IIC Celebrates Nearly 100,000 Conservation Hours in 2020

Published: December 17, 2020 | Author: Kevin Koontz | Read Time: 4 minutes

SUU's Intergovernmental Internship CooperativeWhen all of Utah closed down last March in response to COVID-19, Southern Utah University’s Intergovernmental Internship Cooperative (IIC) was unsure if they would have a summer work season. However, this year 182 interns and crew members spent 95,589 hours engaged in conservation work and earned $1.4M in wages and benefits over the summer.

“After this summer we are overwhelmingly grateful for our crew members, interns, their agency mentors, their academic mentors, and for our colleagues at the Corps Network who helped us create protocols to stay COVID-19 safe, manage other risks, and get a lot of valuable conservation and education work done throughout our region,” said Briget Eastep, director of the IIC.

In a typical season, the IIC hires 225 interns and places them in national parks, state parks, U.S. forests, and Bureau of Land Management lands throughout the southwest. These student interns and crews cover a wide capacity of projects including monitoring wildlife and vegetation, restoring and clearing trails, cleaning and maintaining recreation facilities, and educating and assisting with the management of visitors from around the world. To prepare for an upcoming season the IIC usually hosts Public Lands Employment Day, to interview and hire interns. This year the IIC developed COVID-19 Protocols in collaboration with other conservation corps through the Corps Network. The work paid off as they were able to develop safety measures and practices to keep the interns and crew members safe.

Not a single IIC intern or crew member contracted or passed on COVID-19 at work. Although two interns came down with symptoms and tested positive for the COVID-19 virus during the season, both individuals were able to stay home and quarantine until they knew it was safe to return to work.

Intergovernmental Internship Cooperative 2020 Stats

In addition to the funding the IIC receives from the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and state parks, this year they also received grants from the National Forest Foundation and the National Park Foundation to accomplish special projects with the Dixie National Forest and Zion National Park. This additional funding gave IIC crews an opportunity to make a significant difference this summer. The National Forest Foundation funded a Trails Elite Youth Crew made up of crew members with at least one year of crew experience and allowed them to focus on local trails – learning valuable stewardship and professional skills as they worked. The Trails Elite Youth Crew maintained over 52 miles of trail on the Dixie National Forest and 11 miles of trails on Bureau of Land Management lands. They focused on local areas that have been heavily impacted by large numbers of visitors by restoring rails and decking on Cascade Fall and the Bristle Cone trails; clearing and maintaining tread and drainage on the Navajo Loop, Virgin Rim, Bunker Creek Trails, the C Trail, and Blowhard trails; and building new trails and refining trailheads for Shurtz Canyon and Three Peaks Recreation Area. The Dixie National Forest staff became mentors for the crew, encouraging them to stay involved with public land stewardship.

In partnership with Zion National Park and the National Park Foundation, IIC interns worked with a National Park Service crew to reinforce Zion’s Lava Point Campground trail creating the only fully accessible trail on the Kolob Plateau. Again crew members gained stewardship skills, leadership skills, and mentorship from Zion’s staff.

Intergovernmental Internship Cooperative 2020 Stats

Interns throughout the region collected vegetation, range and wildlife data, monitored plots, maintained recreation facilities, completed engineering fieldwork and surveys, and assisted with managing and educating the record number of visitors that visited our region this summer – all while wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

Interns in their anonymous end-of-season evaluations wrapped up their experience by saying their involvement “helped me to know the importance of the area we live in.” And, “helped me understand the importance of public lands and the components that make it work.” They became stewards during a challenging summer.

Beginning in 2007 as an outgrowth of the Outdoor Recreation Parks and Tourism degree at SUU, the Intergovernmental Internship Cooperative engages youth in building meaningful leadership and educational skills. These experiences provide opportunities to develop a working knowledge about natural and cultural resources and a variety of careers in public lands management while shaping the next generation of public land leaders and advocates. 

Tags: Outdoors Intergovernmental Internship Cooperative

Contact Information:

Contact the Office of Marketing Communication