2018 Project of the Year: Southwest Conservation Corps and Montana Conservation Corps - Wyoming Women's Fire Corps

At The Corps Network’s annual National Conference in Washington, DC, we celebrate the important service Corps provide to communities and young people across the country by honoring Corps who have taken on especially noteworthy endeavors within the past year. Projects of the Year are innovative and show a Corps’ ability to work with partner organizations to give Corpsmembers a positive experience and provide the community with meaningful improvements. Learn more

The Wyoming Women’s Fire Corps (WWFC) is a pilot program that ran August through early November of 2017. Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC), Montana Conservation Corps (MCC) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) joined together in this collaborative effort. 

SCC and MCC each contributed a crew of six female Corpsmembers and two female Crew Leaders to work with the BLM in Wyoming. The goal was to give these 16 women the confidence, technical skills, and leadership abilities to pursue careers in wildland firefighting. The women completed training and were certified in S130/190 wildland fire fighting and S212 saw operation. The scope of work for the program included fire mitigation and prescribed burns, as well as various chainsaw projects in locations throughout Wyoming. Additionally, both WWFC crews had the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience while dispatched on a 14-day assignment to support the massive firefighting efforts in California.

The WWFC is a perfect example of innovation in the Corps Movement. It is a unique opportunity to develop collaborative solutions to several needs. First, this program helps address the huge gender disparity in wildland firefighting. Only 11 percent of permanent wildland firefighting jobs in the U.S. Forest Service are held by women. BLM faces similar statistics.

Second, the WWFC plays a role in addressing resource management concerns. Wyoming has large tracts of land that are potential habitat for the endangered sage grouse, but these areas need to be restored through the removal of encroaching conifers. An effort of this kind requires chainsaw work with a hand crew; perfect saw and physical training for a future wildland firefighter.

The WWFC is potentially the first all-women’s fire crew within the Conservation Corps movement. Additionally, this was the first time either SCC or MCC operated an all-female crew with a set purpose. The uniqueness of this program helped bring in far more applicants than anticipated; within just a two-week window, both Corps received three applicants for every slot.

The first WWFC cohort just closed their season. They report having had an incredible, life-changing experience. Each Corpsmember was an AmeriCorps member, earning a living allowance and finishing with a Segal Education Award. With only one exception, all SCC and MCC members are interested in applying for fire jobs next season; a testament to the empowering nature of this program.

At this point, it’s too early for SCC and MCC to report on how many WWFC participants became employed in wildland firefighting. However, they have already seen other positive effects of the program; SCC has been contacted by BLM and other organizations that are interested in hiring the Corpsmembers and learning more about replicating the initiative in other parts of the country. BLM and both Corps have deemed the WWFC highly successful and are working to repeat the program in 2019.

In the months to come, the two Corps will team-up to develop solutions for challenges discovered in the first year of operation. One of the key factors in the success of this pilot was the critical collaborative effort from staff at SCC, MCC, and the BLM. Several large conference calls took place to establish expectations, logistics and needs of all parties involved.

Both SCC and MCC have been strengthened in many ways because of the WWFC. Each Corps has developed relationships with communities in Wyoming and with the BLM of Wyoming. Additionally, their crews have increased their capacity to respond to wildland fires, complete prescribed burns, and tackle a backlog of habitat improvement projects. Most importantly, however, both Corps have increased diversity and are excited to play a role in opening-up an opportunity for women who are interested in fire, yet unsure how to get a start in such a male-dominated field. This project has developed into a stepping stone for this specific demographic.

As one Corpsmember said of the WWFC: “For women who are thinking ‘maybe I can’t do this,’ you totally can. You just have to have the determination and the willingness to put in a lot of hard work and sweat.” 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Utah Conservation Corps Recognized with BLM Youth Award


From Utah State Today - University News

The Bureau of Land Management recognized the Utah Conservation Corps (UCC) with a Youth Superstar Partnership award. UCC program director Kate Stephens (shown on right) accepted the award from BLM’s Utah State Director Juan Palma (on left) at a BLM executive management team meeting Oct. 9 in Richfield, Utah.

The UCC has partnered with the BLM since the UCC’s inception in 2001, to address critical conservation projects while training and developing the next generation of service and conservation leaders.

“The goal of BLM Utah’s Youth Program is to re-connect a new generation of young people to the great outdoors and careers in natural resources,” said Jeanette Matovich, BLM Utah Youth Program lead. “The Utah Conservation Corps has provided outstanding outdoor employment opportunities to diverse youth groups, including the Bilingual Youth Corps.

“For years, the BLM and UCC have worked together to provide employment opportunities, and educate future citizen stewards on why it is important to protect and conserve public land. We look forward to expanding our partnership with Utah State University and working with them for many years to come.”

Continue Reading at the Utah State Today Website