Preparing Utah’s College Students for Public Lands Careers

Funded: $100,000

For over a decade, passionate students from across Utah have been connected with internship opportunities in public lands in Utah, Arizona, and Nevada through the IIC (Intergovernmental Internship Cooperative). The Zion Forever Project works to fund those operations in Zion National Park, as well as in Cedar Breaks and Pipe Spring National Monuments. In these parks, students work alongside rangers behind the desk and out in the field.

“This program does more than provide job skills,” said Aly Baltrus, Chief of Interpretation at Zion National Park. “Focusing on students from local communities, it offers them new perspectives that shape conversations when they are out in public or sitting around the dinner table.”

In the various parks, participants lead programs, collect and analyze visitor and usage information, study flora and fauna, and maintain the trails and cultural resources. Many students see this as an opportunity to launch a career in the public lands with the National Park Service. In Zion, seven former IIC interns are now actively working on the front lines.

Focused primarily on undergraduate students coming from Southern Utah University and Dixie State University, the cooperative has expanded to include graduate students, local high school students, and students from other Utah universities. Their combined efforts contribute more than 29,000 hours to the National Park Service.

Zion, Cedar Breaks and Pipe Spring are hosting 18 interns this year, and the program continues to be critical in sustaining Zion. Since 2013, the IIC reports 47% of its participants maintain working roles and relations with public lands. This year, the Zion Forever Project seeks continued funding that will allow students to discover real career opportunities in public land positions.