Agriculture, Interior hiring 20,000 youths to work outdoors

Two park rangers look out at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Two park rangers look out at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Karin Stanton/AP

Here’s one way to get young people into public service: Pay them to spend time outside.

The Obama administration announced Friday its intention to hire more than 20,000 people ages 15-25 for summer jobs in national parks, national forests, wildlife refuges and other public lands.

Of the total, 12,000 will work for the Interior Department and 8,000 will work for the Forest Service within the Agriculture Department. Though the agencies routinely hire young workers for summer restoration jobs through programs like AmeriCorps, the number of those workers has been steadily increasing: Interior, for example, has increased its cadre of young summer workers by 35 percent since 2009, according to department spokesman Matt Lee-Ashley.

Of the outdoor jobs, 500 will be filled through $3.7 million in competitive grants funding projects at public lands in various states. The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management will fund $1.4 million of the grant money, which will be matched by $2.3 million raised by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through private partners.

Lee-Ashley said the young outdoor workers would not replace any full-time federal employees.

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