A Summer of Stewardship

By Katy Heggen on August 31, 2017 in Blog

2017 INHF Summer Land Stewardship Interns

Another summer of hard work, relationship building and personal growth has come and gone for the INHF land stewardship interns. It’s a bittersweet goodbye for both the interns and their supervisors after 12 weeks traveling the state to restore Iowa’s wild places, but you only need to look at the land to know it’s been a summer well spent.

"The interns are vitally important to our land stewardship work," said INHF Land Stewardship Director Ryan Schmidt and Blufflands Director Brian Fankhauser. “We simply couldn’t accomplish our annual restoration goals without them.”

Over the course of the 12-week internship, the interns work hard to restore native Iowa landscapes across the state. Along the way, they learn about different land restoration and stewardship techniques, putting their ever-growing knowledge, experience and skillset to practice on lands owned or protected by INHF.

“The effect the interns have on the land is huge,” said Blufflands Assistant Jered Bourquin. “Without them, we’d be forever falling behind. They help us fulfill our mission and show that we care for the land as much as we say that we do, that we really practice what we preach.”

“When I initially applied for the internship, I didn’t see the pay rate for the statewide internship so I assumed it didn’t pay. I still applied because I wanted the experience and when I learned it was a paid internship I got extremely excited. I enjoyed this summer so much I felt as if I should be paying INHF.”  – Maxwell McCarty, 2017 intern

During their days on Iowa’s prairies, wetlands, woodlands and savannas, and nights spent camping together in county and state parks and other natural areas, the interns gain an intimate understanding of Iowa’s land, water and wildlife. They also develop skills, build confidence and make connections with others in Iowa’s conservation community. Often, they walk away with experiences that last a lifetime.

“It’s an immersive experience,” said Schmidt, who is also a statewide intern crew alum. “The work is important, but it’s not necessarily the main goal. This is the next generation of conservationists. I believe we’ll have a much greater impact by providing them with an experience that helps them develop a long-lasting passion.”

“It’s a gratifying moment when your interns don’t want the summer to end and wish it was longer,” said former land stewardship associate and statewide intern crew alum Melanie Louis (Melanie recently transitioned into a new role as INHF volunteer coordinator). “I can’t begin to express the honor I feel to have been able to make a difference in one person’s life, let alone a group of students.”

Blufflands Interns

“A summer I’ll never forget. An experience that is both physically demanding and mentally stimulating. I made valuable connections with fellow interns and landowners who have the same passion for land stewardship as I do.”  – Taylor Schaefers, 2017 intern

Throughout the summer, the interns also have the opportunity to interact with private landowners who have permanently protected their land through conservation easements held by INHF, learning and lending a hand on the land.

“They come out and work hard on that land. They really accomplish a lot,” said Fankhauser. “The landowners love seeing young people that are passionate about natural resource management, and the interns enjoy having the opportunity work alongside them on the land. It’s a meaningful experience for everyone and really helps us build and nurture those relationships in a way that we wouldn’t be able to otherwise.”

The summer 2017 land stewardship internship program may be over, but the effects on the land — and the people that spent the summer caring for it — are lasting.

“If there’s one thing I hope they take away from the summer, it’s that they believe in their capabilities to bring about change,” said Schmidt. "Inspiring intentional growth and change in our conservation community is critical."

“Working for INHF has made this summer one of the bests of my life. Through constant learning, I feel well prepared for my future career in conservation. I cannot express enough gratitude for all the kind individuals who helped me grow this summer.”  – Abby Zabrodsky, 2017 intern

INHF’s intern program began in 1986. To date, an astounding 331 interns — a majority of which were land stewardship interns — have helped shape Iowa’s landscape. The program is 100% funded by private donations. In 2017, the R.J. McElroy Trust funded the Blufflands crew. A mix of endowed and restricted gifts funded the Statewide crew. We are thankful for our passionate donors that see the value in the education of young adults, helping to inspire the next generation of conservationists.

To make a gift or learn more about how you can help support INHF’s internship program, visit our donation page (select “Internship Program” from the "Directing Your Gift" drop-down menu) or contact Cheri Grauer at cgrauer@inhf.org or 515-288-1846, ext. 20.