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.


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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.

Read more about this story here.

2008 Project of the Year: Making Outdoor Recreation More Accessible

Winner: Utah Conservation Corps

Through the "Access to Service Project," Utah Conservation Corps developed service projects to include crew members with disablities. Fifty percent of the 8-person crew self-identified as having a physical disability. Disabilities among members included quadriplegia, epilepsy, traumatic brain injury and cerebral palsy.

In the first of their two main projects, the inclusive crew partherned with the US Forest Service to conduct an accessbility evaluation of the Wasatche-Chache National Forest and create a transition plan to help them meet federal requirements. They developed a user-friendly accessbility survey form that has become the standard for the region. They completed accessbility surveys for 8 campgrounds and 2 trails and developed 10 transition plans, immediately addressing the issues identified in one of the transition plans by constructing a fully accessible fishing pier at Second Dam picnic area in Logan Canyon. They partnered with Common Ground Outdoor Adventures, Logan City, local Boy Scouts and the Forest Service to make this happen.

For the second project: an accessible greenhouse and adapted gardening tools. The crew grew tomatoes, peppers, onions, eggplant, squash and herbs in raised beds and table top planters.

Another "Access to Service" goal was to involve people with disabilities in positions of leadership. Andy Zimmer, who has quadriplegia, served as a crew leader. By placing people with disabilities in positions of leadership, outdated stereotypes that limit people with disabilities are shattered and attitudes toward people with disabilities evolve and change. 

2010 Corpsmember of the Year: Quintin Williams


***Update! Click here to read about what Quintin has been up to since he won his award***

(Written in 2010)

Before joining the Corps, Quintin Williams was like many young people, working an unsatisfying job that provided little challenge.

Quintin sought out the Utah Conservation Corps (UCC) and the Inclusive Crew where Corpsmembers with and without disabilities surveyed campgrounds and trails for Forest Service Outdoor Recreation Accessibility Guidelines. Quintin himself is completely blind, and previous work opportunities had been with others who were blind or visually impaired. 

The Inclusive Crew’s mix, including mobility disabilities, gave Quintin a more complex understanding of accommodation. In addition, Quintin inspired his crewmates and used humor to break down barriers and honestly communicate about differences in ability, demonstrating a natural leadership that led him to promotion as crew leader.

Under Quintin’s leadership the crew took a local project and made it national: developing a new accessibility information database for the Forest Service that will provide the public with information on accessible campsites, facilities, and services.  The database is a leap forward for the Forest Service in its transition planning—and, by no accident, accessible to those who use a screen reader.

Quintin is a leader and ambassador for accessibility on public lands—one of the nation’s rising leaders in the field of service.

President Obama Endorses Forest Service's Job Corps as "America's Green Job Corps"

 




Oconaluftee JCCCC Forestry Conservation students and Instructor help repair a retaining wall in trail rehabilitation work on the Cheoah Ranger District in Robbinsville. Shown (left-right) are Crystal Adu, Instructor Darrell McDaniels, Anthony Brown, and Steven Morris. (Photo courtesy of Holly Krake/OJCCCC)

From the Cherokee Feather

The new green curriculum of the Forest Service’s Job Corps will expand employment opportunities for its graduates, help revitalize local economies in rural communities and enhance the mission of the agency, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said on Friday, June 24.

“The Forest Service congratulates high school and college students far and wide who are graduating this month, and we are especially proud of our own graduates of the Forest Service Job Corps centers,” said Tidwell.

“Our students have completed valuable, hands-on projects giving them excellent tools to pursue career paths in green jobs while also creating life-long connections with America’s great outdoors.”

Recognizing the program’s efforts in green jobs training, President Obama has endorsed them as America’s Green Job Corps. At present, the Forest Service is awaiting final authorization from the Department of Agriculture for the go-ahead to directly hire Job Corps graduates to perform on land stewardship projects — a process which is expected to put hundreds of the program’s graduates to work before fall.

Locally, the Oconaluftee Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center in Cherokee has implemented green training and conservation ideals across each of its training programs including Forestry Conservation and Wildland Firefighting, Office and Business Administration, and Health Occupations.

“Green training is not something we teach- it’s who we are” said Liaison Specialist for Oconaluftee, Holly Krake. “This summer we graduated over 25 students who trained on sites across the region putting these skills to use”.

Projects throughout western North Carolina include transplanting culturally significant rivercane with Western Carolina University in Cherokee, education trail construction with the Watershed Association for the Tuckasegee River in Dillsboro and trail revitalization on the Cheoah Ranger District in Robbinsville.

“Our graduates are skilled, trained, and competing well in the job market, military, and higher education. At the end of the day, Job Corps is just that- assisting our youth in getting jobs” Krake says.

The Oconaluftee Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center is associated with the National Forests of North Carolina and currently serves 68 students. The USDA Forest Service operates 28 Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers across 18 states with a capacity of 6,200 students. 

In the last 12 months the centers have graduated 4,263 students, better preparing them to enter the job market. Historically, approximately 80 percent of Job Corps graduates have started new careers, enrolled in higher education programs or have enlisted in the military.

“Forest Service Job Corps centers provide the education, vocational instruction, and job skills training necessary to obtain gainful employment and earn a living wage,” explained Tony Dixon, the National Director of Forest Service Job Corps.

“Job Corps students are making Forest Service facilities and operations sustainable, lowering its operating costs, reducing our carbon footprint, and restoring terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems,” Dixon emphasized.

The centers directly contribute to the agency’s mission of conserving the nation’s national forests and grasslands. Job Corps students have fought forest fires, planted trees, improved wildlife habitat and built or maintained recreation facilities and miles of hiking trails.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.