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Youth Training and Development Program Recognized with Regional Forester’s Award
Courtney James records her grandmother’s headstone on Grave Island after mentorship from USFS archaeologists. Photo by Audrey Clavijo.

A partnership between Sealaska, the National Forest Foundation, the USDA Forest Service and Sustainable Southeast Partnership was awarded a USDA Forest Service Regional Forester’s Award last week. 

Alaskan Youth Stewards – formerly known as TRAYLS, or Training Rural Alaskan Youth Leaders and Students – is a collaborative effort to introduce youth in rural Southeast communities to career paths and opportunities for good paying jobs that are relevant and available in their home communities. The program emphasizes service to the community as well as scientific observation, and is inclusive of traditional ways of knowing. 

The award was part of the USFS Alaska Region’s annual recognition process for employees and partners who provide exceptional service to the public and excellent teamwork both internally and externally.  

“We are thrilled to see this program grow and thrive each year,” said Regional Forester Dave Schmid. “Connecting youth to public lands is a core value we hold dear. We look forward to seeing this program continue to support our rural and tribal youth for many years to come.” 

Alaskan Youth Stewards crews spend time with various experts in fields like archaeology, forestry, watershed management and ecology from state and federal agencies like the Forest Service, as well as working closely with tribes and organizations like the Hoonah Native Forest Partnership. 

Courtesy: Erica Keene, USFS

The program now known as Alaskan Youth Stewards got its start in 2017. Crew members are employed full time by local tribes throughout the summer season. Funding comes from a combination of grants, in-kind support from tribes, and Sealaska contributions. 

“Alaskan Youth Stewards is part of a vision we have for the ways Sealaska can engage with regional partners to create opportunities for shareholders and build a stronger regional economy,” said Sealaska President and CEO Anthony Mallott. “I am so proud of our involvement in this program, and of the individuals whose commitment to this vision is making a positive impact on our youth and communities.” 

Among the named individuals on the award are members of the Alaskan Youth Stewards Steering Committee:  

  • Bob Girt, senior environmental compliance and liaison specialist with Sealaska Timber Company (STC) on Prince of Wales Island 
  • Laurel Stark, program manager for workforce development with Spruce Root in Juneau 
  • Bob Christensen, regional catalyst for fisheries and forestry, Sustainable Southeast Partnership 
  • Kevin Hood, regional volunteer and service program coordinator, USFS in Juneau 
  • Denise Wolvin, recreation staff officer for Ketchikan Misty Fjords and Prince of Wales Ranger District 
  • Victoria Houser, zoned recreation staff officer, Wrangell Ranger District 
  • Marlene Duvall, natural resource specialist, USFS in Hoonah 
  • Nikki Olsen, partnership and volunteer coordinator for the Tongass National Forest 
  • Patrick Shannon, Pacific Northwest director for the National Forest Foundation 


Sealaska is an Alaska Native regional corporation for Southeast Alaska formed under federal law in 1971. With more than 23,000 shareholders of Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian background, its purpose is to strengthen its people, culture and homelands. Sealaska invests in and operates businesses that improve the health of our oceans, maintain healthy homelands in Southeast Alaska, and benefit shareholder communities. Learn more at