Someday, You Could Be A: National Park Forestry Worker

Just like: Jesse Kearns

Jesse Kearns at work.
Jesse Kearns at work.

by Ilona Bray

Jesse works in Yosemite National Park. He started as a back-country ranger, helping lost or injured hikers. But that job wasn’t year-round, so he switched to forestry work. Now he deals with tree hazards: chopping down dead limbs or trees that might otherwise fall on people, clearing campgrounds and trails, and dealing with natural disasters like storms and wildfires. He’s also involved in various special projects, like providing cedar bark that the Miwok tribe uses to maintain their sweat lodges and ceremonial rooms.

As a kid, did you ever imagine you’d someday be a forestry worker?
“Growing up in urban Buffalo, (New York) I didn’t even know these parks were places I could get involved with! But I loved the outdoors and studied wilderness recreation in college. I also spent my summers working for a ‘tree doctor,’ which was great training.”

How does your job help the environment?
“I’m helping protect a sensitive natural resource that people come from around the world to see. Even when removing a tree, we’re careful to preserve nearby native plants or archaeological sites.”

What’s been a high point in your job?
“When I was first here, I remember climbing a peak, looking down, and realizing that I was by myself in this wilderness. It was so new to me, that feeling of freedom.”

Any tips for kids interested in national park work?

“Starting in grade school, sign up for class trips or volunteer opportunities—like an overnight program here at the Yosemite Institute. Also contact the Student Conservation Association (, which helps high school and college students get internships and jobs. And check out the various National Park jobs at”

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