Oregon Youth Corps Winter Fieldwork at Malheur Refuge


Oregon Youth Corps Winter Fieldwork at Malheur Refuge

Written by Peter Pearsall/Photos by Tyson Whitney

This winter, crew members with the Oregon Youth Corps (OYC) are working on several stewardship-based projects, such as fence maintenance and rubbish removal, at Malheur Refuge. This fieldwork has historically taken place from December to March each year; after a years-long hiatus, the crew has returned to work. 

OYC supports community-based, stewardship-driven, and crew-focused youth workforce training. Youth participants are typically aged 13-24. 

“Our work is focused on character development, leadership, and building relationships,” said Tyson Whitney, an OYC crew leader in Burns. “We work with troubled youth to train and prepare them for future jobs. These crew members learn to take on leadership roles and work as part of a team, both of which can sometimes be challenging.” 

Whitney, a lifelong Burns/Hines resident, began his tenure with OYC as a crewmember in 2012 and eventually became a crew leader in 2022. 

“We generally work with the Forest Service through the summer, starting in March, then work with the Refuge from December to March. But it’s been many years since we worked at Malheur Refuge, so a lot of what we’re doing this winter is playing catch-up,” Whitney said. 

Whitney oversees six Burns-Hines youth in this year’s crew. 

“My favorite part of this work is seeing these kids afterward out in the community, thriving,” Whitney said. “I’ll have kids come up to me and thank me for the opportunity, for pushing them to learn and take on responsibility. For my part, I get to do what I love, out in the wilderness, teaching kids about stewardship in a place that all of us care deeply about.” 


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