Matthew Shiffner interns for the Bureau of Land Management

by Vicki Heisser  |   

PWSC student Matthew Shiffner is happy to be in his element working as an intern with the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Glennallen Field Office (GFO). Recently we caught up with him and BLM’s Outdoor Recreation Planner Jan Miller.

For Matt, the outdoors has always been a fascination. He shares, “I’ve always been very passionate about the outdoors. From an early age I began going on camping and hiking trips. First with my family, then with my scout troop, and then on my own or with friends. So I’ve known for some time that I want to get a job in the outdoor rec field.”  

With such a desire for a job in outdoor recreation, the BLM internship a good fit. Right now, Matt is working on maintaining campgrounds, part of the BLM work that Jan Miller oversees. Matt explains, “I have mainly been working with Jan Miller, who manages campgrounds for BLM. There are four campgrounds in total that I help to manage. The furthest is located about 5 hours from the Glennallen field office. Some of my duties at campgrounds included: scraping/painting picnic tables, cleaning fire rings, restocking brochures/fee envelopes, maintaining the water-line for the dump station at Paxson Lake Campground, and other things.”

Other than maintaining campgrounds, Matt has had the opportunity to work with the program WISE – Wrangell Institute for Science Education, where he helped lead a youth hike. He has also been involved in issuing subsistence hunting permits.

As Matt contemplates the remainder of his internship for this summer, he notes that he is really looking forward to the coming stay at the Brushkana Campground. He shares, “I’m looking forward to staying out at our furthest campground for a few weeks later in July, Brushkana Campground. It is located on the Denali Hwy about 40 miles from Cantwell. I will be staying in a converted camper van for a couple weeks to do site surveys, paint/stain outhouses, picnic tables, trim the brush around the campground, and take care of a few other maintenance related things. It’s a beautiful campground, and I can’t wait to get out there again.”

For those who are looking for internship opportunities like this, there are a number of things to consider. Jan Miller explains: “An intern can look forward to work which requires time management skills, planning for activities for the day with a secondary option as remote locations and weather can change work plans in minutes, working with others and being the face of BLM. Safety and customer service is always number one.”

Miller herself is responsible for many recreational aspects of campground management within her position. She knows that in her position, as with the internship positions, being able to communicate and work with others and help visitors, as she says, “have the best experience they can” is very important.

For those who are interested in jobs like Miller’s, she explains that to do such jobs one not only needs to work with others but also be able to do various types of maintenance, have experience and knowledge about outdoor sports, and acquire certain certifications.  She explains that someone in her line of work “Needs a basic knowledge of vehicle operation and mechanics, the ability to drive a UTV, use hand tools and do minor maintenance. Some duties included in other programs within recreation require the use of heavy equipment such as bulldozers and Bobcats. Rivers programs require knowledge of rafting and canoeing. Having wildland first aid is necessary as many locations are remote and medical response takes a long time. Safety and knowledge of proper safety procedures is therefore required.”

For Matt, his time with the BLM as an intern has been very rewarding. “This internship has been an incredible learning experience. The knowledge I have gained through working with BLM is invaluable. I hope to continue making connections in the industry, and developing my skills and abilities.”