As the end of the season approaches, I have been taking time to think back on all the things that my term with MCC has brought me. This summer was full of new experiences, challenges, laughter, and lots of gas station runs. At the beginning of the season we were asked to write a letter to ourselves where we described what we wanted to gain from this experience, and I specifically remember writing that I wanted to become more connected to the local community that I would be serving. Thankfully, through my position as a YCC leader, I was able to help the community in very unique ways that made me more connected to the locals and the natural world around me.
All of the projects we worked on this summer were memorable in their own way and each of them made us grow closer as a team. However, my favorite project that we completed was during range week when we built a fence around a protected wetland area. This project proved to be very difficult and required lots of hard work, teamwork, and motivation. I was so proud at the end of the week because I believe my crew really stepped up to the plate during this project. On the second day, we spent the first half of the day using a post pounder to put in fence posts wherever the spray-painted dots were. After meeting with the project partner, she informed us that we would have to take all the fence posts out and put them in again because the fence would otherwise not be straight enough and the cows could break through more easily. After a long 4 hours of pounding in these fence posts, that was probably the last thing my crew wanted to hear. However, we all understood that it is what had to be done in order to get the best results out of our project. Our crew quickly got back to work and I did not hear a single person complaining.
Not every day in the field is easy, but they can all be worth it if you go in with the right mindset. Our crew could have chosen to be grumpy the rest of the day, but instead, it motivated us to work even harder to make sure the project was getting done right. I really believe that this pushed our crew to become closer together and taught them the importance of taking the time to get the job done right. By the end of the week, we built an amazing fence that not only helped the local wildlife but also made us more connected to each other and how our work impacts the community. We found out that the reason we were building this fence was that they wanted to protect the wetland from being destroyed by a local farmer’s cows. In Montana, it is not uncommon to have free-range cows, and it is also not uncommon for those cows to damage wetland areas during the summer months. The summer months are when the ground is the softest and most easy to damage, so when the cows come through they tend to have a negative effect on those wetlands. The farmer who owned those cows and the land wanted to build this fence to protect the area and make sure that native wildlife such as moose, elk, and birds got to utilize it for years to come.
This project not only made us grow closer as a crew, it also helped me reach my goal that I had set for myself at the beginning of the summer. Getting to work directly with the local community to build a project that had been years in the making was such an amazing opportunity. I walked away from this week with a deeper connection to the community, a stronger understanding of how my work impacts the natural world around me, and a sense of accomplishment that made me a better leader.