The Detours: Fire, Flooding, and Frost

By: Danielle Yaste

As the amount of months remaining in our term continue to wind down, my time spent reminiscing over the year has already increased.  What I’ve began to realize is that the detours, the projects or events that weren’t originally a part of the plan, were some of the most memorable.  Three detours in particular stick out the most, and they involved fire, some flooding, and a little bit of frost.

During this past spring I wrote about our time working as a prescribed burn crew, but the morning I submitted that post was the first day of our Minnesota Interagency Fire Center or MIFC deployment.  We left our project on Wednesday and on Thursday we found ourselves in Nimrod, MN on the Lyons Fire.  We spent a few long days at the Lyons Fire, we arrived when there was still flames and the highest ranking incident command team in the state was present and when we left we were the last crew assigned to the cold fire.  We met new people, and crossed paths with DNR staff we had met before.  We even celebrated a crew member’s birthday.  From Nimrod we were resource ordered to the Cloquet region, where we stayed until it rained.  Our MIFC fire deployment was one of the road marks of the year.  During fire season we spent 28 of 30 days together, and it solidified us as a crew.

After the fire season, came the wet and stormy season that wreaked havoc in the Northland.  It began to rain one afternoon while we were working in our shop, within minutes we were running to our vehicles trying to get home before flooding stopped us.  The next morning required alternative routes to navigate the flood, the boys on our crew found themselves stranded from a washed out driveway.  The DNR staff divided to assess damage, and once our crew had all arrived, we were asked to check on a forestry road.  Through various unfortunate circumstances, we found ourselves rerouting around flooding for hours, turning an hour drive into a four-hour drive.  Amidst the stress, we found ourselves problem solving, and choosing to be positive together.

Lastly, As I was writing this blog post over a week ago, I experienced one of the best detours thus far.  Last Sunday, a crew needed someone to bump onto their crew for an eight-day spike in the Boundary Waters, maintaining the Border Route Trail.  I volunteered, and found myself packing for a trip in the last few minutes before I go to sleep, not totally aware of the adventure that lay ahead.  Two of my favorite things are hiking and crosscuts.  This trip involved a whole lot of both.  The boundary waters is a place that always bring me peace, and that feeling was intensified by the low number of travelers this fall.  And if you think the boundary waters are beautiful, you should see it with autumn in full swing.  The hills are speckled with green coniferous, and firey deciduous.  Add some frost to that, and its pure magic.  Our spike was filled with mornings where we couldn’t feel our toes, and days that took our breath away.  Each day brought new surprises of what additions Sean could make to the tarp shelter and we spent nights seeing how many clothes we could fit on our bodies.  We sat around a fire with wood split by Sean and the self-described “Swull Austin.”  One night, as we sat as close to the fire as physically possible could without being on fire, Austin posed the question “Despite the cold, sleet, and frost, is there really any other place you want to be right now?”  And the answer was unanimous, “No.”   

Arkansas Post

By: Kristina Beckham

Headed back into Arkansas one last time for the year we make our way into Arkansas Post, five and a half hours into the southeast corner of the state. While visiting the park in Gillett, Arkansas, we were on the constant hunt for Alligators while driving into and walking around the park. 

Our trip to Post consisted of backpack spraying two hundred and twenty acres while searching for privet and hardy orange. An interesting thing that we literally ran into were the amount of ticks in this park. While walking through just one pass we would collect about one hundred sea ticks crawling over our boots and making their way up our pants. All six of us have never seen so many sea ticks in one place until we went to this park. The tick problem was so bad that even the local deer have a problem fighting them off. Kirby McCallie, the park’s national resource manager, told us all a lovely story of how there have been multiple does that have died from the amount of ticks that they have had attached to them. 

On top of their growing tick problem they also have a problem with their raccoons, they have such a low amount of food to scavenge for that they will kill the turtles. So when the turtles come onto land to lay their eggs the raccoons would get them on their backs and devourer them (as seen in the photo below).

Below feel free to learn about one of my other crewmates Gabe Hernandez and his experience thus far at this park and working for the National Park Service.

Again here is a complete listing of what is going on at Arkansas Post National Memorial feel free to follow the link below:

Also here are free entry days into the National Parks as shown in the link below, make sure to take advantage of these days before it’s too late:


  • What is your favorite part about working at Arkansas Post?
    • Post was exciting because every morning we would pass large pools of swampy waters searching for alligators.
  • Why did you join the Conservation Corp?
    • I joined to get some field experience under my belt and enjoy the beautiful outdoors.
  • What is your favorite park that you have worked at thus far? And why?
    • Thus far Buffalo National River has been my favorite park to travel to. If you want to experience the Ozark’s beauty, this is the place to be.

Till next time,


Wild Rice on the St. Louis—Returning to Mecca

By: Danielle Yaste

“What’re you guys working on out here?” A passerby asked as we loaded our truck.

“We’ve been planting wild rice…” I answered, but before I could say anything further, they replied: “It’s not going to work, wild rice doesn’t grow here.”

However, the contrary is true.  Wild rice has grown here, on the St. Louis River, long before seed was ever planted by air boat.  There stands a few wild rice plants in the bays that historically were full of the grain, and now work is being done to restore those bays.  The St. Louis River estuary used to be utilized greatly by the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, but has been significantly affected by human activity over the last few decades.  The largest contributor to the destruction of the wild rice in the estuary has been industrial development, and recovering from this has been a slow process, but it is recovering none the less.  When wild rice was thriving in the area, there was 2,000 to 3,000 acres, now the goal is to have 250 acres over the next five to ten years.

This past week, as the resource management team would secure wild rice seed to plant from other areas in Minnesota, we would be called to board the air boats and plant the seed.  The project was unique because the amount of people they needed and when they needed them depended on the amount of seed that was able to be purchased from those harvesting seed elsewhere.  There were three days spent with a compilation of nine members of the Conservation Corps including every member of our program staff, our field specialist, and the Moose Lake Crew.  Together we planted about 10,000 lbs. of Wild Rice, adding to the total 12,000 lbs. planted this year.  This was the second year of a three year planting plan.  The first year showed that plants came up in every bay that it was planted, however, the geese population ate a significant portion of the first year’s plants.  There are currently plans in the works to mitigate that problem.

Though the work of planting the seed was fun and unique, a highlight of the project was working with Tom Howes, the band’s natural resources director.  Tom spent his morning teaching us about the cultural value of the St. Louis River and the wild rice.  While giving us a tour of the work being done thus far, he explained the responsibility the band had to care for the river.  He grew up being told that the St. Louis River was a Mecca to his community, a place of abundance, and when the band returned rights to the river based on the 1854 treaty, they were able to utilize the river and take care of it.  They needed to take care of the river if they are to utilize it.  Since the band has been successfully reestablishing wild rice for over 20 years, and has a dedication to the estuary, they were the ones called upon to restore the wild rice.

More can be learned about the Wild Rice project from Minnesota Public Radio:

And this coming week CBS out of Duluth (KBJR6) will be covering the story as well.

Lifetime impact

By: Rose Lundy

I am evidence that early exposure to conservation work can impact a lifetime. When I was 16-years-old, I chose to do a four-week program related to Conservation Corps called Student Conservation Association, instead of going to Europe for two weeks with my family. My older brother had spent the summer working in Uganda and we were all supposed to meet him in Amsterdam when he was done, but I was assigned to a crew in the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania at the same exact time. Instead of Amsterdam, I chose to fly to a place I had never been before, to live and work with people I didn’t know. My parents came home with stories about canals and old bell towers. I came home with stories about shoveling swamp grass and lopping tree branches. I loved it.

The next two summers I was on crews at the Seedskadee Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming and the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado. After my first year in college, I did a 10-week internship at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska. I went on to have two full-time, paid summer internships at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency before spending this summer working for Conservation Corps.

My point is that when I was 16, I applied to a youth environmental association on a whim, and it directed my life for the next six years. I got a college degree in journalism, but somehow I keep applying for and accepting conservation jobs. I was exposed to the importance of environmental protection and appreciation at an impressionable time in my life, and it will be impossible for me to forget those values in the future.

Conservation Corps is an honorable organization on a very surface level with tangible environmental efforts such as invasive species removal and trail clearing. But it also goes so much deeper than that. The young people who are hired to spend their time protecting the environment are impacted in ways we can never know. It is hard to see the influence of one job on another person’s life trajectory, but I am here to tell you that those four weeks I spent in Pennsylvania instead of going to Europe completely altered my current career path and my outlook on life.

I was sad to leave Conservation Corps at the end of summer, but I only signed up for that length of time because I have been planning a trip to New Zealand. I have been saving money for a long time now, but my friend and I are also planning to work to make it more financially possible. We will travel around the islands working for host families in exchange for free room and board. Most of this work will be organic gardening, farm maintenance, brush clearing, and composting — all skills I have practiced this summer with Conservation Corps! It is clear that my first step in Pennsylvania is still influencing my choices today.

Our environment is beautiful and important, and we need young people to care about it. My generation will soon lead the charge on conservation, and organizations like Conservation Corps are crucial to reinforcing the value of a healthy environment.

If you want to follow Rose’s adventures in organic farming in New Zealand, her personal blog is