The federal government has named Northland College in Ashland, Wis. as a partner in activating the next generation of conservation stewards.

The new 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC), a national effort to place thousands of young people and veterans in conservation work, selected Northland College in December as one of its partners to facilitate the program.

While partners are still being added to the list, Northland College is the only four-year college and one of the few institutions in the upper Midwest on the list, said Stacy Craig, coordinator of applied learning at Northland College.

Northland College is located on Lake Superior and is surrounded by the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and has close ties with the Superior and Ottawa national forests as well as partnerships with multiple federal agencies.

The 21CSC provides preferential status to students and veterans who have logged time in internships, volunteer or seasonal positions in the U.S. Forest Service for jobs with the same agency.

“It is somewhat of a fast-track system,” said Craig. “The partnership allows for students to place their application at the top of the list along with federal employees after they have gained experience interning, volunteering or working seasonally with the forest service.”

Many Northland College students will be able to log hours while they’re in college, Craig said.

Craig helps Northland College students find internships with nonprofit organizations, private companies and federal agencies. “The real value comes when the internship translates from an experience in college to a career offer,” Craig said. “Of all the internships, the federal system hires — they are the nation’s largest employer.”

The Northland College Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute Executive Director Mark Peterson, who is assisting Craig in administering the program, noted that Northland is an ideal institution for the partnership. “Our long-standing focus on environmental studies with an emphasis on the conservation of public lands attracts many students wanting to work for the forest service,“ he said.

The 21CSC is a new initiative set up by the Obama Administration implemented after the creation of America’s Great Outdoor Initiative in 2010.

Northland students younger than 25, and veterans younger than 35, will be eligible to compete for jobs within the forest service. In order to qualify, students must intern, volunteer or be employed by an agency and complete 640 hours of service.

In addition to the experience students will gain in the field, they will have the opportunity to obtain a reference from the forest service. “It really gives our students a leg-up, and federal partners will benefit from the creativity of Northland students,” said Craig.

The program applies to all students, Craig said. “We have students in biology, forestry and natural resources but we also have students who are studying writing, history, outdoor education and environmental education,” Craig said. “The forest service hires all kinds of skill sets and interests.”

For more information about the program contact Stacy Craig at scraig@northland.edu or Mark Peterson at mpeterson@northland.edu.