Mission Mountains Youth Crew Program: Inaugural Year a Success!

Creating a connection with the environment and appreciating our natural surroundings can help us establish a sense of purpose. This connection can last a lifetime, and help drive the decisions we make, the career we choose and the passions we pursue. For some, it can bring you closer to your roots, and even unveil a unique sense of belonging.

This past year, the youth of the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes were offered the opportunity to connect with the natural and cultural resources of their traditional homelands by participating in the Mission Mountains Youth Crew Program. The Mission Mountains Range is known for its incredible ecosystem and historic significance to the Bitterroot Salish and Pend d’Oreille Tribes. The participants of the program were able to learn more about the culture and heritage of these lands, how they are co-managed between different entities, and what a possible career could entail in the outdoors. The students walked away with the understanding that they can make a difference, and the motivation to pursue a career in the outdoors.

We were lucky to chat with Tim Ryan and Marlee Ostheimer to learn more about the inaugural year of the Mission Mountains Youth Crew Program! Check it out:


Tim and Marlee, can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your backgrounds? 

Tim: My name is Tim Ryan, and I am a member of the Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Montana and an educator of American Indian Culture and environmental sciences. I am the Department Head for the Culture and Language degree program for the Salish Kootenai College Native American Studies Division.

My work with my elders and studies of our traditional homelands has moved me to reconstruct the Traditional Ecological Knowledge of the seasonal round and the material culture of my tribes, and to create experiential learning opportunities to help students to connect with the natural environment.

Marlee: I work at the National Forest Foundation’s (NFF) Missoula Headquarters office where I get to focus my time on raising funds for awesome projects throughout the Northern Rockies like the Mission Mountains Youth Program. I have been with the NFF since 2013 and feel so lucky to have gotten to be a part of creating this amazing program.