Seeking adventurous youth for the 2017 Copper River Stewardship Program

By Lauren Bien, for The Cordova Times

Faith Collins and Jon Appleton enjoy glacial views near Miles Lake on the 2016 Copper River Stewardship Program

The Copper River Watershed: one of the last remaining intact watersheds in North America, 26,500 square miles of diverse habitat, hundreds of tributaries, critical spawning habitat for wild salmon, and an awe-inspiring outdoor classroom. As a 2017 Copper River Steward, youth from throughout the watershed will experience the diversity of this watershed, its land, and its people.

Students currently in 8th through 12th grade are invited to apply for the Copper River Stewardship Program, a unique expedition which explores the Copper River Watershed from top to bottom, giving participants an experience of a lifetime. There are spots for 10 youth from the Copper Basin, Cordova, and Valdez areas. Participants also have the opportunity to earn a half-credit towards their high school diplomas. This year’s trip will be July 20 through July 29 and will include a multi-day rafting trip and a canoe trip on the Copper River Delta.

Exploring the downriver section of the watershed gives participants a unique look at the Copper River Delta, a chance to work with U.S. Forest Service wildlife biologists on habitat restoration projects, and an up-close and personal look at the exceptional and diverse wildlife that rely on the delta. Upriver, the group will spend their time rafting a portion of the watershed and hiking in the boreal forest. Themes focused on throughout the entire trip will include: the differences seen at varying locations, the connectivity of the entire watershed, and what stewardship means for youth participants. These themes will be explored through habitat restoration projects, plant surveys, leadership activities, and creative writing exercises.

Participants will learn from and work with experts from a wide-range of perspectives and fields, exposing youth to a variety of potential careers in the region and helping them better understand the different opportunities available to them. Trip leaders will include staff from Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment (WISE), Prince William Sound Science Center (PWSSC), Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, and Copper River Watershed Project. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management Glennallen Field Office, and U.S. Forest Service Cordova Ranger District also help with planning, logistics, and instruction.

To earn high school credit for the 2017 Copper River Stewardship Program, students complete self-designed follow-up projects, which can include newspaper articles, multimedia projects, posters, and presentations to local communities. Participation in the Copper River Stewardship Program often leads to other opportunities, such as trips to Alaska Forum on the Environment to present, scholarship opportunities, and more.

Stewards work with U.S. Forest Service wildlife biologists to restore Dusky Canada Goose nest islands.

Students in grades 8-12 with connections to the Copper River watershed are invited to apply. The deadline is March 31. There is a $300 cost to participate and scholarships are available. Applications for the 2017 Copper River Stewardship Program can be found here.