The SCA-U.S. Forest Service partnership began more than 50 years ago and, together, we are still innovating. Witness the Integrated Fire and Recreation Intern program (IFR) with the Forest Service’s Region 8 (Southern). Launched in 2018, IFR includes two weeks of basic training in firefighting and trail management, followed by three-plus months in the field.

“One of our favorite things about working with SCA is that you have tremendous flexibility and are willing to think through creative opportunities with us,” states Region 8 Volunteers and Service Program Manager Kelly Balcarczyk.

Kelly says Region 8, which encompasses 13 states from Texas to Virginia, urgently needed to build the capacity of its hazardous fuel program. “But it was bigger than that,” she stresses. “In addition, we wanted to change the way the Service works by integrating two key programs – fire and recreation – and diversify the Forest Service’s long-term workforce.

Kelly (back row, second from right) with USFS Region 8 IFR team.

“Traditionally, the fire workforce is very heavily White male dominated and we knew that through our traditional hiring practices, we probably wouldn’t change that reality. We’ve been working with SCA to intentionally recruit women and people of different ethnicities and races, and have been increasingly more successful each year.”

Kelly also notes the IFR program was strategically structured to comply with the Public Lands Hiring Authority because “we wanted the opportunity to hire the high performers into permanent positions and we’ve been really happy with the outcomes.”

Like any partner, the Forest Service needs to complete a variety of on-the-ground tasks, but Kelly adds “we think that should be balanced with opportunities for everyone to compete for federal jobs and participate in the management of their public lands. The absolute best emails I get are from former interns, saying ‘Hey, I got the job!’ It’s the best feeling no know you’ve impacted somebody’s life.”

And thanks to Kelly and her colleagues in Region 8, more and more IFR alumni are sending their own emails of appreciation.

Visit the SCA100k page for more on our partners and celebration.

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