Three Corps Collaborate for Dolores River Restoration Project


Photos and story taken from the Colorado Youth Corps Association Facebook page 

Photo credit: Jacob W. Frank, Social Media and Capacity Building Coordinator, Four Corners School of Outdoor Education (more of Jake's photos of the Dolores River Restoration Project can be found here)

Tamarisk: The most beastly of plants! Western Colorado Conservation CorpsSouthwest Conservation Corps and Utah’s Canyon Country Youth Corps are the primary implementation partners for the Dolores River Restoration Project, which since 2009 has led restoration efforts along the Dolores River. The primary goal? To tackle the beastly tamarisk plant, which is infesting 175 miles of the Dolores below McPhee Reservoir. These areas are impacted by tamarisk and other invasive plants that adversely affect the diversity and function of riparian habitat. Tamarisk trees out-compete native vegetation, reduce the diversity of wildlife habitat, increase the risk of wildfire intensity, armor river banks, increase soil salinity, and decrease access for wildlife and recreationists to the river.

Photo caption from CYCA: 
Members apply learned techniques regarding safe chainsaw use, tamarisk treatment, and biomass management.

Photo caption from CYCA: 
Training is packed with education, meeting with land managers, guest speakers, and presentations. Here, Daniel Oppenheimer of the Tamarisk Coalition presents on the scope of the DRRP, the work of the partnership and the dynamics of the introduced tamarisk leaf beetle in western river systems.

Southeast Youth Corps Prepares for Launch

From Southeast Youth Corps

Last evening, May 28th, a small group of local teens and parents gathered at the new Southeast Youth Corps office in Chattanooga, TN.  The topics of the evening centered around preparing these young adults for their upcoming experience as Corpsmembers on this summer’s inaugural Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crew.

In addition to taking care of the necessary paperwork business, we all took this opportunity to discuss gear, camping logistics and details of  a-day-in-the life of a Corpsmember.  Most importantly, SYC recognized these youth for being pioneers within the community, and applauded them for stepping out of their comfort zones to participate in this challenging, yet rewarding experience. These youth will help set the standard for future SYC crews, and create a legacy that future Corpsmembers and Crew Leaders will discuss around campfires for years to come.

June 15th marks the official beginning of the YCC season, so stay tuned to the SYC Facebook page and blog for weekly updates on what these amazing youth are up to.

Southwest Conservation Corps Featured on White House Blog for "Let's Move" Campaign

Celebrating Two Years of Let’s Move! in Indian Country

By Jodi Gillette, White House Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs

I recently had the honor of attending an event to mark the 2nd Anniversary of Let’s Move! in Indian Country at Chimney Rock National Monument in southwestern Colorado. I hiked and learned about this magnificent landscape on our way to the top with fifty youth from the Southern Ute Montessori Elementary, the Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture Butch Blazer, and a handful of youth from the Pueblos who work with the Southwest Conservation Corps, an AmeriCorps partner organization that engages and trains a diverse group of young women and men and completes conservation projects for the public benefit.

I had lengthy conversations with Aaron Lowden, an Acoma Pueblo, regarding the strength and resiliency of the ancient people who built and lived in that space, and how their journey is connected to his own. Below I’d like to share some of his thoughts:

Continue reading at

Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture pays a visit to Southwest Conservation Corps' Los Valles office

Colorado Commissioer of Agriculture John Salazar visits with staff members at Southwest Conservation Corps's Los Valles office to learn about AmeriCorps

Editor's Note: John Salazar, Commissioner of the Colorado Department of Agriculture, recently visited Southwest Conservation Corps's Salida, CO office as part of a program to raise awareness about the importance of AmeriCorps programs in rural communities. Before he was appointed Commissioner by Governor John Hickenlooper, Salazar served as a United States Representative for Colorado's 3rd District from 2005 - 2011. Commissioner Salazar is the older brother of Ken Salazar, United States Secretary of the Interior, who spoke at The Corps Network's annual award ceremony on Capitol Hill in February. 


Originally Published in The Mountain Mail of Salido, Colorado - story by Casey Kelly 

With the focus on improving rural economies, Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar toured Southwest Conservation Corps’ Los Valles office in Salida Friday.

The visit was part of Serve Colorado’s “Honorary Member for a Day” program to highlight the impact of AmeriCorps programs in Colorado communities.

“As First Lady Michelle Obama has tried to push farm-to-table and fighting childhood obesity, we want to see if there is a place for the Colorado Department of Agriculture to help,” Salazar said.

Robin Lewis, AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) member serving with Southwest Conservation Corps, discussed efforts to increase access to fresh local food, like the school district garden, and future plans for more farm-to-table projects.

“We have a great pool of young people that we want to connect to the community,” Lewis said.

While touring the Los Valles office, Lewis showed Salazar the garden tended by the corps’ crew members. She said last season the crew grew 200 pounds of zucchini, Brussels sprouts, tomatillos, broccoli and other vegetables to feed themselves.

Program Director Julie Mach said the harvests were bountiful enough that the crews sold some of the extra produce to local farmers’ markets later in the season.

“The idea is to make the program self-sustaining,” she said.

Mach said the conservations corps hosts about 50 AmeriCorps members each year, who come to Salida to work on environmental conservation projects on public lands.

Lewis also coordinates a agriculture-focused program known as AgriCorps, which she said brings 60 young people in the summer and fall to do community service projects.

“These programs can coexist with big agriculture operations,” Salazar said.

Salazar said the Department of Agriculture has limited funding, but does have access to some federal grants.

Carlo Boyd, with Buena Vista Home & Garden, attended the meeting with Salazar and talked with the commissioner about affordable housing, water and ideas to mobilize young people.

Concerning water, Salazar said he’d like to shift the conversation to focus on conservation.

“I’m a farmer and rancher, and we use conservation measures. We only use as much water as the crop consumes,” he said. “Let’s start talking about the water we have and figure out a way to plan around that availability. The technology is here.”

Mach brought up conservation projects Southwest Conservation Corps has been involved in to promote conservation, such as replacing old showerheads, toilets and other appliances with water-efficient alternatives.

“It’s not as much about reinventing the wheel as it is using the technology that exists now to be more efficient,” she said.


Video: Still a lot to do after Hurricane Sandy - How are Corps helping?

A video by Clodagh McGowan

What is life like today out in the neighborhood of Breezy Point, Queens? This community, located on the far western tip of the Rockaway peninsula, sustained serious damage during Hurricane Sandy. In addition to the devastation caused by the storm surge and high winds, over 100 Breezy Point homes burned to the ground the night Sandy blew into New York City.

Volunteers, including many young men and women from Service and Conservation Corps, have provided millions of dollars worth of free labor to the Sandy Recovery efforts in Far Rockaway. Check out this video by a journalism student at Columbia University about the continued hard work of Corpsmembers and other dedicated volunteers. The video includes an interview with Dakota Deringer, a Corpsmember with Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa. Keep up the good work, everyone! 

Finding a Way to Serve at Home: How a veteran found meaningful work with Southwest Conservation Corps

Where are they now? – Catching up with 2012 Corpsmember of the Year,
Mike Bremer

Mike Bremer, formerly of Southwest Conservation Corps, won Corpsmember of the Year in 2012 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 Mike and his Corps experience by reading his bio from our 2012 National Conference.

There's one bet Mike Bremer isn't sorry he lost...

When he first met his wife she was serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA.  After hearing about the program Mike joked with her about how she must be “some kind of hippie.” His wife reacted by making a bet with Mike that she could find an AmeriCorps program that he would enjoy. Mike shrugged off her challenge, but it wasn’t long before she stumbled across a description of Southwest Conservation Corps’ Veterans Fire Corps.

Mike served in the Army Infantry in Iraq. When he got home he felt like his life lacked a purpose. He struggled for a number of years to find meaningful employment.

“I refueled jet aircraft. I didn’t like that. Machinist - I tried that, too. House painting - didn’t like that, either,” said Mike.

The Veterans Fire Corps program was associated with AmeriCorps – an organization that Mike’s wife was familiar with. On top of that, the Corps was accepting any and all veterans. Mike thought he should give it a try. He ended up serving as a Corpsmember from May 2010 to April 2011.

While in the Corps, Mike worked in three different districts of the San Juan National Forest and also for the New Mexico Bureau of Land Management. He completed fuels mitigation projects, pile burning, and area burns. He received high ratings in chainsaw safety training, wildland fire fighting, and behavior classes. Mike’s exceptional ability with a chainsaw also ensured that he could become the sawyer for his crew, an integral and coveted position, especially for a first year firefighter. Based on his performance and the strong bonds he made with his fellow Corpsmembers, the staff of Southwest Conservation Corps promoted Mike to Crew Leader the following spring.      

“With the Corps, I was able to get back to service – that’s when I’ve been at my best. It was good to be with a group of great vets – we all could share our experiences,” said Mike.

After completing the Conservation Corps program, Mike says most of the vets on his crew ended up taking jobs in wildland firefighting. Mike was hired by the U.S. Forest Service as a seasonal wildland firefighter and sawyer for San Juan National Forest in Colorado. He then got promoted to be a fulltime firefighter for the Forest Service with a hand crew in northern California. He is currently part of an apprenticeship program based out of Six Rivers National Forest in Eureka, California. The program gives Mike the opportunity to travel throughout the country and gain experience with different types of wildland fires.

Though Mike is very happy with his current position, the job is definitely not an easy one: between May and September of 2012, he ended up working about 800 hours of overtime - about 100 days of extra work. Mike says he and the guys from the Veterans Fire Corps have maintained contact and swap stories about their experiences in the field.

“We saw some pretty extreme fire behavior this past season,” said Mike.

As part of his apprenticeship, Mike will attend the Fire Academy; a month-long program in Sacramento that trains firefighters for future leadership positions. Mike definitely sees firefighting as a career he wants to stay with.

“I’d like to stay in fire operations as long as my body will hold out,” said Mike.
Firefighting had never been on Mike’s radar until he joined the Veterans Fire Corps. He feels like he would probably be in “some lame job that [he] hated” if his wife hadn’t helped him find the Corps. Mike says he would strongly recommend the Corps experience to other veterans who might be struggling to find meaning in civilian life.

To young people thinking about joining a Corps, Mike says:
“Just hang in there and do a good job every day. You never know – it could lead to bigger and better things.”


2013 Corps Legacy Achievement Award winner, John Irish


In 1972, John Irish took a position working with at-risk youth for the Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center. This experience started John’s 39 year career of promoting, designing, developing, and implementing corps programs across the state of Arizona. As said by Miquelle Sheier, program manager of Coconino Rural Environment Corps, “We, Arizona and the Nation, owe John a debt of gratitude for the…public and private support he has generated during his years of service in support…and preservation of corps programs.”
After leaving his position with the Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center, John took a job with the US Forest Service. John was employed by the Forest Service in one capacity or another from 1977 to March 2005. During this nearly 30 year career, John worked with the Forest Service National Job Corps office on several projects designed to develop relationships between various youth corps programs and Job Corps centers. John was at one point responsible for providing support for senior, youth and volunteer programs in four National Forests. He was also responsible for the start up, supervision and coordination of numerous corps programs and work projects. John helped set up and was Director of a Young Adult Conservation Corps (YACC) program and helped set up several Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) programs in Arizona. He also established the Arizona Conservation Corps (ACC) and the Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC). John served as the Director of CREC from 1996 to 1999 and returned as Interim Director in 2005 and 2006.The organization celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2012.
Additionally, John has been involved in the design, development and implementation of several AmeriCorps programs. This includes Team USDA Arizona, and Youth-In-Action AmeriCorps, which is currently the longest running and largest AmeriCorps program in Arizona.
John’s commitment to youth, conservation and service has been influential in building support for the Corps Movement and in establishing Corps legislation at the state and national levels. In 1985, it was John’s work with Arizona State Representative Karan English that resulted in the passage of House Bill 2654, which established funding for a conservation corps program in Arizona. This bill literally launched the Arizona Conservation Corps (ACC) and provided support and funding for corps programs throughout the state. John’s efforts fostered a powerful grass roots movement that united citizens and organizations throughout Arizona in supporting youth and environment. The Arizona Conservation Corps was recognized by the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps (NASCC, now The Corps Network) as “A Model of Federal-State Cooperation.”
In 2004, John worked with Arizona congressional candidate, and former Coconino County Supervisor, Paul Babbitt, to support US Senator John Kerry in announcing the Forest Restoration Program that included about a hundred million dollars for an environmental corps.
John served on The Corps Network (then called NASCC) Board of Directors from 1993 to 1996. He has been an active member of The Corps Network for over 20 years. Since 2005, John has served as the Chairman of Southwest Conservation Corps’s (SCC) Four Corners Board of Directors, Secretary of SCC’s Executive Board of Directors, and is the current Chairman of SCC's Board of Directors.
When asked what keeps him so passionate about the Corps movement after all this time, John says, “Because this is good stuff.” John’s vision and contributions to the Corps movement have definitely brought the “good stuff” to numerous communities and thousands of youth and young adults.

Providing Relief – What Corps Have Done to Assist in Hurricane Sandy Recovery Efforts


Washington Conservation Corps members remove damaged household items from a flooded home

Hurricane Sandy took lives, destroyed homes and businesses, and left millions of people without power. As the storm bore down on the Northeast coast during the last days of October, Corps across the country were already mobilizing to help with the relief effort. Corpsmembers have played a significant role in helping communities in New York, New Jersey and 5 other states recover and rebuild.

Some Corps worked through the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and FEMA, while others organized independent of the federal response. Some Corps worked in shelters, while others cleared debris. Some Corps travelled thousands of miles to assist in the relief efforts, while other Corps worked in their own backyards.

Find out which Corps have been involved in Sandy recovery, read about what they’ve done to help, and see pictures from the field:

Corps Involved in recovery efforts 

Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa Corpsmembers “mucking out” a home damaged by flood water

What are some of the things Corps have done?

  • Operated emergency shelters throughout New York City: managed volunteers, monitored and assisted residents, cared for children and pets, maintained the facilities
  • Cleared debris
  • Cut down damaged trees and limbs
  • “Mucking out” - removing water and water damaged items and building materials from homes and businesses affected by flooding
  • Solicited donations of food and emergency supplies from individuals and businesses not hit as hard by the storm
  • Operated distribution centers and packaged emergency supplies for Sandy victims in need of food, water, blankets, clothing, toiletries, and other necessities
  • Canvassed neighborhoods to find people in need and spread information about repair work
  • Restored parks damaged by high winds 

NYRP clearing a downed tree in New York City 

AmeriCorps NCCC/FEMA Corps members assisting with water distribution in Far Rockaway, NY.

Get more pictures and more information on the recovery efforts and Corpsmember experiences

Student Conservation Association (SCA) Corpsmember in New Jersey

Southwest Conservation Corps members working with FDNY

Utah Conservation Corps members surrounded by the devastation of Hurricane Sandy 

Green City Force Corpsmembers and staff serving food 

Montana Conservation Corps members organize supplies at a distribution center

New Jersey Youth Corps clearing a downed tree







2009 Project of the Year: Multi-Site Non-Profit Center for Education

Winner: Southwest Conservation Corps

The Southwest Conservation Corps' (SCC) award winning project, "The Commons," is the nation's first multi-site nonprofit center focused on education. Working with the Durango Adult Education Center and Pueblo Community College, SCC and its partners purchased a new facility in 2007. The community quickly saw the benefit of the project and the pernership was awarded the Durango Chamber of Commerce's "Non-Profit of the Year" award in early 2008. The New Markets Tax Credit Coalition chose the project as its Colorado respresentative in its "50 Projects - 50 States" Report in October 2008.

Development of The Commons has provided a bounty of direct benefits to SCC and its Corpsmembers. These benefits include: transition on-site between SCC to GED programs at Adult Education Center and post-secondary education at Pueblo Community College, Fort Lewis College and The University of Denver; special $1,000 Scholarships to Fort Lewis College for SCC Corpsmembers, renewable annually for four years; and 5,000 square feet of completely re-modeled and customized offices and shops with plenty of parking in downtown Durango. The other 13 nonprofit or education organizations in the building have seen similar benefits. Pueblo Community College and the Adult Education Center have each seen enrollment jumps of 30 - 40 percent since the opening of the facility in late 2007.

In an editorial piece, The Durango Herald stated, "...the real advantages come in terms of enhanced stability, greater coordination among the various organizations and the cooperation made possible by having such a fertile mix of educational groups under one roof...That has to translate into better careers, increased opportunities and an overal better Durango." 

2010 Project of the Year: The Dolores River Restoration Program

Winner: Canyon Country Youth Corps

Region-wide conservation removing invasive species and restoring native vegetation has been planned and will be carried out in a five-year action plan thanks to a unique partnership between Canyon Country Youth Corps (CCYC) and Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC): The Dolores River Restoration Program. The catalyst for the project was The Walton Family Foundation's Freshwater Initiative - and through technical guidance and funding, the Foundation expects to expand its efforts to four other tributaries of the Colorado River.

SCC and CCYC provided each Corpsmember with over 120 hours of training in chainsaw operations, basic GPC monitoring and data collection, river ecology, noxious weed identification, and introductory herbicide application training. Crews have contributed 4,500 hours monitoring and treating over 34 river miles. At the end of the program, SCC and CCYC assisted Corpsmembers in connecting with federal jobs.

These two initial Corps - SCC and CCYC - expect to codify the program model for replication by other Corps across the Colorado River Basin and other similar areas.