Youth Engagement

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 21 youth projects with 158 volunteers contributing over 6,300 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. On the way to reaching their goals, youth forge a deep connection to the landscape and with their peers.

In 2018, MWA continued partnerships with Montana Conservation Corps, Salish Kooetani College's Upward Bound, and Montana Youth Challenge Academy. These crews improved trails in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness, the the Badger-Two Medicine and the Jewel Basin. We're grateful for their service and their commitment to public lands! We'll be renewing these partnerships again in 2019.

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.

Piikani Land Crew

This summer marked the fifth year of service-oriented work on public and tribal lands for the Piikani Land Crew. Seven Blackfeet youth adults were led by two Montana Conservation Corps (MCC) AmeriCorps participants and worked with a wide range of local and statewide partners. Over the span of 10 weeks and contributing over 2,000 hours of service work, the crew learned about land management practices and completed natural resource, cultural, and community service projects all while earning a paycheck.

The central goals of the Piikani Land Crew are for participants to leave the program with the following: new leadership skills, new technical skills valuable relationships with land managers and conservation partners, strengthened communication and team-building skills, an increased knowledge of the natural environment and an ethic of volunteer service and civic responsibility.

The PLC brings together a unique and dedicated partnership of non-profit organizations, tribal institutions, and federal agencies- Blackfeet Nation, MCC, US Forest Service, National Park Service, The Nature Conservancy and Glacier National Park Conservancy The MCC is the lead organization in charge of crew operations. MWA funded three weeks of work.

2018 MWA Sponsored Accomplishments
Crew Service Days: 15
Drainage Structures Installed: 42
Fencing: 1 mile
Crew service hours: 720


The Piikani Land Crew will be at it again in summer 2019! 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 worked in the Bear Trap Canyon unit of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness, the first BLM-managed Wilderness in the United States of America. Cadets helped repair switchbacks and perform routine 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 joined 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 continue our partnership into 2019!