Protecting Natural Resources, One Environmental Internship at a Time
Natural Resource Management Student Feature: Brittany Le Tendre
Brittany Le Tendre is a Natural Resource Management student at Colorado Mountain College Leadville, and an intern for the U.S. Forest Service. Simultaneously, she is also working towards a Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability Studies. Needless to say, Brittany has professional goals, but she wasn’t always this focused on building an environmental career. In between stints at Colorado Mountain College, Brittany invested in years of self discovery while exploring the natural world and gaining real-world experience.
“I moved to Steamboat Springs, CO in 2009 to attend CMC,” says Brittany, a 26-year-old originally from Excelsior, MN, “After arriving in Steamboat I realized I needed a little time to discover myself and my interests. So after one semester at CMC, I left.”
With a desire to immerse herself in nature, and the need to find a financial means to do so, Brittany found a seasonal job at Yellowstone National Park. When she wasn’t working, she was hiking, backpacking, and discovering her love for adventure and protecting the environment. After one season Brittany returned to Colorado, fulfilling her hunger for new adventures by becoming an Arkansas River raft guide in Cañon City, CO. Though guiding was a blast, she knew it wasn’t the sustainable career she was looking for, and soon found a seasonal park ranger position at Stagecoach State Park, just outside of Steamboat Springs.
“This is where my passion and drive for a career in the outdoors really began,” says Brittany of her time working as a Park Ranger, “I have been working for Colorado Parks and Wildlife as a Park Ranger or River Ranger ever since. After a bit of self discovery, I knew that the only degree that would make sense for my passions would have to be environmentally based. This led me to the Natural Resource Management program.”
Returning to CMC.
Throughout the years of self-discovery, Brittany continued to build skills and experiences centered around the natural world. These experiences helped shape her professional goals, allowing her to develop a road map to reach them. The Natural Resource Management program was key to bridging the gap between experience and education, while also introducing her to internship opportunities and a varied network of professional connections.
Brittany returned to Colorado Mountain College as a full-time Leadville student in 2015. She’s enjoyed connecting with her peers, instructors and making the most of her experience in the NRM program.
“I love the quality of person that CMC draws in,” remarks Brittany of her peers and professors, “These are the type of students and instructors who don’t necessarily follow the norm. They are unique in their own ways. They choose this location and this school because they learn differently and/or they love the vast amount of space to roam and play.”
The Natural Resource Management program at CMC Leadville is as unique as the students and faculty who are connected by it. Small class sizes, hands-on learning opportunities, and lectures that feel more like discussions among friends, help create a culture of active engagement among students enrolled in the program. Additionally, the NRM program and Timberline Analytical Lab have equipment and resources that are unheard of for a program of its size, in a rural mountain location.
“The equipment that students in the NRM program have access to is really incredible.” says Brittany, “Most universities don’t have the analytical equipment that we have. This gives students a chance to see what it feels like to be working in a real lab to better prepare them for a career.”
Leadville is the perfect location for an environmentally based program. Students explore local wilderness areas, watersheds and mining districts. They apply new skills, gain experience with state-of-the-art equipment, and build connections with local, state, and national environmental organizations.
“It’s difficult to find the right words to describe Leadville,” says Brittany, “but the truth is, words don’t ever do it justice. It’s the feeling that you get when you’re standing on Harrison Ave. or staring at Mt. Massive and Elbert from the Mineral Belt Trail. The people are quirky and everyone seems to love the mountains and appreciate all they have to offer.”
Prior to returning to school, Brittany began building relevant internship experience as a Park Ranger for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. In this role she performed a variety of duties ranging from writing Real Estate Action Proposals, drafting the Brown’s Canyon National Monument multi-agency agreement document, and was also responsible for collecting revenue at Stagecoach State Park. Upon her return to the world of academia, she knew internship experiences were key to building careers with reputable government agencies.
In the spring of 2017, Brittany and 8 others were awarded a fellowship with the U.S. Forest Service through a program called the Rocky Mountain Land Management Internship. The internship application process involved an essay, character references and questions/answers reviewed by a committee. It was a fairly competitive process, with only 8 fellows chosen out of 60-80 applicants. The official internship begins August 28 and allows Brittany to obtain her Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability Studies while working hands on with the USFS and 8 other Rocky Mountain Land Management fellows.
“I say this all of the time and I feel like some people may think that I am naive for saying it, but I really hope to change the world by saving our environment,” says Brittany, “After CMC, I hope to use what I’ve learned to make a difference for the future of our planet. I truly believe we are in dire need for substantial change. I am hoping to continue a career with the USFS to do my part to serve and protect the people and our environment by not putting one above the other in reference to importance.”