Photo by Meg Killen

Stewarding our Future

Montana Wilderness Association believes volunteer service is essential to cultivating Montana's next generation of land stewards. Every summer, MWA partners with youth serving organizations to engage youth and young adults in meaningful conservation projects on public lands across the state. Since 2012, MWA has organized 19 youth projects with 139 volunteers contributing over 5,800 hours of service.

MWA stewardship projects are fun, educational experiences that have a lasting impact. They provide youth with hands-on work experience while simultaneously raising awareness for conservation issues. The work is challenging and team oriented. In order to accomplish project objectives, crews must work together and push their limits in ways they did not expect. Work tasks require commitment and collaboration. On the way to reaching their goals, youth forge a deep connection to their landscapes and with their peers.

In 2018, MWA will continue partnerships with Montana Conservation Corps, Salish Kooetani College's Upward Bound, Montana Youth Challenge Academy and the Montana Academy. These crews will steward lands in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness, the Yaak, the Badger-Two Medicine and the Jewel Basin. We're grateful for their service and their commitment to public lands!

Interested in having your youth group join a trail project? Review our Project Partner Guide  or contact stewardship coordinator Sonny Mazzullo at for more information.

Blackfeet Youth Crew

In 2017, Montana Wilderness Association and Montana Conservation Corps continued their partnership providing conservation service opportunities for Blackfeet Youth in the Badger-Two Medicine. The Blackfeet Youth Crew, comprised of two MCC AmeriCorps volunteers and six Blackfeet ages 18 – 24, worked with the Rocky Mountain Ranger District, Blackfeet Nation and Glacier National Park to steward the ancestral landscape. Projects included loon monitoring, fuels reduction, fencing for the Bison initiative, archaeological inventorying and setting up for North American Indian Days.

MWA funded three weeks of project work. All three weeks were in the Badger-Two Medicine landscape and two of those continued MWA’s legacy of work on the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. This included one week at the historic Badger Cabin located directly atop the Continental Divide. Funds provided by a Challenge Cost Service Agreement with the USFS and a generous $3,500 donation by MWA’s Island Range Chapter. Thank you to everyone who gave their time or money to make this wonderful partnership bear fruit. Most importantly, thank you to the hardworking Blackfeet youth and AmeriCorps volunteers who spent their summer stewarding this special place!


2017 MWA Sponsored Accomplishments
New trail constructed: 1.25 miles
Trail maintained: 5 miles
Noxious weed removal: 4 acres
Fencing: 7 miles
Crew service hours: 695


The Blackfeet Youth Conservation Corps Crew will be at it again in summer 2018! If you or someone you know are interested in joining, learn more at the Montana Conservation Corps website.

Montana Youth Challenge Academy

The Montana Youth ChalleNGe Academy assists at-risk Montana youth in developing skills and abilities necessary to become productive citizens through focusing upon the physical, emotional, and educational needs of the youth within a highly structured, quasi-military environment using proven techniques of discipline and motivation to assist youth in turning their lives around.

Prior to MYCA's spring class graduation, cadets spend a week off campus exploring a vocation. It is meant to be a capstone experience during which cadets can gain professional experience while broadening their horizons. Since 2012, Montana Wilderness Association has offered volunteer trail projects for cadets who are interested in outdoor and conservation professions. Here they experience the daily routines of field work and build the teamwork necessary to complete a large scale project in the real world. It is also a chance for them to develop backcountry living skills and volunteer their time toward a meaningful cause.

This June cadets will be working in the Bear Trap Canyon unit of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness, the first BLM-managed Wilderness in the United States of America. Cadets will help repair switchbacks and perform routing trail maintenance such as clearing, building drainage structures and brushing the trail corridor. Here's to another great week on the trail with MYCA!Together, MYCA and MWA have constructed new trail on the Continental Divide Trail, built a large jack leg fence out of locally sourced natural materials, installed trailhead signage outside the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness and performed routine maintenance on trails surrounding Butte. The cadets have always been hardworking and enthusiastic participants. We're grateful for their commitment to MWA's mission and are excited to be working with them again this summer.

Salish Kootenai College Upward Bound

Upward Bound is a program designed to provide low-income, first-generation high school students with the skills and motivation necessary for success in postsecondary education. The program serves students on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Services include tutoring, mentoring, college entrance preparation, enrichment activities, and college visitations. A six-week residential summer component on campus offers students high school credit, college credit, and work-study experiences.

SKC's Upward Bound program features a service-learning component where for one week, students embark on diverse service outings throughout the Flathead and Mission valleys. These volunteer trips expose students to new career opportunities while offering a chance to give back.

As a part of their service week, SKC students will join MWA for a stewardship project in the Jewel Basin. This isn't the first time SKC has partnered with MWA- in 2014, Upward Bound participated in a weeklong trail maintenance project in the Badger Two Medicine. We're thrilled to be working with this terrific program once again!

Montana Academy

Montana Academy is a therapeutic boarding school for struggling teenagers.

For the past three summers, Montana Academy sent a team of students to Granite Butte and helped MWA build a new segment of the Continental Divide Trail. These trips were an adventure for students of the residential program, allowing them an opportunity to get off-campus and explore a new landscape. The trips were also an impetus for students' therapeutic process, as the challenges and requisite teamwork on projects pushed students in a way that school work cannot.

This summer, Montana Academy will continue their legacy of service on Montana's public lands. Students will be heading to the Yaak to maintain a section of trail on the Kootenai National Forest. MWA is thrilled to partner with Montana Academy again in 2018!