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August 2, 2019 

It’s a League of Their Own

Young Women Lead the 2019 Youth Conservation League

These young women do more than just blaze trails. The members of the 2019 Rhode Island Youth Conservation League have removed invasive species, restored boardwalks, improved wildlife habitat, completed light carpentry and more. Five environmentally minded young women from area high schools have formed the 2019 League. The two co-leaders of the group are also female. They teamed this summer to gain valuable experience while helping numerous conservation groups with their service.

This is the first year the League has been comprised completely of women – both the leaders and all members. The service they perform is critical to the parks and conservation properties that they steward. The work can be labor intense and challenging in the summer heat and rain, but the experience gained is often rewarding and has inspired many environmental careers over the years.

In fact, the two co-leaders Courtney Naughton and Deanna Phan, both of North Kingstown, were former members themselves and understand the daily challenges of working in the conservation field. “We are in a time when we so desperately need people to connect with and become invested in the world around them,” explained Naughton. “You see a poorly kept trail and realize that it is one less way to get the general population into nature, because while untouched wilderness can be good for the species that live there, it makes the outdoors less accessible to humans.”

“There is a lot of talk right now about climate change and what is going to need to be done to survive it, and it can feel really overwhelming and hopeless. But this job, while bringing awareness to the issues, also teaches you how much even a small crew of dedicated people can do to combat it,” Naughton continued. “Something that often gets overlooked is how much conservation work is about engaging with people as well as the environment,” she continued. “We work with a variety of land trusts and organizations all over the state, and it’s all day spent working with and learning from these wonderful people who know so much and appreciate the work the work we’re doing.”

Audubon Society of Rhode Island staff provides guidance, transportation, tools, and work schedules for these students. Audubon partners with the RI Conservation Stewardship Collaborative to fund the program and provide a wide range of work experiences in various natural habitats. Promoting stewardship of our natural resources with future generations is vital. The goal of the project is to create summer jobs for high school students that entail outdoor stewardship work around the state and address three critical needs for Rhode Island:

  • Hands-on labor to steward our precious conservation land.
  • Engaging high school age youth in meaningful activities in the outdoor environment.
  • Providing job opportunities for high school age youth.

Managed by the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, the following organizations are partners in the Youth Conservation League:

Barrington Land Conservancy
RI Department of Environmental Management
RI Natural History Survey
Richmond Rural Preservation Land Trust
Narrow River Land Trust
The Nature Conservancy

2019 Youth Conservation League Members
Co-leaders: Courtney Naughton (North Kingstown) and Deanna Phan (North Kingstown)
Members: Amber Arnold (West Greenwich), Madeleine Donald (Providence), Abigail Paull (Providence), Emilie Signore (Bristol), and Rachel Simone (Riverside).

2019 Youth Conservation League at work from left: Abigail Paull, Emilie Signore, Madeleine Donald, Co-leader Courtney Naughton, Rachel Simone, Amber Arnold. (Not shown, Co-leader Deanna Phan)

Top photo: Rachel Simone, Abigail Paull, Amber Arnold, Emilie Signore and Madeleine Donald.

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Funds collected at the event from hole-in-one contests, putting challenges, and a gift basket raffle were donated to the Audubon Society of Rhode Island. The event raised $27,000 which Audubon will use to fund summer camp scholarships for youth at wildlife refuges in Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts. Thank you, Bank of America!