

During this week, students participate in Forest Service restoration projects, working side by side Arizona Conservation Corps crews developing skills in restoration and leadership, and they learn how the fields of biology, ecology, geography, and hydrology all fit together. They also learn the artful skills of communication through social media, photography, blogging, and journaling. At the end of the week, and in honor of their work, the students receive a stipend for their participation.

In turn, these students will develop new skills and an appreciation of the natural world, as well as a broader view on how, whether in a natural resource profession or as an individual, everyone can help conserve earth’s resources. Through the Earth Conservation Internship we are building the next generation of community leaders and young stewards of our public lands.

In my 18 years working with teen programming at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, I have never seen a program as powerful as this one. The energy, wisdom and enthusiasm that was brought to the Interns by the AZCC crew members was magical! The amount of hard labor provided was jaw dropping! The attentiveness of the Interns to the scientists and other adults was unsurpassed! Eyes were opened. Hearts were filled. Minds were expanded. Futures made to look brighter.

Amy Orchard, Education Director, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

Photo by Michelle Dillon Photography

Photo by Michelle Dillon Photography.

An Average Day in the Life of an Earth Conservation Intern

Each day offers new experiences for the interns. Throughout the week they will:

  • work with in the field on a restoration project,
  • meet a variety conservation scientists,
  • participate in team-building and leadership development activities, and
  • provide reflections of personal and conservation goals through photos, social media content, blogs, essays, etc.

“This week we learned a lot, I didn’t realize so much effort had to go into keeping trails maintained – and that fact that it takes so long. It was really fun to actually go out there and get hands on. I camped for the first time this week which was also really fun. It was also eye opening to see all the effort that is needed, and how hard the Arizona Conservation Corps works, it’s really admirable because there is so much to get done for people to enjoy.”

Earth Conservation Intern Sophia

I actually got into the forest! I want to go on to volunteer my time to contribute to this place because it is so beautiful.

Earth Conservation Intern, Angie


  • Improving landscape on the Coronado National Forest,
  • Engaging high school students in underserved communities in the Tucson area,
  • Supporting stewardship of public lands for years to come, and
  • Building capacity and interest in public lands restoration and management.

Support Young Minds

With your help, we can get more students outside!

  • Provide program support
  • Sponsor a student,
  • Donate equipment and supplies.