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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.]

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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 Pathways newsletter. We release an issue every couple of months!

We just released a special print edition of Pathways for November. Take a look at the digital flipbook here.


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.

This summer, MCC has partnered up with Yellowstone National Park to help install larger, more robust bear boxes in Bridge Bay Campground. With bison in their front yard and Yellowstone Lake as a backdrop, one of our crews installed 44 bear boxes, all while finding a deeper connection with the land along the way.

The Gallatin River Task Force (GRTF) has hosted MCC Big Sky Watershed Corps (BSWC) members since 2011 when the BSWC program was launched. MCC sat down with Gallatin River Task Force Chief Executive and Science Officer, Kristin Gardner, PhD, to discuss this longstanding partnership and what keeps GRTF coming back for more MCC.

In this article, we recap the success of our May fundraisers- the Whitefish Community Foundation Day of Giving and Unity, and Gallatin Valley Give Big.

This summer MCC is running two women’s fire crews: one partnering with the Bureau of Land Management and the other the National Park Service. In mid-May, I traveled to Whitehall, MT to interview the BLM crew on one of their first hitches about why they chose wildland fire, what they’re looking forward to this season, and what it’s like to be in a male-dominated field.

In this blog, we introduce our new VP of Programs Stacey and talk about what she is bringing to the MCC table.

Our Missouri River Watershed Program Coordinator, Autumn Christenson, tells the story of one of our 2020 Big Sky Watershed Corps members Connor Mertz, and his trials and tribulations serving under the new Healthy Watershed Consortium Grant.

One of MCC’s flagship programs is the Leadership Development Program (LDP), a 3-month intensive training experience to build emotional intelligence, develop group facilitation competencies, and practice technical project skills. Ally Winship, one of nearly 100 AmeriCorps Field Crew Leaders for this season, reflects on her experience of the LDP this spring.

President Biden’s vision for a Civilian Climate Corps is full of promise and opportunity for MCC and our partners.

There’s no place better suited to renew America’s legacy of conservation, restore our health following the COVID-19 pandemic, foster equity and respect for all, and rekindle our spirit as a nation united in purpose. After a challenging year, MCC is renewed with hope and purpose.

MCC adapts the Leadership Training Program to mitigate COVID risks

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