Training the Next Natural Resource Stewards

When eight teenagers showed up for their first day of work in Kake, Alaska, XtraTuf boots and rain gear in tow, Bob Girt saw future foresters, botanists and marine scientists of Southeast Alaska.

TRAYLS program participants on Prince of Wales Island
These students were about to begin a summer of building trails, mapping wildlife habitats and maintaining watersheds for the TRAYLS program, which stands for Training Rural Alaskan Youth Leaders & Students. It’s like summer camp, but you work outside – that’s the best way to describe it.

Girt is the Sr. Environmental Compliance and Liaison Specialist for Sealaska Timber, and he was part of winning a grant to develop the TRAYLS program. He saw it as an opportunity to train the next generation of natural resource stewards to protect and manage the same land their ancestors have for over 10,000 years.


“What I like to see is young people from our communities to try something out, get on a career path, see if they like it – if you don’t, that’s fine – stay on that career path, keep communicating with mentors, and then stay here and become a professional right here at home,” Girt says. “I want to see these people come up through the ranks and be the next generation working in this industry.”

From June to the middle of August, these young people worked on Sealaska lands, getting experience in watershed management, forestry, botany and trail maintenance, all while making over $100 a day. They stayed in bunkhouses together in Kake and on Prince of Wales Island. Mentors from a variety of partnerships – the U.S. Forest Service, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Tlingit & Haida – met with the students in the field and classroom. They learned everything from vegetation identification to how to file a tax return.

Girt says the students oftentimes were not even aware of the opportunities for them in their own backyard.
“I get excited when I see students discovering the sciences. They didn’t realize that they could do it and enjoy it!”

Two of Sealaska’s summer interns, Talia Davis (left) and Corey Peratrovich (right) participated in the work and helped lead the students in the field. Davis is now studying fisheries and ocean sciences at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Peratrovich now works at Sealaska Timber as a Forester’s Aide. Girt says both have a bright future in the industry and as leaders.


The TRAYLS program will return next summer with more partnerships, mentors and opportunities for participants. If you are 16 – 25 years of age, are Alaskan Native and are interested in earning a summer income while developing skills in natural resource management, the TRAYLS program is for you. For more information on the program, visit

All photos are by Bethany Goodrich, courtesy of the Sustainable Southeast Partnership. For more photos of the program, check out the Flickr album.

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