Four Service and Conservation Corps Programs First to Obtain New Accreditation

For Immediate Release                                                                                        
November 25, 2014

Down The Path of Conservation: Western Colorado Conservation Corpsmember Returns as Crew Leader

Article, written by Crew Leader Chi Yun (Jenny) Takaki, appears in WCCC thePULSE Blog. Published June 24, 2014.

In the spring of 2011, I became employed with the Western Colorado Conservation Corps. Beginning as a crew member, I was introduced to many new places, concepts, skills and individuals and I couldn't be more excited for a new adventure.

There was so much training and experiences that I was privileged to have CPR/First Aid training, Crew Leader for Trail Construction and Maintenance training and certification through the ISO of VOC, Wildland Firefighting training and certificates (S-130, S-190), a Recreational Technician Internship with the Grand Junction BLM office and eventually was specially picked by the BLM as a crew leader for a project maintaining the trails of the Tabeguache Trail, Lunch Loop system; not to forget all the education awards I was able to save through Americorps.

A vast amount of opportunities opened up and I was overwhelmed with doors to open. So at the end of the fall of that year I decided to go traveling and take me skills with me. I was inspired by the beauty of Western Colorado to see more of the country since I pretty much grew up in Grand Junction, CO.

My destination was the Northwest coast. I set my sights on a cute little WWOOFing farm off the coast of Oregon in a rural town. Since the farm was only 4 miles from the ocean, we had such a lovely journey filled with a diversity of land formations and climates as we drove down the loneliest highway. I was able to use my trade skills I learned through the WCCC at the farm like fuels mitigation and thinning of the forest and taking care of the garden. I also picked up a few more skills since I’ve never herded animals or picked wild fruit before. I met so many wonderfully kind people and made good friendships along the way.

After another brief trip to Colorado for my mom’s graduation and back to Oregon I decided to find a new destination, and through mutual friends I found a place in the Redwoods of Northern California to help with winter prep, limb removal, trail building and gardening/weeding. Eventually I felt home sick and returned to Colorado once again, completed a Yoga Teacher training and enjoyed the trails of the ever so beautiful Western Colorado.

Glad to be home, I felt like I had made many fun and daring choices after my time spent at the WCCC. Being part of such a conscience community focused on striving to help the environment and individual growth I gained so much inspiration to pursue natural synchronicity on my own. But once I felt like I lost my direction and somehow managed to end up at a thrift store, the concept of recycling was the only thing conservative that I was involved with. I was ready for another change and realized that I would have never progressed as far as I did if it wasn’t for the Western Colorado Conservation Corps.

My first time there I grew as a confident individual, team player, environmental enthusiast, and curious creature ready to learn and grow more. Being surrounded by people I wouldn’t normally surround myself with was great for challenging my social skills and work compatibility/flexibility. With so many different kinds of projects in so many great places I was exposed to a better view of the world and how it naturally manages itself and what we can do to make a better impact. But most of all, working at the WCCC gave me faith that I was able to do anything if I put my mind to it. I always tending to be more introverted and apathetic, yet after working there I felt like I discovered a passion within me. The desire to always better myself, to never give up, and fight until the end. No great change can occur if people aren’t willing to sacrifice something to attain a great gain and I felt that the WCCC sacrificed a lot for me to grow and I am forever grateful to them for that.

That’s why this year, 2014 I decided to apply again as a crew leader to help find more personal guidance as I help others find a path that suits their needs. My crew leaders and office staff always saw the light in me even when I didn't and it was what I needed to mature. I believe once you’ve experienced something its easier to help others find a similar experience. In my case, I hope to offer the youth and young adults of the future to pursue their dreams and find the natural bliss of their true nature. At the corps, I learned more of who I was, and who I am. And I’m happy to say, I’m still learning.

Great Outdoors Colorado Board Approves Grants To Engage Youth In Restoration

Article appears on the Great Outdoors Colorado website. Published June 25, 2014.

DENVER – The Great Outdoors Colorado Board has approved a series of grants designed to engage youth and volunteers in projects that will restore 12 miles of rivers and streams and 220 acres of habitat.

The projects will also benefit imperiled wildlife species including the Rio Grande cutthroat trout, roundtail chub, Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, Gunnison sage grouse, and northern leopard frog.

The goal of the Riparian Restoration Initiative is to provide meaningful opportunities for youth and volunteers to improve and restore rivers, streams, and connected wetlands that occur on publicly and privately protected open space properties.

GOCO approved 10 grants, each worth $25,000. The program attracted 21 applications seeking $470,000 in funding.

Each of the ten projects incorporates a strong volunteer component to the restoration effort. Wildlands Restoration Volunteers, Western Colorado Conservation Corps, Weld County Youth Conservation Corps, Colorado Agricultural Leadership Foundation, Colorado Mountain Club, and Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado are each participating in at least one funded project. Multiple schools, FFA, 4-H groups, and local volunteer groups also will be engaged in the work.

Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers and open spaces. GOCO’s independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts, and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Created by voters in 1992, GOCO has funded more than 3,500 projects in all 64 counties without any tax dollar support. The grants are funded by GOCO’s share of Colorado Lottery revenues, which are divided between GOCO, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Conservation Trust Fund and school construction.


Grant details:


Peanut Lake

Grant: $25,000

The Crested Butte Land Trust will restore 1.5 miles of the Slate River adjacent to the 80-acre Peanut Lake property located three miles north of Crested Butte.  The work  will prevent the river, which has migrated west due to in-stream gravel mining and berming decades ago,  from entering the lake.  The river and the lake are presently separated by only a few feet of beaver dam. The 24-acre lake sits downstream of an abandoned mine and now contains deposited toxic coal and silver waste, which could end up flowing down the river if its banks are breached. The land trust’s volunteers, Crested Butte Community School and a locally based flyfishing camp will be involved in the work.

Upper Gunnison Basin and Wetland Habitat

Grant: $25,000

The Nature Conservancy, in collaboration with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Gunnison Climate Working Group, will restore about four miles of the Upper Gunnison Basin, including several tributaries in state wildlife habitat areas and a privately conserved ranch. The work will raise the water table to reconnect the channel to the floodplain and increase wetland plant cover, which will benefit the Gunnison sage-grouse. Western Colorado Conservation Corps and Wildlands Restoration Volunteers will do the labor.



Estes Valley

Grant: $25,000

The Estes Valley Land Trust, in collaboration with the Town of Estes Park, will plant native, woody vegetation and seed with native grasses and wetlands species on about 135 acres of flood-damaged riparian lands along Fish Creek, Fall Creek, Black Canyon Creek, the East Fork of Fish Creek and the Big Gulch of the Little Thompson River.  The goal is to restore habitat for wildlife and reduce erosion and run-off of sediment. Land trust volunteers and students from Eagle Rock School will be engaged in the work.


Campbell Valley

Grant: $25,000

The Nature Conservancy, in collaboration with Wildlands Restoration Volunteers, will begin an effort to repair longstanding erosion damage and restore the Campbell Valley watershed on the conserved Roberts Ranch.  The work will include re-grading of Leaky Creek, stabilizing 2,000 feet of bank on Campbell Creek tributaries and planting native vegetation. The goal is to restore vegetation for wildlife and provide habitat for the threatened Preble’s meadow jumping mouse.



Jim Creek

Grant: $25,000

Conejos County, in partnership with Trout Unlimited, will create a riparian buffer area on property along Jim Creek by building wildlife-friendly cattle fencing on 2.5 miles of each side of the creek. Long-term grazing caused erosion and sedimentation problems, damaging fish habitat and water quality. The creek currently supports native Rio Grande cutthroat trout, a candidate for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act. Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, Colorado Mountain Club, Trout Unlimited and Adams State University students will be involved in the work,



Navajo River

Grant: $25,000

Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, with assistance from the San Juan Conservation District and the Natural Resource Conservation Service, will restore a two-mile section of the Navajo River that runs through two contiguous conserved properties. It is part of a larger project to restore nearly 7 miles of river.  The work will include deepening the channel to benefit fish habitat, planting trees like willows and cottonwoods, and restoring or connecting to shallow wetlands. Species benefitted include the Colorado roundtail chub and the northern leopard frog, two species that both have “special concern” status in the state. Chama Peak Land Alliance will train volunteers and 4-H club members to plant trees.



South Republican River
Grant: $25,000

Colorado Parks and Wildlife will remove invasive Russian olive and tamarisk trees and restore native species along three forks of the Republican River. The grant will help secure a federal grant to remove invasive trees from 60 acres near the former Bonny Reservoir site. Future Farmers of American will re-seed treated areas and complete additional restoration work to improve wildlife habitat.



East Plum Creek

Grant: $25,000

Douglas County, in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Colorado Agricultural Leadership Foundation, will remove riprap and re-contour the east side of East Plum Creek on the Iron Horse Open Space. This work will undo damaged caused by flood and rechanneling due to Interstate 25 construction. The goal is to slow the water current and allow it to meander, thus creating new wetland and floodplain areas for wildlife. Volunteer gardeners will plant wetland vegetation and tree seedlings.



Eagle’s Nest

Grant: $25,000

Ducks Unlimited and the Weld County Youth Conservation Corps will clear woody vegetation from a sandbar in the South Platte River. Afterward, the sandbar will be re-contoured to benefit the waterfowl and shorebirds population which has declined in recent decades due to loss of habitat.  Water level controls will be repaired or replaced.



DPG-Prewitt Wetland

Grant: $25,000

Colorado Open lands and Ducks Unlimited will install three water level controls on the east side of Prewitt Reservoir along the South Platte River on the Logan-Washington county line.  The Weld County Youth Conservation Corps will remove invasive plants. This will help re-establish native wetland plants to benefit waterfowl habitat and expand roosting sites.

Three Conservation Corps Teams Are Working to Remove Invasive Species Along the Dolores River

Article appeared on The Nature Conservancy website.


Tamarisk may think they’re going to take over the area surrounding the Dolores River. We advise them to think again. On the Dolores, three conservation corps are on the job. The Canyon Country Youth Corps, Western Colorado Conservation Corps and Southwest Conservation Corps are taking on one of the west’s most daunting restoration challenges – removing invasive species such as tamarisk along 175 miles of the river, which runs through southwestern Colorado and eastern Utah. 

It’s a job for those with strong wills and strong backs. Young people, ages 18-26, from diverse backgrounds, are hired by the Conservation Corps for eight to twelve week stints. They work long days in the elements, camp and cook together. 

Weighed down with 18 pound chainsaws and 20-pound daypacks, they may hike up to 2 miles to a work site every day. As soon as they arrive, chainsaws buzz for eight hours. 

As Conservation Corps member Jake Lee writes in his blog, the work is grueling yet meaningful. “I hear relatively few words and fewer laughs being exchanged on the hike back to the truck. We are spent. Covered from head to toe with dust, dirt, and wood chips, our sweat-soaked shirts are beginning to dry. We are hungry and thirsty. Yet we aren't dragging our sore feet or slouching with bowed heads under the weight we carry. We move with purpose.” 



While the restoration work improves the river, reduces wildfire risk and ensures recreation opportunities, Corps members are also carving a path for their future. 

“I applied for the chainsaw crew to learn a new skill set, to experience something vastly different from the last four years that I spent in college, and to challenge myself to whatever it took to get through the program,” says Hanna DeSalvo of Durango, Colorado. 

“We deal with changing plans constantly but still accomplish our work and personal goals in spite of this,” says Chris Panawa. “If you can finish a season, you finish it with new skills and abilities that can benefit all aspects of your life.” 

While earning job skills, corps members also earn Americorps Education Awards, which go toward student loans or furthering education. So far, $89,000 has been awarded to young people to improve their future.  



To fully understand the important work corps members are doing, you need to know about the impact tamarisk has on our environment. Since being introduced as an ornamental plant and windbreak in the mid-1800s, the pesky plant has spread to cover 1.6 million acres across the West, mostly along streams. The plant, also known as a salt cedar, threatens native cottonwood and willow trees because it grows in dense stands, can produce up to 500,000 seeds per plant, and increases salinity in soils. Tamarisk also sucks water, increases wildfire spread, chokes rivers and alters stream flows. 

Because of the growing tamarisk threat, the Conservation Corps, The Nature Conservancy, Bureau of Land Management and others launched the Dolores River Restoration Partnership in 2009. So far, the effort has created 175 jobs for young adults and restored 821 acres.



“Strong partnerships are the key to conservation successes,” says Mike Wight, Conservation Corps River Restoration Director. “We know that by working together we can protect our lands and waters for generations to come.” 

“Mike is fostering and inspiring a new generation of conservationists who are committed to solving our most pressing challenges,” adds Peter Mueller, the Conservancy’s southwest Colorado program director. 

The Nature Conservancy has been committed to developing solutions for Colorado’s most important lands and waters for nearly 40 years. Our focus on the Dolores is to restore the river to good health while meeting the needs of people. 

As the river improves, lives are changing, “I have seen my fellow crew members grow physically stronger, fitter, healthier, more agile and mentally tougher – more confident, more determined, more resilient, more adaptable, more eager to overcome challenges without hesitation,” adds Lee. 

A program designed to eradicate invasive plants is also empowering young people to become future conservationists. 

Several Corps Receive High Honor from The Nature Conservancy for River Restoration Work

Republished from The Nature Conservancy Website

Youth Conservation and Education Programs in the Spotlight

The Southwest Conservation Corps, Western Colorado Conservation Corps and Canyon Country Youth Corps, as well as their river restoration director, Mike Wight, have received the Phil James Conservation Award
DENVER | December 12, 2013

The Nature Conservancy is proud to announce the Southwest Conservation Corps, Western Colorado Conservation Corps and Canyon Country Youth Corps, along with their river restoration director, Mike Wight, as the recipients of the Phil JamesConservation Award. The Phil James Conservation Award is given to an individual or organization for extraordinary contributions or achievements that further the mission of The Nature Conservancy.

This award honors Phil James’ unsurpassed passion and dedication for conservation. He began volunteering for The Nature Conservancy in 1986 when he helped found theNebraska Chapter. Through the years, he served on the Conservancy’s Board of Trustees in Nebraska, Colorado and Alaska. James works tirelessly to support the Conservancy. His leadership and generosity has made an impact on us and for future generations

The Nature Conservancy in Colorado is paying tribute to Wight and the Conservation Corps for their willingness to take on one of the west’s most daunting restoration challenges – removing invasive plants and restoring habitat along 175 miles of the Dolores River, a tributary of the Colorado River. Additionally, the Conservation Corps worked along the Gunnison River. They built rock structures to improve wetland habitat. Corps members, ages 18-26, have diverse backgrounds and are selected from local communities and across the country. Through the restoration work, corps members are learning valuable life and job skills.

“Mike goes the extra mile when it comes to engaging young people,” says Peter Mueller, the Conservancy’s southwest Colorado program director. “He is fostering and inspiring a new generation of conservationists who are committed to solving our most pressing challenges.”

“Strong partnerships are the key to conservation successes,” says Mike Wight, River Restoration Director. “We are grateful to The Nature Conservancy and many other partners who support these important programs. We know that by working together we can protect our lands and waters for generations to come.”The Conservation Corps are credited with getting young people on the right track and shaping our future.

“Mike’s passionate leadership has put so many young men and women in places where they contribute, learn and change the way they see themselves,” adds Tim Sullivan, the Conservancy in Colorado’s state director.

So far, working with these three corps programs, the Dolores River Restoration Partnership has created 175 jobs for young adults and restored 821 acres. This is part of an even bigger effort to create a 21st Century Conservation Service Corpsthrough the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. The goal of 21st CSC is increase youth opportunities in the country from a current 30,000 to 100,000 on an annual basis.  This Initiative will put Americans to work, protect our greatest treasures, and build America’s future.


The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at


Boiler Plate: 
The Southwest Conservation Corps, Western Colorado Conservation Corps and Canyon Country Youth Corps, as well as their river restoration director, Mike Wight, have received the Phil James Conservation Award.