The Corps Network Sends Sign-On Letter in Support of the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act to Capitol Hill and the Administration

*Versions of this letter were sent to officials in the Obama Administration as well as staff from the Senate Agriculture Committee and the House and Senate Natural Resources Committees. 
 

November 10, 2015


To Whom It May Concern:

On behalf of The Corps Network’s Service and Conservation Corps (Corps) across the country, we write to respectfully request your support for the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, H.R. 167 and S. 235. This important legislation will reform how wildfire suppression is funded in order to significantly minimize the harmful practice of transferring funds from critical programs to pay for wildfire suppression. The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act would fund response to the most disastrous wildfires similar to how the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds other disaster response under the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985. Instead of competing with funding for response to other natural disasters such as floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes, wildfire disasters would have their own relief mechanism.

The Corps Network’s 100+ Corps are diverse in mission and membership and strive to improve quality of life for our participants and in our communities. From building trails and campgrounds on our nation’s iconic public lands, to responding to natural disasters and wildfire remediation and fighting, Corps provide communities with valuable services, improve lives, and the environment. Increasing disasters such as fires, risk the lives of Corpsmembers as well as interrupt other recreation, maintenance, and economic development activities on public lands.

Wildfire seasons are getting longer and major wildfires are becoming increasingly more costly to suppress. This national problem is causing a crippling burden on the Department of the Interior and the USDA Forest Service’s land management functions as they shift resources to fund suppression activities. Federal wildfire suppression will always be fully funded by the government – even if it comes at the expense of programs that improve forest health and mitigate future wildfires. However, this current ad hoc process of funding wildfire is inefficient and ineffective in delivering on nationwide agency land management priorities set by Congress and virtually assures that overall federal outlays will increase.

We believe a solution to fire funding should: 1) allow access to disaster funding; 2) minimize impacts from transfers; and 3) address the increasing costs of suppression over time. The WDFA, (S. 235, H.R. 167) is a bipartisan proposal that addresses these three items. We encourage you to incorporate WDFA language in the FY2016 appropriations or other related legislative vehicles moving through Congress to ensure this serious budgetary issue is addressed this year.

Additionally, since the Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was not reauthorized in the most recent Continuing Resolution and the fund continues to be used to pay for wildfire suppression, it is also important that take action be taken to fully fund and reauthorize LWCF. Without LWCF, access to our public lands is diminished and proactive forest management provided through LWCF’s Forest Legacy Program is reduced. We cannot afford for conservation programs like LWCF to bear the burden of wildfire suppression and fighting.

We again respectfully urge your support for Wildfire Disaster Funding Act (WDFA) language in the FY16 appropriations omnibus or passage through other must-pass legislative vehicles. The WDFA is a critical, important step to ensure the long-term sustainability of our nation’s forests and other public lands and our Corps stand ready to continue helping manage and improve our nation’s important natural resources and great outdoors.

Sincerely,

Mary Ellen Sprenkel
CEO

Co-signed:
The Member Corps of The Corps Network
 

California Crews Dispatched to Wildfires

From the California Conservation Corps

The California Conservation Corps currently has 11 crews -- 167 corpsmembers -- assisting the U.S. Forest Service and Cal Fire on fires throughout the state. More crews are expected to be dispatched by the end of the week.

Corpsmembers provide initial attack on the firelines and also help with logistical support at the fire camps.
 

Boiler Plate: 
The California Conservation Corps currently has 11 crews -- 167 corpsmembers -- assisting the U.S. Forest Service and Cal Fire on fires throughout the state. More crews are expected to be dispatched by the end of the week.

California Conservation Corps responds to the King Fire


 

THE CCC DISPATCHES 16 CREWS TO KING FIRE

This is one of the largest contingents of California Conservation Corps crews on one fire.  Sixteen crews -- 214 corpsmembers -- are assisting the U.S. Forest Service and Cal Fire on the King Fire about 60 miles north of Sacramento.

The crews are providing both fire camp support and firefighting assistance on the wildfire.

An additional eight CCC crews are helping with logistical support at two other locations.

Since July 1, the CCC has devoted nearly 200,000 hours to fire response efforts.

AmeriCorps NCCC and Westminster Woods Preventing Fires

Article appeared in the Sonoma County Gazette.

A team of ten AmeriCorps Nation Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) members will be serving with Westminster Woods summer camp and conference center from June 3rd until July 16th,. This is the team’s fourth project in their ten-month service commitment to AmeriCorps NCCC, a program celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

Westminster Woods has been located on Dutch Bill Creek since 1946 and covers over 200 acres of old-growth Redwoods. During the summer months, Westminster Woods functions as a summer camp that helps spiritual reflection and growth, encourages stewardship of local natural resources through ecological education and strengthens community relationships.

While in Occidental, the NCCC team will be aiding Westminster Woods by helping reduce the possibilities of fires and maintain trails within and surrounding the camp. The team will be removing fallen trees and debris, clearing and maintaining trails, installing steps, improving accessibility and potentially painting cabins.

Madison Martinez, a member of NCCC, said, "After trail building in Washington, I feel like our team is physically prepared for the tasks ahead of us and can really use the knowledge we gained to make a difference. It will be so great working in Northern California, and we can't wait to interact with the community and explore the area." Like Martinez, the rest of the team is eager to hit the ground running and are excited to see how much they can get done in 6 weeks.

 

The AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) and its FEMA Corps units engage 2,800 young Americans in a full-time, 10-month commitment to service each year. The program is currently celebrating their 20th Anniversary.  AmeriCorps NCCC members address critical needs related to natural and other disasters, infrastructure improvement, environmental stewardship and conservation, and urban and rural development; FEMA Corps members are solely dedicated to disaster preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery work. The programs are administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). CNCS is the federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service through its AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Social Innovation Fund, and Volunteer Generation Fund programs, and leads President's national call to service initiative, United We Serve. For more information, visit NationalService.gov.

 

AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps Pacific Region
3427 Laurel Street, McClellan, CA 95652     
~Phone:  (916) 640-0306    
~  Fax:  (916) 640-0318

 

(Caption for the picture: First row R to L: Thomas Davis, Caleb Brown, Alicia Mullings, Haley Howe. Second Row: Madison Martinez, John Akers, Alex Lomas, Jyler Donovan, Chelsea Browning-Bohannah. Standing: Team Leader Lauren Anderson. )

VIDEO: Mile High Youth Corps Helps Reopen Public Land Destroyed by Fire



Click here to watch a video about how Corpsmembers from Mile High Youth Corps helped restore the Blodgett Peak Open Space in Colorado Springs following a devestating wildfire.

VIDEO: Mile High Youth Corps Helps Reopen Public Land Destroyed by Fire



Click here to watch a video about how Corpsmembers from Mile High Youth Corps helped restore the Blodgett Peak Open Space in Colorado Springs following a devestating wildfire.

No Need to Worry, Mom: A Corpsmember Explains how his Corps's Training Procedures Prepared him to do Tough Jobs Safely


"Mothers Needn't Worry"

From Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa

By: Nicholas Cox

“Forest fires!? That’s really dangerous, Nick. You do know you need to be specially trained to do that?”

“That’s what I’ve been told.”

“Well, you need special equipment, too, ya know.”

“You sure do.”

“You just better be safe, Nick.”

“Tell you what, Mom, I’ll have them give you a call so you can make sure everything checks out.”

Over dinner this past Sunday, I had the chance to share with my parents a bit about what I’ve been up to since starting as a crew member on the St. Paul field crew. The preceding was the exchange I had with my mother upon reaching the topic of wildland fire. My mother has always been very concerned with my well-being. This was extremely helpful as a child; I was never the kid who forgot their snowsuit in elementary school, never one of the poor saps sentenced to indoor recess with no parole while everyone else was building snow kingdoms and bombarding girls with snowballs.

The Conservation Corps is also very concerned with my well-being. Less “Put on a jacket, it’s cold out,” and more “Don’t cut your leg off with that chainsaw.” The Corps takes safety and preparedness extremely seriously. Upon joining the Corps, each member is issued a full suite of personal protective equipment (PPE) that we will use through the rest of the year including task-specific hardhats, ear protection, multiple pairs of safety glasses, Kevlar-lined boots, chainsaw chaps, and gloves. Even better, the gloves and boots fit, the chaps are new, and prescription safety glasses are an option. Read more. 

 

 

Creating a Career Path: How Centennial Job Corps helped Jessica Johnson discover new talents


Where are they now? – Catching up with 2012 Corpsmember of the Year,
Jessica Johnson


Jessica receiving her award at The Corps Network 2012 National Conference in Washington, DC
 

Jessica Johnson, formerly of Centennial Job Corps of Idaho, won Corpsmember of the Year in 2012 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 Jessica and her Corps experience by reading her bio from our 2012 National Conference.

Jessica Johnson heard about the Centennial Job Corps from her grandfather. He helped construct the buildings of the Corps’ Nampa, Idaho campus and thought that Jessica – an ambitious high school graduate – might make an ideal Corpsmember. Jessica looked into the program and decided she might as well give it a try. Sure enough, Job Corps was the perfect fit for her.

Jessica started at Job Corps learning office administration skills through the organization’s Business and Finance Program. She was quickly recognized as a hard worker and a positive role model.  Her success in the business program allowed her the opportunity to also begin training for Centennial’s rigorous firefighting program.

“I thought the fire crew sounded pretty awesome, so I checked it out – and it was pretty awesome,” said Jessica.

Jessica earned a stellar reputation with the fire crew bosses and her peers. She was dispatched on every fire call as a result of her skill and reliability. After Jessica completed her service in the Idaho Corps in May 2010, she was accepted to Advanced Fire Management training with Schenck Job Corps CCC of North Carolina for the fall of 2010. Her excellent job performance at Schenck resulted in her recruitment by the Boise Regulars for a seasonal firefighting position in Boise National Forest.

“When I was on a crew here in Idaho I was the supply manger. I kept track of our inventory and whatnot,” said Jessica. “I also helped with basic operations and making sure things were done safely.”

After completing the 2011 fire season with the Boise Regulars, Jessica spent the winter at home helping her family with babysitting and chores. Jessica has always enjoyed looking after her four nieces and nephews. She spends most of her free time with them and is always conscious of setting a good example.

For the 2012 fire season, Jessica was hired to be part of a wild land firefighting crew in Oregon’s Willamette National Forest. During her time in Oregon, Jessica was able to open her FFT1 task book. The Fire Fighter Type One Task Book is a log kept by a wild land firefighter as he or she works towards becoming a Squad Boss. Jessica spent this past summer participating in Squad Boss training and leading small groups of firefighters in their assignments. She hopes to eventually become an official Squad Boss; a position that would put her in charge of about four to eight other firefighters.

“Squad Bosses are responsible for the safety and wellbeing of the crew and making sure that whatever assignments you’ve been told to do, you and your crew accomplish those things,” said Jessica. 

Jessica’s goal is to find year-round employment with a Forest Service firefighting crew. However, she’s not impatient to find such a job. She plans to start looking for a permanent position in about two to three years. Until then she wants to continue gaining experience through seasonal wild land firefighting jobs.

“I want to make sure that I really know and understand the job that I’ll be doing,” said Jessica. “I want to be qualified for it and not just run around with a title that I shouldn’t have. I don’t want to jump into anything.”

Jessica currently lives at home with her family in Idaho and continues to help with the babysitting and other household jobs. She plans to get another firefighting position when the next fire season comes along in the spring and summer.

Jessica maintains contact with some of her peers from Centennial Job Corps’ firefighting program who have also pursued wild land firefighting jobs. She also keeps in touch with some of the Corps’ staff.

“The staff there was awesome and very helpful and really motivating,” said Jessica.

To other young people thinking about joining a Corps, Jessica says:

“Use everything to your benefit and realize that’s what the Corps is there for. If you have questions, just ask the staff. If you run across someone who you aren’t necessarily on the same page with, just try talking to different staff members. Remember that not everyone communicates in the same way. Do what you need to do and follow the rules even if they’re silly and just make the whole experience your own.”

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.” 

2013 Corpsmember of the Year, Alex Hreha


 

Alex Hreha admits that during middle school and high school he was “a below average student at an above average weight.” He lacked self-confidence and didn’t have much motivation for school or any kind of physical activity.

Near the end of his junior year of high school, Alex started looking ahead to another uneventful summer of mowing his grandparents’ lawn. Then a friend told him about how she spent the previous summer as a member of an environmental conservation program for youth. She talked about how she got paid to work outdoors in beautiful natural settings, but she described the work as back-breaking and exhausting. Nonetheless, Alex was intrigued by the idea of having a real job. He filled out an application and was soon officially a member of the Sedona Youth Conservation Corps, a program operated by Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC).

Alex was initially apprehensive about what would be required of him as a Corpsmember. He was understandably concerned about spending long hours doing physical labor in the Arizona heat. Alex didn’t have to speculate about the Corps experience for long, however; they put him right to work.  It was 105 degrees on his first day and his crew was assigned to smash cement blocks that were buried in the ground next to an asphalt parking lot. Alex says he woke up the next morning with “blisters growing out of blisters,” but it felt good to come home tired after a day of productive work. He quickly discovered that he had a passion for conservation. He thrived during the next six weeks of the program, which involved doing trail maintenance, rock work, and fence construction.



 

By the time school started again, Alex had lost over 25 pounds and gained a completely new outlook on life. Though he had never been a stellar student before, Alex produced excellent grades throughout his senior year. He also started an exercise routine and continued to lose weight. By graduation he had lost over 50 pounds and participated in five half-marathons. He decided to continue this positive lifestyle by joining a six-month-long CREC adult program. 

Alex was the youngest person on the adult crew, but he stood out as an excellent leader. The next six months simply reinforced his desire to work in conservation. Alex loved having the opportunity to travel throughout the state and help protect the natural beauty of such places as Walnut Canyon, Aravaipa Canyon, The Coronado Mountain Range, and the Sedona and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests.

“One of my most memorable moments of the six-month term was during an intense surprise thunder storm. We were cutting trail tread into the dirt on an exposed ridge as the rain became heavier and heavier. Pretty soon it was like trying to walk in chocolate pudding, and the lightning was getting closer,” said Alex. “We continued our work and were counting the seconds between each lightning strike, when, all of a sudden, we were blinded and deafened by a massive lightning strike. A pine tree about 100 feet away took a powerful hit; it felt as if someone had shined a flashlight in my eyes and screamed in my ears. Countless moments like these engrave my memory, and my love for conservation work continues to grow.”

During a project at Walnut Canyon, Alex wandered into the visitor center and came across a black and white photograph from the 1930s that pictured the Civilian Conservation Corps members who built the stone staircases that encircle the canyon.

“I felt a deep connection inside myself and realized all the strenuous work I had completed would remain for centuries,” said Alex.

At the end of the term, Alex used his hard-earned money to move to Prescott, AZ. He enrolled in a community college with the help of his AmeriCorps Education Awards and soon received his Emergency Medical Technician certificate. During the semester, he also completed his first full marathon. Alex was staying active and learning new things, but he missed the outdoors. Shortly after receiving his EMT certification, Alex was accepted for a position as a CREC Youth Conservation Corps Mentor.

Alex had hoped to receive such a position ever since his service in CREC’s Sedona Youth Conservation Corps. He wanted the opportunity to lead new Corpsmembers and hopefully help them realize the same benefits he gained from his experience with a youth crew. Looking after a group of teenagers was a new challenge for Alex, but the two months of the program were ultimately very rewarding. There were a number of occasions throughout the summer when Alex was able to put his EMT training to use. At one point he was able to help a Corpsmember with a scratched cornea, and on another occasion he diagnosed and assisted a Corpsmember who was suffering from hyponatremia; a condition of excess heat, too much water, and not enough electrolytes.

“These terrifying moments challenged me and strengthened my overall character, and after a very successful summer I felt I had a very positive impact on my young crew,” said Alex.

Even after a summer of leading Corpsmembers through desert monsoons, working in 110 degree heat, and volunteering at an animal shelter walking 150 pound pit bulls, Alex was not done with his service at CREC. He was hired as Assistant Crew Leader of the Verde Watershed Restoration Coalition; a new invasive species removal crew. Alex was eight years younger than some of the adults on the crew, but he jumped at the opportunity to continue building his leadership skills. The three-month-long program gave Alex a chance to also learn new skills in forestry; on his fourth day of chainsaw orientation he was able to cut down a 100 foot tall Ponderosa Pine.

After the end of the program in December 2012, Alex took another 3-month-long position with CREC so he could continue to gain experience. He plans to apply for an additional 3 months of service in March 2013, and then lead another Youth Conservation Corps crew during the summer. His goal is to eventually use the rest of his AmeriCorps Education Awards to go back to school and get the credentials he needs to pursue a career in emergency medical response.

“My story would not exist without The Corps Network, and all the outstanding people involved in making programs like CREC possible. CREC and all the other wonderful corps programs provide great opportunities and memories for people across the country, and it is an amazing honor to represent all their hard work and effort. Theodore Roosevelt once said ‘Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.’ I feel a great sense of pride knowing there are tens of thousands of Corpmembers like me across the country putting all their effort into great causes. Together we make a positive impact.”

 

 

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