Craig Young, local resident and Biologist/Invasive Plant Program Leader for the National Park Service: Heartland Inventory Network (based out of Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield), has been awarded the “2019 Conservation Champion of the Year Award” by the 21st Century Conservation Corps.
Craig works tirelessly to help manage invasive species on our public lands and waters. He also works hard to provide youth with valuable career opportunities and has been an advocate of our Watershed Conservation Corps Program, which aims to improve watershed health through service to the land.

In the Q&A posted below, Craig outlines what advice he would offer to young people interested in careers in conservation/land management. His advice, as pragmatic as it is beautiful, is some of the best we’ve encountered.
Congratulations, Craig. Caleb Sanders, Watershed Conservation Corps Program Manager
“My sense is that young people are often discouraged as they begin to pursue careers in land and water management because the career path looks less clear than those found in medical, engineering, or accounting fields. I think this is combined with perhaps less certainty on life-time career earnings or career advancement. All of that can be discouraging and disconcerting for youth and their families.
From being in this field for over 20 years, I can assure young people that there is opportunity here. I think some of the uncertainty in how to get started or in predicting career outcomes stems from the abundance rather than the lack of different opportunities in land and water conservation. Because distinct geographies and local cultures strongly shape conservation jobs, they vary more compared to more standardized careers. This is a reality of environmental conservation work that must be embraced in order to find a place in the field.
So, my advice is simple, but challenging – commit to the work and not to a job or a salary. The career will follow. To prepare, first spend time being in nature and working in nature – in wild places, urban places, rural places. Give yourself the gift of time to begin to develop an intuitive sense of nature in its greatness and smallness. Prepare yourself through formal and informal education. Then learn about the range of actions that people and organizations are taking to integrate the care of land, water, creatures, and people – from scientists, environmental justice activists, land trust officers, impact investors, to green business leaders. Begin your work somewhere, but early on in your career continue to look at job announcements, network, and listen in order to find the slipstream where your talents can best be used. Find a mentor that can help you navigate some of the differences in jobs, organizational cultures, and, yes, salaries. This is a field where everyone needs to knock on many doors throughout a career. Don’t be discouraged – keep knocking!”
Find full interview here: