Youth Stewards


In a time that seems to be defined by technology and nature deficiency disorder, we know that time spent in wilderness is a curative, positive force. We also know that in order to protect the Boundary Waters for future generations, the next generation needs to experience it and fall in love with it. Once they do, they come back for a lifetime and become advocates for the protection of the wilderness.


The Boundary Waters is the most visited wilderness in the United States. Visitor numbers have been stable for the last decade around 150,000 overnight visitors per year. The best long-term protection for the BWCAW is a vibrant, growing, and diverse group of wilderness travelers.

That’s why we have a number of programs to help young people of all backgrounds experience the Boundary Waters Wilderness and develop conservation leadership skills.


Thomas Flint Memorial Canoe Trips

While many Minnesota residents are familiar with the BWCAW and its thousands of lakes and streams, for others it is a remote and foreign place which they may never visit because of cost or distance. To alleviate that barrier, two families have established a scholarship with the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness to bring Minnesota’s economically disadvantaged young people to the BWCAW.

For most of the participants, it is their first visit to the BWCAW. The trip offers them a chance to build confidence, work in a group, learn about the area, and make friends. Funding for the expeditions is provided by the Thomas Flint Boundary Waters Wilderness Fund and the Bob Johnson Boundary Waters Wilderness Fund, which were created in memory of outdoorsmen who loved the BWCAW.

Conservation Fellows Partnership 

We work alongside high school students of color in a partnership and mentorship initiative lasting for an academic year that offers a stipend for student participation, as well as public transportation costs to weekly gatherings, out-of-town transportation costs, and the cost of retreats, trips, and materials for student projects.

The program’s goal is to introduce students to conservation work, and to ensure that the Friends’ work is inclusive, incorporates diverse perspectives, and remains relevant and effective for the long-term preservation of the BWCAW and the Quetico-Superior ecosystem. The program also connects student participants with the state’s broader environmental network and conservation issues.


Want to get experience working in a high-impact conservation non-profit?  Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness offers a variety of unique internships that are an opportunity for you to gain practical experience and develop workplace skills in membership, policy, and communications. The Friends takes on 1-2 interns per semester/summer. Positions are typically part-time, about 10-12 hours per week for 10 to 12 weeks. 

Wilderness Curriculum

Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness offers two sets of engaging, hands-on curriculum designed for middle and high school-aged youth. Both the BWCA Wilderness Kit and the Living for the Wild curriculum introduces students to Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and helps them explore and discover the wonders of this million-acre wilderness area.


Donate – Your Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness membership supports this programming and ensures that the next generation feels as strongly about protection the BWCAW as you do. Make a contribution today.

Take a kid to the Boundary Waters – The most direct way you can help us achieve our mission of a broad user base that will protect the Boundary Waters is to commit to take somebody new to the BWCAW. Bring a kid on your next trip!

Apply for the Conservation Fellows Partnership – Applicants are current high school students. Stipends are provided. To apply, contact the program coordinator. 

Apply for an internship – Applicants typically have completed at least one year of college and must be at least 18 years old.  Stipends are available. To apply, send one PDF document that includes a cover letter, resume, and contact information for 2-3 references to our internship coordinator.

Request Wilderness Curriculum – Bring the BWCAW into your school or youth group. To request copies of the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness’ curriculum materials, contact the Friends.