Penticton, BC — Even in this unusual summer season, The Nature Trust’s Conservation Youth Crews are working hard to care for critical conservation lands in BC. Following careful COVID protocols, including having smaller crews and size-limited community events, young people donned their safety gear and led the charge to manage habitat for vulnerable species. Okanagan crew member Duncan MacNaughton put it this way “This year it’s just the Field Operations Technician, Alex, and myself. It’s been a bit of a challenge to learn all of the new protocols relating to the pandemic, but we’re still able to get out there and do our usual crew jobs in the field.”

The Nature Trust of BC hires young people each summer to tackle a variety of activities on conservation lands and learn valuable skills for future employment. Training includes First Aid and Bear Aware as well as the safe handling of power tools. “There is a lot more emphasis on invasive plant inventory than my previous experience,” said crew leader Alex Thomson, “Collector is a fun tool to use to help inventory and locate invasive plants.”

The crews perform on-the-ground work as well as attending workshops from specialists in the field on topics such as bird counts, and forest and wetland ecology. “Some of my highlights include doing bat counts, participating in snake research, and helping in Burrowing owl conservation efforts. I’ve had the opportunity to learn from experts in many different fields during my time with The Nature Trust, and have been able to discover new things that I’m passionate about,” said Duncan.

Many of the tasks entrusted to the crews are physically challenging, but when asked about his most challenging task Duncan stated unequivocally: “The heat. The Okanagan the last few weeks has been hovering close to 40 degrees Celsius. Anything in that temperature is a struggle!”

The Okanagan crew members have many future plans that include conservation. Duncan has one more year of his degree at UBC Okanagan. Alex has finished his degree and further certification, “I can see myself returning to get a masters one day,” he said, “but for now I would love to work in the field of conservation, meet like-minded people and get as much experience as I can.”

The Conservation Youth Crew program endeavours to hire local young people with a keen interest in their local surroundings. Alex cannot say enough about his new hometown of Penticton:

“I love Penticton because it has the small-town vibe. The outdoor opportunities are also endless. I am an avid backpacker so I cannot wait to explore Cathedral and Manning Provincial Park. I would also like to get into rock climbing which Penticton has a world class park for it on the East side of Skaha!”

In 2020, Conservation Youth Crews are operating in the Lower Mainland, the Okanagan, and the Kootenays. The Nature Trust is grateful to Wheaton Precious Metals for title sponsorship this year. The BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Canada Summer Jobs (Service Canada), Crew Energy, Chris Cornborough, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Jim Walker Youth Crew Endowment, and The Tony Cartledge Fund helped fund the 2020 crews.