One Month In with Montana Conservation Corps

Article, written by Brendan Allen, appears in The MCC KCrew Blog. Published June 30, 2014. Image from National Park Service website.

June 19th marked the first full month of my service with the Montana Conservation Corps, and the day struck in the midst of my crew’s second hitch, a fast paced, cut-and-run slam of a trail clearing in Flathead National Forest. We were helping open up some the area’s integral trails before hiking season really took off, and it was quickly evident that we had our work cut out for us. We met 72 hours of straight rain, a frigid stream crossing, and switchbacks covered in blow down from a winter season avalanche. Once daylight set in, however, it was there to stay. We camped less than a dozen miles from the Canadian border, so sunlight stretched out to nearly 11:00 PM, with a sliver of dawn breaking only four or five hours later.

At first, I was too swept up in the actual work to note the occasion. When I’m working on a trail, my brain tends to prioritize the physical goals and stimuli around me before allowing any time for introspection. Hours fly by, and all I’ve thought about are what branches need to be lopped; what tread looks uneven; what trees are going to fall where; and how I need to hike, hike, hike to the next patch of work. When we pause for water, the crew trades a few jokes to keep up morale, and then we keep moving.

This single-mindedness isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It keeps me happily grounded in my work – I’m able to consider every gradually completed step as an accomplishment, and I focus more intensely on my physical surroundings. Potential risks, ones that I might have daydreamed past otherwise, become more evident. I’m able to discern the unspoken needs of my fellow crew members more easily. It keeps me from getting too wrapped up in my own thoughts. It keeps me safe.

That being said, once I returned to camp on the 19th, the realization that I was already nearing the end of my second hitch blew me away. It wasn’t that I felt shocked by any abrupt changes in my life; instead, the surprise came from just how easily I had slipped into my new role. As I thought about the past month, I watched my fellow crew members slip into the little roles of domesticity that emerge in camp life: Courtney and Jacob were just finishing dinner while Dorian and Geoff stoked the fire, Amanda cleaned her chainsaw, and Aneesa gathered water from the nearby stream. And, like that, I understood why my transition into crew life had come so easily. It was having this crew around me – this rag-tag jumble of cross-country conservationists – that made such backbreaking work seem so easy and warm. I stood, stepped forward, and moved to help Aneesa with the water.

Watersheds and Whiteboards: Montana Conservation Corps Member Shares Teaching Experience

Article, written by Katherine Boyk, appears on MCC KCrew Blog. Published June 22, 2014.

In early May I find myself on Brainard Ranch, north of Belgrade. I say that I find myself here because until this moment, I have not quite realized what I have gotten into. For just now, more than a dozen school buses are delivering over 300 fourth graders to the Gallatin Valley Agricultural Committee’s Farm Fair, where they will spend the day learning about many aspects agriculture from all sorts of experts—including me.

Standing on the damp ground, surrounded by our maps and models, I suddenly realize that I have no idea what to say to these kids.

I’m not an educator. I don’t know how to deliver a lesson, how to engage students, how much fourth graders understand about water. For that matter, my expertise of watersheds began only in January, when I started my term as a Big Sky Watershed Corps Member. And yet here I am, entrusted to deliver a meaningful, professional lesson on the water cycle to all of these students.

Luckily, I’m not here alone. Rose Vallor, and environmental educator and Board Member of the Greater Gallatin Watershed Council, my BSWC host site, is my co-leader at the water cycle station. I let Rose give the first lesson. I study what she does, how she engages students with questions, how she connects to their prior knowledge.

The next group parades in to our booth, and it is my turn to lead the surface water model. I sprinkle several colors of Kool-Aid powder, representing different types of pollutants, on to the plastic landscape and use a spray bottle to simulate rain. The students are thrilled by the demonstration: the red and green water, the gross idea of dog poop washing into streams and lakes.

And I am excited to find that the students are thoughtful and interested as we discuss how pollution from yards, farm fields, roads, and factories can drain to waterways and as we brainstorm actions to keep the water clean.

Rose demonstrates the groundwater flow model to explain how water moves underground. She uses food dye to show how pollution from leaky underground storage tanks can flow into wells and wetlands.

We give the same lesson sixteen times in five hours. And this is only day one of three. Over 1,000 students from school districts including Bozeman, Belgrade, Manhattan, Four Corners, and Church Hill will be attending this year’s Farm Fair.

The next day, I am joined by fellow Big Sky Watershed Corps Members Cecilia Welch (Park Conservation District) and Brandin Krempasky (Blue Water Task Force). As the first class files in, Ceci and Brandin have the same overwhelmed look that I felt the day before. I take the lead on the first lesson, and for the rest of the day the three of us work together.

It is fun to spend time with the students and rewarding to teach them about the importance of keeping water clean. But still, I wonder how much the students are learning from the brief lesson. We are talking about big concepts like watersheds, erosion, surface run-off, groundwater, and best management practices—can fifteen minutes do justice to these topics? And is our station on the water cycle being lost in the excitement of milking cows, petting horses, making ice cream, and going on hay rides?

Later in the month, I get the chance to answer these questions when I follow-up with three of the classes who attended Farm Fair. I’ve been asked to give a lesson about water pollution to the fourth graders at Emily Dickinson Elementary in Bozeman. This time, I’m on my own to prepare and deliver the lesson.

As soon as I walk into the classroom, one girl exclaims, “I know you, you were at Farm Fair!” I’m surprised that she remembers me (though, as I’m a redhead, I seem to be easily remembered) but even more impressed by how much the students remember of the hurried lesson on the cold day several weeks ago.

They can articulate the definition of a watershed—a concept many adults have a hard time understanding—and excitedly reiterate the highlights of the surface water and groundwater pollution demonstrations. They even remember that red Kool-Aid represented road salt and that coffee grounds were eroding soil.

All I have to do is ask probing questions and the students are able to figure out many of the lesson’s concepts. We talk about point-source and non-point-source pollution and how pollutants accumulate as water moves downstream. We create another list of ways to keep our water clean. The students do an activity, drawing houses and theme parks and castles along a paper river and brainstorming the sorts of pollution that could come from each site and how to reduce these sources.

I still feel unsure of myself as a teacher, uncertain of how to deliver the most effective lesson. I struggle to regain the students’ attention when they start talking over one another and when they become absorbed in perfecting their drawings. I have a new-found respect for the teachers who do this every day—I am exhausted after two hours.

As I leave the school, I sense that we have all received a lesson. The fourth-graders learned about the watershed, and I learned some of the basics of teaching. I discovered new strengths and weaknesses in myself and found joy in sharing my passion for environmental stewardship with these perceptive children.

And really, this is why I became AmeriCorps Member—to both provide service to the community and to learn and grow as a person and a professional. Thank you to the fourth graders for giving me this opportunity and sharing your enthusiasm for learning with me.


Montana Conservation Corps Visits Washington, DC

Article appears on the MCC KCrew Blog. Published June 26, 2014.

Montana Conservation Corps CEO Jono McKinney and Crew Leader Michael Richter met with Senator John Walsh to discuss the upcoming wildfire season and the Montana Conservation Corps’ work to prepare firefighters and train tomorrow’s land stewards.

The Montana Conservation Corps enlists hundreds of young adults and teens each year to work on conservation projects across Montana and in neighboring states, where their work in local communities and on public lands builds leadership and vocational skills. Their Veterans Green Corps program trains veterans from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom to become firefighters and work with public land management agencies.

“Veterans returning from combat have tremendous skills and we owe it to those veterans and their families to ensure they have job opportunities when they come home,” said Walsh, a 33-year member of the Montana National Guard.  “The Montana Conservation Corps’ unique program to train veterans is a win-win because it helps our returning servicemembers find employment doing work that benefits all Montanans.”

Walsh is a cosponsor of the Public Lands Service Corps Act, a bill to expand programs like the Montana Conservation Corps to provide more job opportunities for young Americans to serve their communities, learn important skills for the workforce, and contribute to Montana’s outdoor heritage.

Earlier this month, Walsh sponsored the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act to reform federal wildfire policy and give more certainty to the land management agencies that work on fire suppression and hazardous fuel reduction.

Walsh coordinated the Montana National Guard wildfire response efforts in the summer of 2000, when over one million acres of Montana’s forest burned.

Montana Conservation Corps Working to Protect Prairie Dogs

Article, written by James J. Crumpler, III, appeared on the MCC Krew Blog on June 13, 2014.

We are very few.  Six people, four crew members, myself included, and two crew leaders make us the smallest crew with the toughest assignments. We are the backcountry crew.  This past assignment was based in Thunder Basin National Grasslands. Working alongside the United States Forest Service (USFS), we were told a little of the geography of the area and the nature of the nine day work period.

Thunder Basin, as the name would suggest, is a geographic depression.  Towards the north are the Rochelle Hills, small buttes studded with short grasses and cactus with a flat top, and you follow those hills around to make a horse shoe shaped ridge of buttes and low mountains.  These hills define Thunder Basin’s grasslands.  The horse shoe of ridges stretches in a curve from the north to the southwest, maybe 12 miles from point to point, and everything in between are rolling hills, cactuses, short buffalo grasses, Pronghorn, rabbits, snakes and Prairie Dog holes covering the ground from the base of the ridges in the north to the far horizon in the southeast.  However, many of those holes have been abandoned, which, as the USFS explained, was the reason for our presence.

Bubonic Plague, or Black Death, has scarred the European consciousness since it emerged in the 14th century.  It still exists today, in various forms, and has recently decimated the Prairie Dog population in Thunder Basin.  The Prairie Dog is a social animal; it lives and thrives in large, sprawling, underground communities, which makes any disease particularly virulent.  In addition, the ecosystem of the plains is dependent on the Prairie Dog.  It provides habitat and food for rattlesnakes, rabbits, and, in the turbulent world of conservation politics, will sustain the reintroduction of the endangered Black Footed Ferret in the region.  Without a significant Prairie Dog population, such a reintroduction is politically impossible, and environmentally unsustainable.  

Our job was to spray every Prairie Dog hole we found with Deltamethrin, a mild insecticide to kill the plague carrying fleas.  It is delivered in a white chalky powder with a machine strapped around the shoulder that, when turned on, makes a loud “BZZZZZ” sound.  So there we were, six people walking across the prairie within ten feet of each other spraying Prairie Dog holes.  Every now and then, we would find a hole and reach down with a long pole to apply this powder with a machine that sounded like an angry hornet’s nest every time we turned it on.  The powder would sometimes clog the machine and explode in a cloud all over us, making whoever was holding the machine a snowman in the middle of a semi-arid plain.  It was a strange and laughable site, but soon the heat and dust of the day bore down on the workers again, and we trudged on.  Sometimes it was difficult to see the point of the work, but we did it to the best of our ability and with as much enthusiasm as we could muster.  The lack of enthusiasm was probably the result of too little shade and not enough water.

Water is the most precious thing on the plains.  It was not unusual to go through 4 liters of water per person, per day, which comes to about one gallon of water.  Whatever amount you can carry, is how much you will need.  It was dry with a high breeze, so you did not feel the sweat trickle down your face, but you tasted the salt on your lips.  Chapped lips, tasting of salt and grime, combined with packs and a machine strapped about the shoulders made for long days, with water being the only conciliatory drink of choice.  Coffee was a luxury for the mornings and evenings, and water was the mainstay of long dusty days.  Dehydration was the greatest internal threat, the greatest external threat were the rattlesnakes.

Prairie Dog holes provide habitat for snakes, both venomous and non-venomous.  We saw so many snakes that it became a common, almost daily, joke to allude to references of “Snakes on a Plain” to slightly paraphrase the movie.  Thirty Rattlesnakes, five Bull Snakes, two Hog-Nosed Snakes, and two Garter snakes were the final tallies of snakes in our nine-day work period.  Snakes are cold-blooded; they use the environment to maintain their body temperature.  If it is hot, they will seek the shade and burrow deep into Prairie Dog holes to escape the sun.  The heat makes them sluggish and despondent, except when you are about to spray the hole they happen to residing in, then it is wise to move quickly out of the way.  When it is cooler, with cloud cover, they are active.  The best working conditions for people also are the best working conditions for snakes.  It became a kind of bleak, humor-less game to see how many rattlesnakes we would find on cool days.  Not on purpose, of course, but snakes were a concern that we were all too aware of on the plain.  Nerves become much tighter after seeing three rattlesnakes in as many minutes.

The best moments were after the days were ended.  We would pile into our rig that is named Stella, and drive back to camp.  A slight break period comes first.  It was during such periods that folks switched from their progressively dirtier work clothes into something cool and soothing…slippers, shorts, t-shirts, anything and everything that was comfortable.  Some would massage their feet, others would take a nap, and still more would simply lie down and contemplate.  Relaxation was different for everyone, but everyone pretty much kept to him or herself.  Dinner broke the lull.  Food and fire were the mainstays of the evening.  Two people would work on the meal, two more would collect firewood to build a fire, and the other two would dread cleaning up after dinner…or at least that is what went through my mind.  Fire tended to be a salve to the wounds and nerves of the day.  After dinner and cleanup, we would gather around the fire to shake the dust off our minds from the day.  We told stories, and yarned about the past and the present and the future.  It was a time to laugh.  We were hyper-critical and hyper-sympathetic towards each other.  One by one we would tell our tales, and one memorable evening it stole into my mind to sing Italian Opera…there were some strange evenings.  

All told we sprayed about 29,000+ holes, a new record.  The previous record was something like 16-18,000.  Very few things can drive a crew to better performance than competition.  We did 29,000, a high mark, and one that, if we are lucky, will hold for the remainder of the summer.  If not, then another crew will have the honor of saving more Prairie Dogs.  It is a strange honor to possess, but we are proud of the work we do.  Sometimes, saving those little dogs on the prairie is the best work a person can accomplish. 

Ice Cream in the Backcountry with Montana Conservation Corps

Article, written by corpsmember Jakob Wyder, appears in the MCC Kcrew Blog.

If someone had asked me to describe my best ice-cream-eating-experience prior to our Foys to Blacktail hitch, I would have had to think for an awkwardly long time before resurrecting some partially sweet, partially bitter; semi-work-appropriate memory involving my ex-girlfriend and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. This really isn’t the time or place for that story, but now I can tell a much better one that includes all of the YCLs from Western Wildlands and Northern Rockies and a happy birthday girl/SYCL who loves Sweet Peaks.

During the week of May 7th our gang of WW YCLs joined forces with our N-Rock counterparts, who wish they were even half as sweet as us. Whoops, I didn’t mean to let that one slip out..just a joke, love you N-Rock!  Anyway, we were all stoked to get a chance to escape the office and do some real, hands-on trail work south of Kalispell near the town of Lakeside. The project that we were hopping onto has been going on for over a year now and has been worked on exclusively by MCC youth crews! A group of community members is constructing a 60-mile loop trail that will connect Lakeside to a small, family-run ski mountain called Blacktail. The community members involved are all avid mountain bikers, so it should not come as a surprise that the trail is designed to provide an exhilarating two-wheeled ride.

Our work consisted of fixing some drains in the trail and digging new tread to continue extending the trail to Blacktail. It served as a valuable learning experience for all of us because in order to dig new tread you must know all about how trails work and everything that goes into their construction. A two-foot width, proper sideslope, 45 degrees of backslope and a well-defined hinge are some of the many specifications and vocabulary words we deal with. The project also required lots of dirt to be moved and debris to be cleared, which provided us with a chance to strenuously work our bodies and get nice and dirty.

We also got a chance to endure the elements. Our first morning we woke up to several inches of freshly-fallen snow! This backcountry surprise didn’t discourage us in the least, in fact it seemed to highly boost group morale. The next day there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and all of the snow quickly melted. On our third day we witnessed our drains in action and tried to keep warm beneath a bone-chilling rain.

Okay, so we had a great few days getting our hands dirty on the trail, but you’re probably still wondering where the ice cream comes into play. On May 7th, our second full day in the field, it became known that it was Britney’s birthday. “Man, we dropped the ball on that one! I knew I was forgetting something!” Kyle yelled. We all felt the same way, ashamed for collectively forgetting to provide any sort of gift to our wonderful WW SYCL. 

“I KNEW we should have bought the birthday cake oreos!” Sara lamented, as she did push for them at the Orange Street Food Farm but no one else liked the idea. 

“We’ll take you out to the Old Post for dinner,” We suggested, but Britney wasn’t too enthused. “…Or SWEET PEAKS for ice cream!” At this suggestion Britney’s eyes lit up the way they always do when ice cream becomes the topic of conversation. Moments after we suggested this, Lauryn the N-Rock FPC appeared on the trail with a white paper bag in her hand. “Hey guys! HAPPY BIRTHDAY BRITNEY!” She opened the bag and pulled out three pints of none other than Sweet Peaks ice cream- Britney’s favorite! That’s right, ice cream in the backcountry, several miles down the trail, all thanks to Lauren! We took a moment to celebrate and eat some of the best ice cream on earth while enjoying the serenity of Montana wilderness and a world-class view of Flathead Lake. “This is my best birthday ever!”  Britney exclaimed ecstatically.

So that’s the coolest place I’ve ever eaten ice cream and probably the most I’ve ever enjoyed it. Ice cream, like most things, tastes way better in the woods, especially after a hard day of swinging tools and digging new tread. Also, celebrating a birthday on hitch is always lots of fun. In case you take ice cream as seriously as we do and are wondering what flavors Lauren brought up, they were: salted caramel, grasshopper mint and, of course, cupcake. This was certainly better than a night with Ben & Jerry and my ex. Thanks Lauren!

Montana Conservation Corps Helps Maintain Sprunger-Whitney Nature Trail

Article, written by Sally Finneran, appeared in Bigfork Eagle.

The Sprunger-Whitney Nature trail got some much-needed care last week.

Located about seven miles south of Swan Lake, the Sprunger-Whitney Nature trail was built in 1995 by the Friends of the Wild Swan and named after Elmer Sprunger and Jack Whitney, long time residents of Bigfork who felt the area was very special.

Arlene Montgomery has been working on the trail since its inception. She walks it regularly, checking on the trail’s condition and enjoying the forest.

When the Friends of the Wild Swan began leasing the Montana state school trust lands for the trail Montgomery and fellow friends of the Wild Swan knew nothing about trail construction.

Through a grant they were able to partner with Montana Conservation Corps to build the trail. MCC continues to help maintain the trail, making for an almost 20 year partnership between the groups.

“I couldn’t keep this trail open without MCC,” Montgomery said. “From my perspective this has been great.”

Last week a seven-member crew continued this partnership, regrading overgrown parts of the trail, installing water bars, turning fallen trees into benches and rebuilding a 15-year-old structure that helps shape the trail.

“We’re out here to make a nice leisurely trail that all ages can walk and enjoy,” crew leader Dan Schillo said. “To be part of the MCC legacy on this trail is a really special privilege.”

Working on the Sprunger-Whitney trail was the first “hitch” of the season for Schillo’s crew. It’s a great way for them to start the season and train new members, he said, as they get to do a little bit of everything on the Sprunger-Whitney trail, that they’ll be doing the rest of the season. It also ties in well to the educational portion of the MCC program, which aims to educate members about public lands, the environment and civic engagement.

“That’s almost as important,” he said.

In turn Montgomery brought snacks, shared the story of the Sprunger-Whitney Nature trail and taught the crew about indentifying plants.

“I think the educational component is a really important part of MCC,” Montgomery said.

The 2.1-mile loop starts on the roadbed of the old Swan highway, which is said to have been the Pend d’Oreille and Bitteroot Salish trail through the area. It goes on to wander through a diverse old-growth forest. Signs appear along the trail identifying plants and trees.

“There’s always something to see,” Montgomery said. “This part of the Swan Valley is pretty unique in diversity.”

At a lower elevation not only is the Sprunger-Whitney trail one of the first to be free of snow, but combine that with it’s short length and it’s a great hike for people who just want to get a feel for the area.

“It’s a gorgeous trail,” Schillo said. “We’ve just been in awe of all the old growth.”

Periodically the Friends of the Swan River Valley sponsor guided naturalist hikes along the trail. Anne Morley will lead the next one on July 22.

Meet Our Summer Interns!

The Corps Network is pleased to announce the arrival of our summer interns! We are very excited that both Bobby and Judith have joined us to offer their help. Please join us in welcoming them, and read more about them below.

Bobby Tillett

Prior to interning at the Corps Network, Bobby completed two AmeriCorps terms-of-service working with the Montana Conservation Corps as both a Field Crew Member and a Field Crew Leader. The experiences and people Bobby met during his terms-of-service are the main inspiration behind his further interest in advocating for our nation’s Service and Conservation Corps. He graduated with a B.A. in International Affairs from the University of Mary Washington and is looking to further his education in the near future. Bobby is a native Virginian, who enjoys backpacking, running and anything related to DC sports franchises.

Judith Rontal

Judith joined The Corps Network for the summer of 2014 to be the Communications and Membership Intern. Prior to joining the team, Judith has held previous communication internships with the Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti Regional Chamber of Commerce and with the Human Rights Ordinance Campaign: One Royal Oak. All throughout her high school and college years Judith has been involved with youth development programs, such as tutoring inside local schools, working as a camp counselor, and teaching English during her semester abroad in Italy.

Judith’s passion for youth development is combined with an interest in conservation, which she developed while spending a month in Kenya doing independent research on the conflict-ridden relationship between the indigenous pastoralists and the protected national reserves. She is excited to leave the cold of Michigan after recently graduating from the University of Michigan to get a fresh start in DC! When not at TCN offices, Judith can either be found running through the streets of DC or baking cookies at home.

[Video] Watch 200 Montana Conservation Corps AmeriCorps Members Take Oath to Serve

Montana Conservation Corps Crew Stewards Habitat in Backdrop of National Monument

Featured on MCC's blog

“This rock I ascended and from its top had a most extensive view in every direction on the Northerly Side of the river high romantic clifts approach & jut over the water for some distance both above and below.”

Over 200 years ago, William Clark of the famed Lewis and Clark expedition etched his name into the sandstone cliff 30 miles east of present day Billings, Montana. And in the backdrop of the last remaining physical evidence of the expedition, a group of MCC Field Crew Leaders went to work improving habitat for the wildlife species that continue to call eastern Montana home.

The 4,500 acre site was acquired by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) in 2007. Formerly a ranching operation, FWP began transforming it into a Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in 2009. Situated in semi-arid sage brush country, it’s easy for expedition fanatics to overlook prospering habitat.

“The Yellowstone WMA is unique in that it borders several thousands of acres of Bureau of Land Management land and roughly five miles of river front habitat,” said FWP Wildlife Research Specialist Jay Watson. “Since work began, I’ve seen meadowlarks, fly catchers, vireos, warblers, and gold finches in the area.”


One priority of this project was to construct areas that would help establish upland bird populations by constructing brood plots. The plots function as a feeding and nesting area for these species. By planting native vegetation, the birds are afforded winter habitat, cover during nesting season, and an area to raise chicks each spring. The plots are constructed in such a way that they actually encourage insects to move into the plot, providing critical nutrition to hatchlings.

And while the Yellowstone WMA is managed for upland birds, Montana’s system of 77 WMA’s covers just about anything you could hope for in Big Sky Country. According to the FWP website, WMAs provide habitat for bear, bighorn sheep, birds, deer, elk, furbearers, moose, mountain goats, and wolves.

“It gave perspective to what all goes into the survival of these species,” said MCC Crew Leader Megan Woodruff. “We helped reestablish livable conditions for the wildlife and saw firsthand how it strengthens Montana’s ecosystems from insects on up to mammals.”


Fighting rain and cold, the crew pressed on until the call was made to temporarily suspend efforts. But as soon as the clouds rolled out, leaders rolled back in to pick up where they left off.  In just four days the crew was able to make significant strides, but the project is part of an ongoing effort.

“The project, as it stands, is about two-thirds complete. In about three years we hope to have the entire area converted. However, it will still require maintenance like burning and mowing to maintain biological diversity,” Watson said.

Projects on this scale take considerable planning and support to come to fruition. FWP and MCC would like to thank The Montana Chapter of the Safari Club International, Yellowstone Valley Chapter of Pheasants Forever, the Billings Rod & Gun Club, and the Bureau of Land Management for their contributions and commitment to improving this area for both wildlife and public use alike.

To learn about accessing the Yellowstone Wildlife Management Area, please visit the following link:

Veterans Join Montana Conservation Corps Staff As Crew Leaders

Posted by MCC on their blog

Clay Skeens and Jim Dyson are far from being newcomers to leadership. Combined, the two carry nearly 25 years of military experience and have served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Women and men from the Army and Marine Corps have undoubtedly benefited from the drive of these two men. This time around, Skeens and Dyson are once again answering the call to serve, this time in communities and public lands in the Northern Rockies. While they aren’t from Montana originally, the opportunity to lead fellow Service Members and Veterans for Veterans Green Corps was too enticing to pass up. 

Jim Dyson served in the Army for the last 20 years. He’s enlisted in all three components of the Army—active duty, reservist, and currently as a guardsman.  He’s completed multiple tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan and holds numerous specialties, including field medic and military police. Dyson joined MCC in 2012 as a crew member and says he looks forward to not only leading his crew but gaining conservation knowledge from a wide variety of projects this season.

Clay Skeens joins MCC fresh off receiving his Forestry Degree from the University of Montana. Originally from Florida, Skeens decided to move west after serving two tours in Iraq with the United States Marine Corps. Skeens has kept at his passion for serving active and former service members through activities like serving as President of UM’s Student Veterans Association. Skeens says he is excited to join MCC and looks forward to being a voice for Montana Veterans.

If you or someone you know is interested in joining Veterans Green Corps, there are new positions available for a fall-term. 

Term dates: Aug. 18 - Oct. 31
Compensation: $650 bi-weekly
Full details of the program and benefits of serving with MCC are available here:
For more information contact: Kyle Martens at or 406-587-4475