A youth summer work program on the Flathead Indian Reservation has fallen victim to federal sequestration, according to tribal officials.
The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the Creston National Fish Hatchery, and the Salish Kootenai College in Pablo started the Youth Conservation Corps program in 2010. In three years, it has employed almost 50 high school students from around the area. The eight-week program puts teenagers to work for the tribes, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies.
“What was really good about the project is that some of these kids didn’t have any work experience, so they learned some good work ethics and got an education,” said Mark Maskill of the Creston Hatchery.
Students would spend two weeks at the hatchery working on trail projects and grounds cleanup, Maskill said. Students were paid about $8 an hour and Maskill said it gave kids experience in conservation.
Eli Sheridan of Ronan was a crew manager last summer and was planning on leading students again this year. He said kids cleared trails, cleaned up rivers and maintained campgrounds around the Flathead Indian Reservation.
“It was all positive,” he said. “I still can’t believe it because I don’t know how someone wouldn’t think this program was money well spent. It helped kids and who knows what they’ll be doing this summer. Hopefully staying out of trouble.”
Rich Janssen, head of CSKT’s Natural Resources Division, was already going through applications for this year’s crew when he found out the program would be cut. He normally receives 50 to 75 applications every year.
“It was just taken away, even though the budget had already been approved,” he said. “Short-term, seasonal positions are usually the first to go, so I wasn’t surprised. But I was disappointed to see these kids lose a great opportunity to work in the outdoors.”
Maskill said when the program started, coordinators didn’t know what type of response they would get. Since then interest in the program has only grown, offering much-needed help at the hatchery. Maskill said some projects might not get done this year because of the cuts.
“This was a great opportunity that is lost and we don’t know for how long,” Janssen said.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.