2013 Project of the Year, Flying Weed Warriors of LACC


What do helicopters, paintball guns, and inner city youth have to do with invasive plant removal? A lot actually. Corps often engage in projects to fight the advance of non-native species in our parks and forests, but Corpsmembers involved in Los Angeles Conservation Corps’s Flying Weed Warriors project quite literally went to battle against invasive plants.

Invasive plant removal usually involves Corpsmembers trekking through forests to cut down or pull out the offending species. What makes the Flying Weed Warriors project different is that they used a cutting-edge land management technique known as Herbicide Ballistic Technology (HBT). HBT involves shooting paintballs filled with high concentrations of herbicide from modified paintball guns. Shooting the guns from a helicopter enables all infestations to be accessed and treated quickly. Using the helicopter also provided an ideal vantage point to detect any new invasive species. Corpsmembers with the Flying Weed Warriors project used HBT to treat over 100 pampas grass infestations on Santa Cruz Island – the largest and most biologically diverse of California’s eight Channel Islands.

Flying Weed Warriors was made possible through the collaborative efforts of the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, The Nature Conservancy Santa Cruz Island Preserve, the University of Hawaii, Native Range, Inc., and the generous support of the JiJi foundation. In addition to successfully helping stop the spread of a harmful species in one of America’s most environmentally unique areas, the partnerships of the Flying Weed Warriors project connected a wide range of people who otherwise would have never met.

“Although the project’s focus was research based conservation, it also helped bridge educational and socio-economic gaps between participants, leading to friendships and mentorships that would be unlikely without this unique collaboration” said Dan Knapp, Los Angeles Conservation Corps’ Deputy Director. “For this particular project, Corpsmembers were not just a labor force or mechanism for successful conservation work; they were members of a cutting edge research team.”

In many ways, the Flying Weed Warriors project was an eye-opening experience for the Corpsmembers involved. Before the project, none of the Corpsmembers had ever been to the Channel Islands, ridden on a boat, or flown in a helicopter. During their down time, Corpsmembers went snorkeling and explored the island – a place that has many endemic (and endangered) plant and animal species. The project was also an eye-opener for the researchers involved. Corpsmembers and researchers, including Dr. James Leary from University of Hawaii and Dr. Guy Keiser from University of California Davis, all lived together for up to four days at a time. This allowed members of the academic community to engage and teach members of a historically disenfranchised population.

Corpsmembers involved in Flying Weed Warriors participated in important research that supports efforts to get the use of HBT permitted throughout California. One of the project partners, Native Range, Inc., is now eager to hire Corpsmember participants once they receive State Herbicide application licenses. Native Range has even offered to help with preparation for the state licensing test.

In addition to gaining exposure to new places, new ideas, and new kinds of people, Corpsmembers in the Flying Weed Warriors project simply had a lot of fun. After all, what’s not to like about flying around in helicopters with paintball guns in the name of science?

 

2013 Corpsmember of the Year, Jesse Roehm



 

Jesse Roehm understood at a very young age what it means to be a good environmental steward. Through many small acts, his family conveyed to him the importance of protecting nature and maintaining a small carbon footprint. He remembers helping his father cover their windows in shrink wrap every fall to reduce the amount of energy they consumed to heat their house in a suburb of Indianapolis. He remembers how he and his brother never watched TV or played videogames; they much preferred to spend their days tramping through the woods, digging in the dirt and fishing in the creek. As Jesse got a little older, the concept of environmental stewardship gained further clarity through his participation in the Boy Scouts. His Eagle Scout project involved spreading awareness about invasive species by writing for the newspaper, handing out information at community events, and leading an eradication project at a local park.

Jesse’s upbringing helped him appreciate the importance of community involvement and activism, but he feels that he started to lose sight of some of his values while he was in college. When he graduated from Indiana State University in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and international studies, Jesse decided he was ready to make some changes in his life. He wanted to find himself and reconnect with his beliefs, so he decided to devote a year to service.

“I’m not exactly sure how I initially heard about AmeriCorps. I was loosely considering doing the Peace Corps, but through research I found out that there were also domestic Corps. I thought that would be a better fit for me because I didn’t really think I was ready to commit two-and-a-half years to go abroad and leave family and friends,” said Jesse. “I knew I was interested in AmeriCorps, but there weren’t a whole lot of AmeriCorps options in Indiana and I had wanted to move out to Colorado just to kind of get away. I had spent my whole life in Indiana and I was looking to make a fresh start.”

As someone who loves to go skiing and backpacking, Jesse was lured by Colorado’s mountains. He already had several good friends in Colorado, so he knew that if he went there he would have a place to stay until he got on his feet. It wasn’t long after Jesse arrived in Denver that he found Mile High Youth Corps; an organization that focuses on community building, energy conservation and wilderness land management. MHYC seemed like a perfect fit for Jesse, so he soon dove headfirst into a 10-month-long AmeriCorps Leadership and Conservation Program. He spent that first spring with the Corps installing water saving measures in low-income homes.

“I stared poverty in the face and made real and tangible changes,” said Jesse. “I began to relearn the concept of community and feel a sense of belonging to a greater cause.”

Through his commitment to helping others and making a difference, Jesse proved to be a natural leader. He was elected by his peers to Leadership Council; the Corpsmember-led governing body of Mile High. He served as the voice of his crew, enacted policy changes based on Corpsmember input and organized agency-wide events.



Once the summer came around, Jesse was promoted to Assistant Crew Leader. Around the same time, he and his peers transitioned to land conservation work for the summer and fall months.

“I think definitely what stood out to me during that first year with the Corps was the work that I did on land conservation,” said Jesse. “For roughly six months I was part of a chainsaw crew. I worked with the same Crew Leader and some of the same crewmembers and we had a very successful two seasons together in terms of how cohesive we were as a group. I’m really proud of our accomplishments.”

At the end of Jesse’s ten-month term, he was hired by MHYC as an Alumni Mentor for a 1,700 hour term. The Mentor position allowed him to assist with Corpsmember hiring and recruitment, support program development, and serve as a liaison between Corpsmembers and staff. Jesse also assumed the responsibility of coordinating and facilitating MHYC’s first Crew Leader training, and he helped plan MHYC’s first Career Day: an event that gives Corpsmembers the opportunity to learn more about MHYC staff and ask questions about current job market trends in the conservation field. Because of Jesse’s leadership and organizational skills, both of these events were a great success. 

Though Jesse was instrumental in implementing organization-wide policies and events that touched many people in the MHYC community, some of his most meaningful experiences came from simply working with Corpsmembers and other young people in the program.

“As an Alumni Mentor, I provided leadership, support and training for Corpsmembers in our Energy, Water and Land programs,” said Jesse. “My role was to connect with Corpsmembers on an individual level, ensure that they were engaging in meaningful service opportunities and educational experiences and provide on-going suggestions for improvements in our programming. At its simplest, I maintained and promoted a positive corps culture across the agency”

 Throughout his time with MHYC, Jesse has, according to his supervisors, “displayed a commitment to high quality work that is difficult to match. He gives 100 percent every day and motivates his peers through challenging times.” These claims are easily backed up by the Corpsmembers that Jesse has mentored and inspired over the past couple years.

 “I feel lucky to have Jesse as a mentor,” said one Corpsmember “I think he truly believes in the influence that Mile High and AmeriCorps can have on young adults, and this belief comes through in his overwhelming concern and compassion towards every single Corpsmember. He has been a key agent in helping me to always see the bigger picture and to understand truly what service means. Jesse has made a huge impact on me and how I have come to view my own term of service.”

Another Corpsmember commented, “At the end of every day I would see Jesse getting back from the day’s work site where he had been cutting down trees for forest thinning.  He would always have a smile on his face even though he would crawl out of the van dirtier than anyone else in the van; a strong testament to his ability to work hard all hours of the day while constantly being upbeat and positive.  Every day that he comes to work he goes above and beyond what is required of him.  His positivity and work ethic are infectious.”

After 3,400 hours with Mile High, Jesse became a staff member in late 2012. As a Program Specialist for the Corps’ Conservation Program, Jesse now leads the AmeriCorps Leadership and Conservation crew that he was a part of in 2011. He is excited to have the opportunity to create an AmeriCorps experience for his Corpsmembers that was as valuable as his own.

“I am thrilled to be able to continue promoting individual learning, leadership and personal growth among Corpsmembers,” said Jesse.

While working full-time at Mile High Youth Corps, Jesse plans to use his AmeriCorps Education Awards to pursue a master’s degree in Public Administration at the University of Colorado, Denver. Ultimately, he hopes to work in a managerial role at a Denver area non-profit focused on community development. Though he might not stay at Mile High forever, Jesse will forever be changed by his time with the Corps.

“At the end of my two years in AmeriCorps, the biggest change is who I see in the mirror. I am proud of who I am. My AmeriCorps experience kindled a passion for service inside me. I learned the value of community, hard work and integrity and now live in service to those values. I would like to thank Mile High Youth Corps for providing me with the tools to make a difference in my own life and the lives of others.”

 

2013 Corpsmember of the Year, Sarah Huff


 

Sarah Huff enrolled at Shasta College in California after she graduated from high school in 2007. She wasn’t sure what kind of career she wanted to pursue and tried to keep an open mind about the future, but she didn’t feel inspired by any of her classes. Sarah completed most of her general course requirements after four semesters, yet she was no closer to declaring a major. It was time to try something new.

Around this time, Sarah came across a brochure advertising the California Conservation Corps (CCC). Across the front of the handout was the Corps’ official motto: “Hard work, low pay, miserable conditions…and more!” Sarah had never imagined herself taking a job that required long hours of exhausting physical labor, but she was looking for a change and the Corps would certainly present many new experiences. Within just two months of attending a CCC information session, Sarah joined the Corps and became a member of the Weaverville CCC expansion crew.

Sarah had always enjoyed being outside and she had recently discovered a love for backpacking, but before becoming a Corpsmember she had only ever worked in a book store and an office. Despite her inexperience, Sarah immediately stood out as a model Corpsmember. She was a quick learner and she willingly took on new responsibilities. Her hard work contributed immensely to the success of the newly-formed Weaverville crew. She endured the sometimes harsh conditions of working in the back country with a positive attitude, swapping jokes and riddles with her fellow Corpsmembers to keep up morale on long hikes and in bad weather.
 


 

It wasn’t long before Sarah was promoted to a Crew Leader position. She was so respected by her supervisors that she became one of only nine Corpsmembers statewide selected to represent the CCC in Australia for a two month exchange program with Conservation Volunteers Australia. While abroad, Sarah worked in flood recovery, tree planting and invasive species removal.

“It was a really good experience - I met a lot of neat people. For us it was basically like a paid vacation, but it was really cool to know that we were helping change peoples’ lives,” said Sarah. “They were so grateful to have us. It was less than a year after they’d had these big floods and they were still trying to get back on their feet. So it was really great to not only get to see a new country, but know that you made a difference while you were there.”

When Sarah returned from Australia she was promoted again and became a Crewleader II with the Redding CCC’s Type II Fire Crew. As the only woman on the crew, Sarah at first felt like she needed to prove she was tough and could keep up with the guys. However, she is such a skilled firefighter and leader that it didn’t take much effort for her to quickly earn the respect of the rest of the team.

In addition to her work with the Corps, Sarah volunteered her time at many community events in order to earn her AmeriCorps Education Awards. Sarah spent many hours helping with the Annual Salmon Festival, the local Children’s Festival, and various service learning projects. She went above and beyond the call of duty and even came into work on her days off to help her supervisors buy food and prepare camps for “spike” operations. A “spike” is when a crew camps near a project site and the Corpsmembers work ten hour shifts for eight days in a row, often in remote locations without conveniences like running water, electricity, or cell phone reception. 

As one of Sarah’s supervisors said, “Sarah has a very positive effect on her peers. She is a great role model who ‘leads by example’ and shows others what they are capable of.” Sarah became known for her ability to motivate other Corpsmembers and for the way she relentlessly encouraged her peers to volunteer, work towards their Class B Driver’s licenses, and apply for jobs. During her term of service Sarah herself was able to earn her Class B license, move out of her parents’ house, and finally find a direction for her future. 

Sarah was offered a number of jobs with the CCC, but after over two years of hard work she decided she was ready to go back to school. With the help of her AmeriCorps scholarship money, Sarah became a full-time student at American River College in January 2013. Her goal is to earn an associate’s degree in Environmental Conservation and then transfer to a school in the California State University system to complete a bachelor’s degree. Sarah is thankful that her time in the Corps helped her realize a passion for working outdoors. She hopes to eventually find a job in which she can use the skills she gained in the Corps. She has been researching positions with Corps and with agencies like the Park Service and the Forest Service.

“While in the CCC I've been a trail worker, a cook, a firefighter, a Crew Leader, a student and a teacher. I've done landscaping, fuel reduction, fence repair, habitat restoration and rock work. I’ve worked harder than I thought I could and been more exhausted than I thought possible. I've watched people come and go and made some great friends. Most importantly, I've made a difference.” 

A former Corpsmember starts his own conservation group

 

Where are they now? - Catching up with 2005 Corpsmember of the Year,
Diony Gamoso


Diony working on Peralta Creek

Diony Gamoso, formerly of Marin Conservation Corps (now Conservation Corps North Bay), won Corpsmember of the Year in 2005 for his commitment to service. Read below to find out what he's been up to since accepting his award, or find out more about Diony and his Corps experience by reading his bio from our 2005 National Conference.

Diony Gamoso has always loved nature and animals. He studied wildlife biology in college and spent the first four or five years after graduation working as a wildlife field biologist. He then accepted a 3-month-long internship doing habitat restoration in San Francisco through the San Francisco Natural Areas program. Around this time, Diony was also working intermittently for the Student Conservation Association. A friend took notice of Diony’s interest in environmental preservation and suggested he might find value in working for the Marin Conservation Corps (now Conservation Corps North Bay, CCNB). Diony checked online and noticed that the Corps was hiring Crew Leaders. He decided to give the program a try.

“I thought I’d be there for maybe a year or even just six months so I could get some valuable experience under my belt and then move on,” said Diony. “I was thinking at the time that this would just be a steppingstone. But then I ended up staying there for about three years.”

During his first year with CCNB, Diony worked in the field doing flood control, fire fuel reduction, irrigation, and various other land management projects. He made it clear to his supervisors from the very beginning that his main interests were in habitat restoration and environmental education. To give Diony some teaching experience, the Corps offered him a position with Project Regeneration; CCNB’s summer youth program for Marin County high school kids. Diony organized educational field trips and led program participants in service learning projects. Diony went back to being a Crew Leader at the end of the summer, but his supervisors wanted to help him in fulfilling his ambition to become a teacher. He was soon promoted to Education Department Assistant.

“I felt like the culture of the Corps was to find opportunities for people. Any time there was a new project that came along, or a new position they thought I might be interested in, the Corps would say, ‘Hey, you should apply to this!’” said Diony. “Basically they just kept on opening up new opportunities for me within the Corps and I really felt useful and needed, so I stuck around.”

Diony spent the rest of his time with the Corps in the Education Department. As a field teacher he taught CCNB crews about watershed, habitats, fire ecology – basically any of the science related to their field work. Diony also helped in the classroom teaching English as a Second Language to Latino students and tutoring Corpsmembers in math, science, and reading. During his last six months with CCNB, Diony was simultaneously enrolled at Dominican University to get his California teaching credential in secondary school science. He left the Corps in 2006 to focus on his studies. After receiving his teaching credential, Diony spent a little over a year teaching physical science and biology at Berkeley High School. However, he soon decided that as much as he valued education, he was happiest in the field.

For the past three years, Diony has worked seasonally as a biological science technician doing habitat restoration in the Presidio park of San Francisco. He took the job because he felt it would give him more experience in conservation while also providing plenty of time for him to pursue other projects. Diony has taken advantage of this extra time to reestablish a creek group in his neighborhood in Oakland. The group was established about a decade ago, but interest soon faded. Diony can take credit for reviving Friends of Peralta Creek and turning it into the growing organization that it is today. Friends of Peralta Creek has organized field trips for over 300 youth and has engaged between 50 – 100 adult volunteers in events and creek restoration projects.

“The focus is on bringing native plants back to the Peralta Creek watershed. But combined with that is education about watersheds in general and how we can protect the creeks from being polluted, and how we’re connected to the ocean through the creek,” said Diony. “…I became interested in this kind of education as I worked in the environmental field. I think I realized just how disconnected so many people are from the nature that’s around them. So I guess I had a desire to make a difference and get kids involved in learning about all this nature that’s right there.”          

Diony says the skills he learned at CCNB are definitely still relevant to his work in the Presidio and with Friends of Peralta Creek. It was at CCNB that he learned how to build willow walls and brush mattresses. Diony still teaches youth and volunteers about these erosion control mechanisms and still uses them in his work today. Diony was recently offered a year-round, fulltime job doing habitat restoration in the Presidio for the next two years.    

Diony is confident he would’ve found his way into conservation even if he had never found CCNB, but he says he is grateful that the Corps helped expand his horizons and gave him a place to get hands-on experience in the work he now does for a living.          

“The Corps changed my perspective a lot about people with different backgrounds...it helped me connect with a lot of people who I might not normally associate with in my regular social circles,” said Diony. “I loved the sense of community there. I would say there was a certain kind of love in the Corps – not necessarily like a warm and fuzzy kind of love, but in the sense that everyone really cared for each other and went the extra mile to help each other out.”

To youth considering joining a Corps, Diony says:     

“a) Good idea! I got so much out of it and I think that practical work experience is so important….I felt that the Corps was a great place for getting some solid job skills. It’s just very good, practical experience…and b) My words of wisdom would be that you should let people know what it is that you hope to get out of your Corps experience and where you’re trying to go next. My experience with the Corps was that as soon as they found out what my goals were, every opportunity that arose that was related to what I was interested in, they would offer it to me. I was very thankful for that.”

 

 

"A desire to do things that benefit more than just me" -- Patricia Bohnwagner's Corps Experience

Where are they now? - Catching up with 2005 Corpsmember of the Year,
Patricia Bohnwagner

Patricia Bohnwagner, formerly of Urban Corps of San Diego, won Corpsmember of the Year in 2005 for her commitment to service. Read below to find out what she's been up to since accepting her award, or find out more about Patricia and her Corps experience by reading her bio from our 2005 National Conference.

Patricia Bohnwagner learned about Urban Corps of San Diego from an advertisement she found in the PennySaver. The ad included a long list of skills that a young person could gain by becoming a Corpsmember. Patricia had her high school diploma, but she was unsure what she wanted to do with her future. Maybe working for Urban Corps would give her some direction. Patricia started at Urban Corps in November 2002…and she ended up staying there for the next seven years.

Patricia was a Corpsmember when she first joined Urban Corps, but she was eventually promoted to Supervisor. She ended up working in nearly every department at the Corps. She led a crew in repainting walls and buildings for the Graffiti 

Department. She helped find new clients for the Corps’ Recycling Department. Patricia also planted trees in the Urban Forestry Department, and she helped find employment for Corpsmembers as a Supervisor for the Corps’ internship program. At one point, as Supervisor for the Corps’ educational program, Patricia taught elementary school children about power line safety and the benefits of trees. This experience helped her overcome a fear of public speaking. Looking back at her years with the Corps, she was hard-pressed to come up with a favorite project or assignment. “Really, everything I did there seemed to make a positive difference in some way,” said Patricia. “…I still drive by areas where I have helped plant trees, worked during a community clean up event, or removed graffiti and I feel proud of what I’ve done.”

It was Patricia’s positive experience with Urban Corps that helped her make the decision to stay in San Diego for as long as she has. She is originally from Massachusetts, but she moved to California to live with her sister and help take care of her nephew. Both her sister and brother-in-law were in the Navy; Patricia first came to California when her brother-in-law was deployed and her sister was left to care for her nephew alone.

As Patricia says, she and her sister “had a rollercoaster of a relationship” when they were younger. Patricia was at one point kicked out of the house for six months. It was only with the help of friends that she was able to avoid homelessness. When her sister decided to leave the Navy and move back east, Patricia stayed in California to see where her job with the Corps could take her. She had to sleep on friends’ couches after her sister moved, but she saved enough money to eventually get a shared apartment and buy her first car.

 “Thank goodness I’ve always had a great support system of friends,” said Patricia.

Now that it’s been over three years since she worked for the Corps, Patricia can look back at the experience and say that it helped change her outlook. It helped her decide what she wanted to do with her life.

“One thing that has stuck with me through the years is a desire to do things that benefit more than just me. A sense of serving and doing what I can to make the community better, or doing what I can to help other people,” she said. “I also gained so much knowledge about the environment and basic work skills that have helped me immeasurably through the years. It was hard work, but the skills, knowledge and experience I gained during my time at Urban Corps have undoubtedly had a major, positive influence on where I am in life today.”

That sense of wanting to give back helped inspire Patricia to become an EMT. She currently serves as a medic in the California Army National Guard (CAARNG). Her primary job is as a United States Postal Carrier. As part of the Guard, Patricia teaches a Combat Lifesaver course for troops preparing to deploy. She herself served as a medic in Iraq for a year.

Patricia is in the process of switching over to the Army Reserves. She will soon have the opportunity to be sent to a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) program in Texas. After completing the program, she hopes to return to California and get her associate’s degree as a Registered Nurse. She currently has over 30 college credits, but it’s been difficult for her to maintain a regular school schedule with her long work hours and the deployment to Iraq. After earning her associate’s degree, Patricia should only be three or four semesters away from a bachelor’s degree. Patricia’s goal is to complete her bachelor’s degree and find employment as a nurse within the next six years.

Patricia saved enough money during her deployment to move her mom out to California and furnish a new apartment for the two of them. She is currently living comfortably with her mom and a recently adopted shelter dog. She is fairly confident that her time in the Corps played a big part in getting her where she is today.

“[If I hadn’t joined the Corps] I can’t say I’d be on a horrible path or anything, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have had as many successes as I have. I would probably be working at a meaningless job and perhaps wouldn’t have joined the military,” said Patricia. “I would for sure be a lot further from my goals than I am now, and wouldn’t have realized all this potential in myself, since that was due to my time in the Corps and the great staff that worked there.”

To young people thinking about joining a Corps, Patricia says:

“With anything in life, you get out of it what you put into it. Only you can make the choice to either better yourself and your situation, or just accept what comes your way. BE PROACTIVE! Do your best at everything you do and do the right thing, and you won’t have as many regrets or disappointments. And don’t be too hard on yourself if things don’t go the way you want or as quickly as you want. Life happens and it’s hard to move up, but it can be done. Stick to it and never give up. Stay positive and don’t let anyone bring you down or tell you that you can’t do something.”

 

 

Veterans-youth conservation partnership to restore Colorado’s public lands

 

Taken from Pagosun.com - by Jennifer Freeman, Special to the SUN  

The Conservation Lands Foundation and the Colorado Youth Corps Association have announced the launch of their new Veterans-Youth Conservation Corps Partnership at a celebration and kickoff in Denver.

Nearly 100 supporters gathered to launch this new public-private collaboration that unites the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), conservation corps, private industry and veterans groups to provide Colorado veterans and youth with employment and job training opportunities working to restore and maintain Colorado’s public lands.

“When you take Colorado youth corps, tie them in with veterans, mix that with the Bureau of Land Management staff that’s in Colorado, then you begin to get a pretty rich soup,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper, addressing the crowd. “Mix in some private industry funders to provide resources or donations, add the Conservation Lands Foundation. Now it’s seasoned, now it’s got heat and energy.”

Working on Colorado’s public lands, including the McInnis Canyon and Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Areas and Canyons of the Ancients, corps members will work 10-hour days, four days a week on a variety of projects. The veterans and young people will be fixing trails, improving wildlife habitat, restoring wetlands and rivers, and cutting out unhealthy trees or undergrowth that would readily feed forest fires.

“This partnership is about training and employing our veterans and young people; they are our future conservationists, our future resource managers, and having the opportunity to hone their skills in this setting is invaluable,” commented Jennifer Freeman, executive director at the Colorado Youth Corps Association. “We look forward to expanding job opportunities for young people and veterans who want to serve the people and lands of Colorado.”

Colorado BLM is providing some funding for the veterans and youth corps for 2013. The Conservation Lands Foundation is leading an effort to seek additional funding from energy companies that work in Colorado and other private industries in order to expand funding for this partnership.

In addition to Gov. Hickenlooper, two current conservation corps members — former Marine Corey Adamy and Western Colorado Conservation Corps crew leader Eddica Tuttle — also spoke at the event.

Tuttle has worked since 2011 for the Western Colorado Conservation Corps near Grand Junction, earning AmeriCorps Education Awards for higher education and the opportunity to be the first in her immediate family to attend college. Adamy is a Marine Corps veteran and leads a crew of veterans in the Durango-Farmington area in a wildlands firefighting program for the Southwest Conservation Corps.

Adamy talked about how veterans often miss the camaraderie and physical activity they experienced in the military. Many need to transition back into civilian life, want to physically work outdoors and they enjoy the teamwork and structure of a conservation corps.?

“The agencies (such as BLM) love the veterans crews and our work,” Adamy stated. “We’re doing great work on the ground with our wildlands fire program that they couldn’t get done with just the funds they have.”

Charlotte Overby, with the Conservation Lands Foundation, sees the partnership as a great way to invite the private sector to show their support for veterans and young people, be good stewards of some of the state’s most treasured public lands and take pride in what they accomplish.

“This is an ideal partnership with the potential to be robust and productive in job creation and habitat restoration,” Overby stated. “Colorado’s public lands are part of our shared outdoor heritage and so important to our economy, and preserving them for future generations must be a priority. This partnership will create immediate job opportunities and prepare our future natural resource stewards to carry out that mission.”

Conservation Corps Exchange Program: New Mexico to Texas


Picture taken from the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps Facebook page: RMYC members visiting the American YouthWorks Corps in Austin, Texas

Austin’s American YouthWorks’ Texas Conservation Corps program is hosting a youth crew from Taos, New Mexico at Bastrop State Park this week.

(Press Release from American YouthWorks - November 7, 2012)

Austin, TX -  Austin’s American YouthWorks’ Texas Conservation Corps program is participating in an exchange that brings youth from Taos’ Rocky Mountain Youth Corps program to Bastrop State Park for a week of work rebuilding the park’s trails.  As the first part of the exchange, the Texas crew worked in the Carson National Forest near Taos, NM last month.

The Texas program has been working hard for one year to bring the central Texas State Park back to it’s former glory after last year’s Labor Day fire.  They have rebuilt trails, felled hazard trees, protected park culverts and other infrastructure from flood damage, managed volunteer days, and fashioned the park’s drought and fire killed trees into new park footbridges.  The crew is a part of American YouthWork’s Texas Conservation Corps.  There are similar Conservation Corps programs nationwide, especially across the American West, and many of them get together to share best practices.  During one of these sessions, the idea for a crew exchange was born.  The American YouthWorks team travelled to Taos on October 21st to spend a week of sub-freezing nights in the mountains of northern New Mexico.  They worked as a chainsaw crew alongside the Taos-based Rocky Mountain Youth Corps on a hazard and diseased tree thinning project in a mixed conifer forest in the Carson National Forest. 

On Monday, November 5 the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps crew travelled to Bastrop State Park and joined the American YouthWorks crew to complete additional trail work for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at Bastrop State Park.  They will be working on reconstruction of trail footbridges that were lost in the fire.  At the end of their week, they will also spend Saturday with the Travis County Audubon Society installing hundreds of new native plants in east Austin’s Blair Woods Preserve.


MEDIA CONTACTS at AMERICAN YOUTHWORKS:

Diversity: California Conservation Corps members discuss the need to see more people of color experiencing nature


Terry Johnson and Leonard Patton, two Corpsmembers from the California Conservation Corps, sit down with John Griffith of Totem Magic: Going MAD to discuss Outdoor Afro - an organization that focuses on getting people of color more involved in outdoor recreation and conservation. Both Corpsmembers talk about the habitat restoration projects they've been involved with, and talk about how much they've learned about nature since joining the Corps. Leonard talks about how his experience with California Conservation Corps has introduced him to many new species and has allowed him to see a kind of untamed nature he never knew existed.

Click the image above or click here to watch the video of the interivew.

Vermont Youth Conservation Corps Storm Recovery Crew Uncovers the Recent Past

From the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps's October 17, 2012 newsletter 

Every time the flow of the White River changes, more debris from Tropical Storm Irene makes its way down river and carves away river banks.  An eight-person Recovery Crew is currently working along the Tweed and White Rivers in Rochester to appropriately extract and discard hundreds of pounds of debris, including over 200 tires.

The job requires physical strength, safety and risk management, and problem solving skills.  In chest-high waders, members ferry debris to pick up areas.  Along the floodplain, the crew bushwhacks through thick sections of the infamous invasive Japanese Knotweed to reach piles of debris. Rockbars and pick mattocks are used to dig out tires, pry out painted or treated wood, and maneuver waterlogged mattresses. Sturdy trash bags hold antique bottles, pieces of cable, and toys. The crew will tell you that it takes patience, a sense of humor, and great teamwork to make this project successful.


Learn more about this crew here

The VYCC is committed to Irene Recovery.  In the wake of the storm, crews helped 60 families clean out their homes in Waterbury, Richmond, and Montpelier. This year, crews are completing several projects related to Irene including trail repair and invasive species removal.  We also welcome Matt DeFrange to VYCC Headquarters Staff as an AmeriCorps VISTA through SerVermont.  Matt's focus is Irene Recovery through our Development Office.

Baltimore Teens Trade Summer in the City for Conservation in the Wilderness

 

They traveled 2,000 miles from home, trading high-rise buildings for towering trees, city lights for twinkling stars, and an urban cacophony for the melodies of songbirds.

Relaxing? Hardly. These six Baltimore teenagers aren’t on vacation. They are working long, hard days to restore the wilderness character of Carson National Forest in New Mexico.

All six are members of the Student Conservation Association (SCA), a national nonprofit organization that engages young adults in hands-on conservation to build connections with nature and provide career skills and training. In June and July, the crew members worked in urban parks back home in a pioneering SCA program that employs under-represented city youth in green summer jobs near their own neighborhoods. When given the option of performing similar work in a national forest, the teens jumped at the chance.

“There’s not many wide open places like this left, so we have to do what we can to protect them,” says 17-year-old Malik Moore. “Plus, I get to go out West for the first time. No way was I going to pass this up.”

None of the SCA team had ever traveled this far before; few had even been more than a few miles from home. During the day, they build hiking trails, restore campsites, and remove invasive plants before heading to basecamp to prepare their own meals over an open fire, take in environmental lessons from their crew leaders, and retreat to their tents for a restful sleep. “This is an adventure, no doubt about it,” states Howard Thorne, Jr. “But we all know why we’re here. There’s work to do.”

The project is part of the Forest Service’s 10-Year Challenge to achieve specific stewardship objectives at more than 400 US Forest Service sites by 2014, the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. S. Elwood York, Jr., the Forest Service’s wilderness program leader in Washington, D.C., says he also had another objective in mind in creating the Carson opportunity for the SCA Baltimore crew.

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