Bob Fuhrmann is a 2016 21CSC Champion of the Year. Learn more about the 21CSC Champion of the Year Award.
The National Park Service – Yellowstone National Park
Bob Fuhrmann has made a difference in Yellowstone National Park for more than 20 years. He started as a volunteer and now serves as the park’s Youth Program Manager. For the past seven years he has worked as the program manager for Yellowstone’s Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) program. Under Bob’s direction, this program has grown to become one of the highest quality YCC programs in the country, with a strong emphasis on career development. In addition to working with the park’s YCC, Bob has partnered with Montana Conservation Corps, the Student Conservation Association and Groundwork USA. He purposely seeks the underserved and underrepresented, making a concerted effort to recruit and train Native American and urban youth. This is perhaps best demonstrated through his help in creating the Groundwork USA Yellowstone Experience, which, over the past five years, has allowed more than 250 diverse youth from 20 cities to experience working and recreating in the park. In 2015, over 130 young people were under Bob’s supervision, over 70 of whom were from cities or reservations. Bob and his staff work with past students, encouraging and mentoring them into other Corps opportunities or careers with NPS and other public land/water management agencies.
“Bob Fuhrmann is a positive force. He works for growth, professionalism and most of all, opportunity. He sees to create opportunities for others.” – Mike Coonan, Park Ranger, Yellowstone National Park
“Fuhrmann doesn’t just lead from behind a desk…[his] interest in supporting the youth directly and finding new avenues of appreciation helps the youth see that their work is important and necessary.” – Curt Collier, National Youth Programs Coordinator, Groundwork USA
Q&A with Bob Fuhrmann
1. Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get started in conservation and land/water management?
An appreciation for the outdoors and an interest in conservation started when I was young, living next to a forest preserve north of Chicago. In high school, my Eagle Scout project included overseeing 10 scouts as we helped restore an historic log cabin used for educational programs. After college, I volunteered as a wildlife technician in Yellowstone and received my masters degree in Fish and Wildlife Management conducting fox research which again included working with volunteers and interns. I also volunteered for Expedition Yellowstone where I worked with grades 5-8 as they lived and learned in Yellowstone. Eventually I became the manager of that program which has evolved into the job I have today.
2. How did you become involved with the 21CSC/with Service and Conservation Corps?
In 2010, I became Yellowstone’s Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) program manager. This program expanded into 2 month-long sessions in which 62 youth per summer take part in this work-based education opportunity. In addition, we have established partnerships with Groundwork USA, Montana Conservation Corps, and the Student Conservation Association to increase the number of youth working on conservation related projects in the park. Through these programs, I learned about the wide variety of conservation corps in the US and was introduced to the 21st Century Service Conservation Corps. In turn, I have been able to share a list of corps with youth who have participated in Yellowstone’s programs.
3. What advice would you offer to other employees from land/water management agencies and nonprofits that are interested in partnering with 21CSC programs (What to expect? Where can they turn for resources?)
My advice is to seek creative ways to include a diversity of youth in a wide variety of projects. Youth are able to accomplish more than what some people imagine and are excited to do so. The smiles and satisfaction of these youth working and learning in Yellowstone provide them with quite a sense of achievement. Besides the much needed completion of projects many of the youth come away with an almost indescribable sense of ownership, pride, and enthusiasm for what they have accomplished. This becomes an excellent starting point for creating stewards of open space. Many service organizations exist, it is a matter of finding what partnership best meets the needs of your area and the youth that will be involved.
4. What advice do you offer to young people in 21CSC programs who are interested in careers in conservation and land/water management?
If possible, youth should focus on becoming involved locally with conservation programs and to seek other opportunities such as summer programs with YCC or other youth corps. Starting in this way will expose youth to the many levels of conservation involvement that exist and help them find the right fit. Also having a great ATTITUDE will get you further than any other personality trait.
5. What are the most beneficial aspects of partnering with a 21CSC Program?
Partnering with a 21CSC program, such as Groundwork USA, reaps many benefits for Yellowstone and for the youth. In 2015, 61 Groundwork members spent a week in the park living, working, learning, and exploring. For many, it was their first time visiting a large western National Park, seeing large animals in their natural habitat, and seeing geothermal features. They worked on trail projects, created bumper logs, and installed “bear boxes” in campgrounds.
While exposure of youth to new areas and the completion of projects are beneficial, the true benefits go beyond this. Many youth not only discuss the sense of accomplishment they feel, they also take pride in their work and feel a sense of ownership in something bigger than themselves. These qualities penetrate all aspects of their lives and help to break down personal and societal barriers. I am truly humbled to hear about the deep impact these programs have on the lives of its participants.
One youth commented, “I am so thankful to be here. It is a great way to increase my knowledge base and learn to be a better advocate of nature. This kind of work helps you as much as it helps the park.”
6. What do you see as the future of Service and Conservation Corps?
Having youth involved in hands-on service projects on public lands helps create future stewards of these lands. Youth leave with a sense of ownership for a place they have never been to before and a sense of pride for what they accomplished. In places like Yellowstone, with ever increasing visitation and visitor impact, service and conservation corps are imperative to assist the park in protecting resources and preserving these natural places. Having youth involvement connects them to the outdoors and to each other. So many youth today do not have these important opportunities. My hope is that the future of service and conservation corps will include more organizations and agencies working to increase the number of youth getting involved and helping not only themselves but their surroundings as well.