Inside the Source: Integrated Fire and Recreation Internship Program
July 12, 2019
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Integrated Fire and Recreation Internship Program
By Ginelle Heller and Kelly Balcarczyk
Due to ever-changing and more-complex conservation and social issues, interdisciplinary, partner-driven approaches are increasingly important to the way the US Forest Service (USFS) accomplishes its mission and strategic plan. Under the USFS strategic plan, the agency and its partners are coming up with innovative programs to leverage resources to ensure that landscape-level conservation efforts are a success. A great example is the USFS Southern Region and Student Conservation Association (SCA) Integrated Fire and Recreation Internship (IFRI) program, which was developed in response to the 2016 National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act.
The act calls on USFS “to improve trail maintenance by addressing opportunities to use fire crews in trail maintenance activities that do not jeopardize firefighting capabilities, public safety, or resource protection.” The goal of this call to action is to help USFS tackle a $314-million backlog in trail maintenance and increase the number of trails meeting agency standards (currently 25 percent, according to Forest Service Trails: Long- and Short-Term Improvements Could Reduce Maintenance Backlog and Enhance System Sustainability, US Government Accountability Office, 2013).
The intent of the IFRI program is to complete mission-critical work in fire and recreation while providing young adults with a high-quality internship experience, giving them the training and skill building needed to effectively compete for permanent positions throughout the agency.