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Pathways Newsletter

[Image Description: Two MCC members are walking away on a rocky trail, carrying their packs, surrounded by burnt orange bushes. Through the haze in the background, there are a multitude of mountains, overlapping one another.]

There is a lot that happens at Montana Conservation Corps!  From member stories in the field to the latest happenings at MCC, you can find that information in the articles from our virtual Pathways newsletter.

Christina is a three-time MCC Youth Expedition alum and winner of the 2023 ServeMontana Youth Award. She’s just about to enter her senior year of high school in Missoula. We caught up with her to learn more about winning this award, her experience with MCC, and what’s next.

The adaptability I’ve learned has given me patience, caring for the crew has given me confidence, and doing work that I believe in and making a difference has given me purpose.

"When we get leaders out there every year, we actually see the impacts and success. Especially with weed removal and herbicides, you don’t often get to see the results in a single season. It really gets people engaged and inspired.”

As the sun rises over the majestic peaks of Yellowstone National Park, casting a golden glow on the towering trees and vibrant meadows, a sense of awe and wonder fills the air. It’s here, amidst this breathtaking scenery, that our crew embarks on a journey like no other.

We sat down with our Vice President of Programs, Stacey Williams, to chat about MCC’s new Temporary Relief Fund, which was developed as a way to distribute limited financial assistance to our corps members who are experiencing unexpected financial hardship that impacts their ability to serve with us.

Take a walk down MCC’s memory lane, and learn some exciting news for the future!

“I don’t give myself the option to quit what I started. I’m going to get through it. It may be a bad day, but it's not a bad life. I want to be the best me.”

"One of my crew members carried a 35mm film camera with them all summer. They’re some of my favorite photos from the season... Those photos, to me, hold our little family living in memory in our cabin on the creek under the cedars. That’s part of why these memories are so special. We were free to be our true selves in a non-male space."

"Since my previous term as a crew leader ended, I find myself most frequently reflecting upon the themes and lessons of communication and team facilitation learned during Summit. And now, a little over two months into my current term as a Senior Crew Leader, it has been the most impactful week of the 2023 Leadership Development Program thus far."

Read about Paul's journey from serving with MCC, to Tanzania, to now at Visa!

Standing in hip-high waders, Francie balances precariously on the soft, muddy bottom of Holland Lake. Skimming the underside of the large floating leaf in front of her with her fingertips, she searches for the stem. There! She follows it lower and lower into the cold lake water, all the way down to the goo at her feet. Carefully, she worms her fingers deep into the mud and digs out the root. Sweet success! She triumphantly whips the freed plant above her head and into an awaiting black trash bag. Today, she is entirely focused on one thing: seeking out and destroying invasive water lilies.

This summer, Farah (15) joined MCC for the third time in two years, and Alcyone (16), spent nearly half her summer with MCC. Through our partnership with the Glacier National Park Conservancy and the park, MCC offers 2 and 4-week Glacier Youth Corps service expeditions for local teens. Let’s hear what they have to say about their summer spent volunteering in Glacier National Park.

The beginning of the season can be tough for everyone. After all the training is over, we delve right into the work. Whether we measure up to the task is up to us.

Looking around this pine forest, you can almost hear the echo of MCC members of the past. The sounds of a pick mattock ringing when it hits a rock, the thumping of countless boots over packed earth, or the shouted warning as someone hefts a rock downhill. You can feel the presence of generations of MCC’ers that have been working on this trail, the Wallman Trail, for over 15 years. This trail is an important connector between two highly used corridors in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area (RNRA), and this reroute is an effort to make it safer, disperse use, and offer a better user experience. This summer we inch towards finally finishing it for good and opening it to the public.

With MCC, it was love. Not love for someone, or even for a place though I did love where I was. But love for a way of being alive, a way of being a leader. 

After years of guiding summer expeditions during college, serving as an MCC Youth Expedition leader provided me with challenges and successes that I had never experienced elsewhere. Instead of simply recreating in these beautiful spaces, we were learning about their history, contributing to their maintenance, and growing as individuals.

My first term as a Big Sky Watershed Corps Member was surprising, to say the least... I was expecting to do some research, play in some creeks, and learn a bit more about what a career in conservation could look like. Instead, I spent my year immersed in the complex world of western water law while learning my way around a new community... It was not an easy year.

Robert was looking for an outdoor career with purpose. So, last year he took a leap of faith that landed him in our Northern Rockies region serving as a crew member. He enjoyed his term so much that he is returning this season to serve as a crew leader! Read on as we dive into what Robert learned last year, and what he is excited to accomplish as a crew leader.

“We got into the program, and it changed everything for us.”

Sitting on the banks of North Burnt Fork Creek in the Bitterroot Valley, this is how Heather Barber describes the Bitter Root Water Forum’s experience with the Big Sky Watershed Corps: a game-changer.

In this blog, Natalie shares how picking wild huckleberries raised their crew's spirits in an otherwise challenging hitch.

MCC is at the nexus of a national trails revival in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. This summer, MCC crews are tackling projects in five of these priority areas.

In the past two years, MCC has improved over 807 miles of trail including removing 22,123 blown down trees and clearing debris from 2,406 drainage structures in these priority areas!

Crouched next to the pond in their childhood backyard, young Clo loved observing frogs and other slimy native critters. From this fascination bloomed a love of herpetology, or the study of amphibians and reptiles. Today, you can find Clo doing what they do best - monitoring and researching frogs, turtles, and pond sliders with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (MFWP) as part of MCC’s Conservation Fellows program.

Grounded in connection to local lands and exposure to potential career paths, MCC’s partnership with the Forest Service to run Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) programs makes a big impact in small Montana towns.

Sometimes, things don’t go according to plan! Our crews deal with the elements, wildlife, equipment issues, vehicle problems, and so much more. It’s great that they can keep a positive attitude about it and learn to “weather the storm”. That’s what this Greater Yellowstone Wilderness Restoration Team did when they were hit with a middle-of-the-night storm during a recent hitch in North Dakota. Read on for an abridged version of crew member Will’s blog about their eventful, hilarious hitch.

MCC is known for our transformational experiences, and our newly re-launched youth expeditions are no exception. Recently, one of our youth crews returned from a two-week expedition to combat invasive weeds on the 18,766-acre Bison Range. This culturally significant area set the stage for the crew to connect with the place beneath their boots, their inner power, the people around them, and their future pathways into high school and beyond.