News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Young people have chance to work in the forest

Local youth have an opportunity to give back to their community while working outdoors in local forests - and earning school credit and scholarship opportunities.

The deadline to apply to participate in the Central Oregon Youth Conservation Corps (COYCC) on the Sisters Ranger District is May 1. The application is located online at

A variety of conservation work on public lands will be done, including fire fuel reduction, trail maintenance, invasive species control, habitat restoration, and fencing. The COYCC is a Heart of Oregon Corps seasonal summer program run in partnership with the U. S. Forest Service (USFS).

The eight-week session runs from June 26 to August 17, with participants working four days a week, Monday through Thursday, nine to 10 hours a day. Participants will be paid $15 an hour, receive a half to one full high school credit, and have the opportunity for scholarship funds.

Built into the program are opportunities to interact with Forest Service staff and the public. Career days provide guidance on building a resume and learning about a career in the USFS. There is a party at the end of the eight weeks.

In 2007, Sisters resident Chase Kleint was a sophomore at Sisters High School. He participated in that summer's COYCC.

"I figured I would get to work in the woods, get good exercise to get in shape for football, earn some money, and make my parents happy that I had a job," Kleint recalled. "There were six of us, three boys and three girls."

That eight-week experience led to where Kleint is today - working as a field ranger out of the Sisters Ranger District office. Following his eight weeks with COYCC, he participated in the IEE program at the high school both his junior and senior year.

He went on to COCC, where he focused on outdoor leadership and tourism. He graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in recreation resource management. Since graduating from college, Kleint has spent 10 years with the Forest Service, seven doing seasonal work and three as a permanent employee.

He has worked on the Stanislaus National Forest, Eldorado NF, Caribou-Targhee NF, on a Bend trail crew in the Deschutes National Forest, and two years on the Willamette NF Detroit Ranger Station. He and his wife, Danica, and 2-year old daughter are delighted to be back in Sisters. Fortunately, Danica works remotely so was able to accompany Chase to his different assignments as they lived in their trailer.

According to Kleint, early in a career with the USFS, moving around and taking off-season jobs between summers is common.

As a field ranger, Kleint contacts dispersed campers outside organized campgrounds.

"I'm a jack-of-all-trades," he said, explaining he has worked with lots of different departments within the Forest Service.

The COYCC has been in existence in Central Oregon for 23 years, according to Skyler Ogden, the Sisters developed recreation manager who oversees the YCC in Sisters. He said he is engaged year-round in the planning for the summer program. He said the staff in the Sisters Ranger District office has an overall dedication and passion for the program. This time of year, they are meeting weekly to be sure all the parts are in place for this summer.

Ogden stressed the importance of the safety standards and protocols that are in place for the YCC. They check in with dispatch when they reach their assigned area each day and check out at the end of the day. They also take adequate breaks to avoid heat exhaustion.

The physical labor the youth are doing helps them get stronger and boosts their confidence, according to Ogden. He recommends that a youth who plans to join the YCC should be doing some physical training between now and when the program starts.

Kleint said he has come full circle. He and Ogden are currently working on a project that the YCC will be doing this summer at Three Creek Meadow and Pole Creek. When Kleint was a YCC member, they built a log rail fence in those areas, having to split the logs. This summer, those fences need to be replaced and the YCC will be doing it. This time, they will be using precut log poles.

"YCC is great life experience whether you go into this field or not," said Kleint. "You get to work outside, getting lots of different experiences. The camaraderie you build from shared experiences creates a real bond of friendship. Plus, you get to learn about the area surrounding Sisters – the campsites and trail heads – and gain an appreciation for where we live."

Representatives of the Heart of Oregon Corps and the USFS will be at Sisters High School this month during lunchtime and in the IEE classes to talk to students and answer questions about YCC. For more information call 541-633-7834.


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