At nearly 17 million acres, Tongass National Forest in Alaska is the largest in the U.S., so it’s not surprising that the forest relies on nearly 50 SCA members every summer, among the most sizeable SCA cohorts anywhere.
“We have SCAs helping out in almost every program and district across Southeast Alaska,” says Partnership and Volunteer Coordinator Nikki Olsen. “They help the forest accomplish projects from trail work to fish weir maintenance to staffing visitor centers. How much we accomplish can be limited by staffing capacity. SCA members help increase that capacity and are a great addition to the Tongass staff.”
SCA’s impact on the Tongass can also be measured over time, with perhaps the best example occurring in 2018, when two members of an SCA crew arrived to assist on the same project their father’s worked on a generation earlier.
Yet, in an example seen time and again at SCA service sites across the country, the influence of Tongass professionals on the young men and women in their authority is just as profound. They initiate the members into the agency, cultivate their interest in conservation careers, and acclimate the members to the remote yet spectacular landscape.
Prior to her current role, Nikki was assistant director of the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, where she directly supervised several SCA apprentices. “For many SCA members,” she notes, “their internship at the Mendenhall is often an experience of many firsts: first time working with the U.S. Forest Service, first time working in Alaska, first time working in natural resources, etc. SCA members typically show up excited and energized to learn, engage, and provide their best service….and it is great to be able to provide these first opportunities and support them and see them grow throughout the busy season.
“We typically have a handful of SCA members who return for another year as an SCA, accept a temporary seasonal position, and sometimes end up in a permanent position. Others may not return to work with the Forest Service but stay in the community. It’s great to see so many SCA members fall in love with the Tongass and find ways to stick around.”
Such symbiosis, in this case facilitated by Nikki and her Tongass colleagues, is an essential part of the SCA experience, one in which everyone gains.
“The Tongass thanks SCA for providing so many quality SCA members to help us accomplish our mission,” Nikki states. And we thank the Tongass for creating opportunities in which these young leaders thrive.
Visit the SCA100k page for more on our partners and celebration.