Obama administration conservation projects generate more than 20,000 summer jobs

By Troy Hooper
The Colorado IndependentMay 22, 2012
Four new conservation projects in Colorado will add to the more than 20,000 work opportunities for low-income youth on public lands this summer.

The Obama administration on Friday announced an additional $1.4 million this year that it will leverage into $3.7 million for 20 new projects and more than 500 new jobs (pdf) across the nation. In all, a spokesman said the Department of Interior is investing $37.6 million this year on roles for low-income people between the ages of 15 and 25. The outdoor jobs are part of Obama's broader goal to employ 250,000 low-income and disconnected youth in the coming weeks.

“These first experiences building trails, clearing out hazardous fuels, or cleaning up rivers not only equip young people with skills for a new career, but can also awaken a love for the outdoors that lasts a lifetime,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a prepared statement.

The Yampa River in Colorado (Photo by BLM).

In Colorado, Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests, the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, The Nature Conservancy and Yampatika Outdoor Awareness Association are hiring young people to work on the Yampa River Basin in northwest Colorado, working on wildlife habitat and stream restoration projects.

The Forest Service also plans to hire at least 20 youth from Costilla and Conejos counties to work on the Rio Grande National Forest and San Luis Valley Bureau of Land Management. The youth with work on high-priority conservation projects such as riparian restoration, surveying bark beetle disturbance and mapping a culturally significant herbal plant, osha.

Another 70 to 80 crew members will be tapped for conservation work along Disappointment Creek, a major tributary in BLM's Uncompahgre District in southwest Colorado as part of a three-year-old private/public collaboration that is part of the Walton Family Foundation's Freshwater Conservation Initiative.

Finally, Environment for the Americas will recruit eight Latino interns ages 18 to 25 to work with education and outreach and to engage in field research training and data collection at Forest Service and BLM sites in California, Colorado and Alaska where monitoring shorebirds is a priority.

"This program is putting youth to work and making our nation's public lands more accessible," said U.S. Department of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. "With 80 percent of our country now living in urban areas, it is through partnerships like these that we are finding opportunities for Americans to work, live and play on our forests and grasslands and experience America's great outdoors."

Here is a list of public lands projects outside of Colorado:


- The University of Alaska and several partners will expand the state's native science and engineering programs to encourage high school and college-age Alaska Native youth to pursue conservation careers via mentorship programs and hands-on internship opportunities on Forest Service and BLM lands in Alaska.


- The BLM, in partnership with the Student Conservation Association, California Conservation Corps and Los Angeles Conservation Corps will recruit and select 10 young adults ages 18-25 from underserved communities for employment in the Student Temporary Employment Program, potentially leading to career-conditional positions with the BLM.

- At least 12 Sierra Native American youth will tackle conservation projects in the Forest Service's Hope and Indian Valley Meadows, and the BLM's Stocking Flat and Tribute Trail in Nevada City. Training on tribal language skills, native conservation restoration techniques and researching traditional use of resources and ceremonial significance of sites will also be provided.

- The Mattole Restoration Council will provide 30 paid conservation internships for high school and college-age young people on projects on the King's Range National Conservation Area and adjacent lands. Project activities will be guided by established management plans and improve grassland, estuarine, and forest habitats as well as riparian and in-stream conditions on the Mattole River and its headwaters tributaries.

- At-risk youth from the Los Angeles Conservation Corps will learn about conservation by helping to remove invasive species and plant native species on the San Bernardino and Angeles National Forests and on BLM preserves within the Coachella Valley in Southern California.

Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee

- Chattahoochee, Cherokee and Nantahala-Pisgah National Forests will work with Groundwork Hudson Valley and The Wilderness Society to recruit 16 youth ages 18 to 21 New York to introduce participants to camping, develop job readiness, leadership, and team-building skills. The eight member youth crews will restore 24-plus miles of wilderness trails to standard over two years in areas prioritized by the Forest Service.

Kentucky and Indiana

- The Ohio River Foundation will hire two crews of six high school students for three weeks of summer work on the Ohio River Watershed on the Boone and Hoosier National Forests near Red River Gorge, Ky., and Norman, Ind. Activities will restore riparian habitat by removing invasive species and planting native species, and will protect water quality by reducing erosion.


- The Maryland Department of Natural Resources, in partnership with the BLM, will expand the Maryland Conservation Corps and the Civic Justice Corps to involve students and young adults in conservation projects along the Potomac River at Douglas Point, Md. Participants will be guided and instructed by professionals in park planning and natural resource restoration science and will tackle high-priority restoration work.


- The Montana Conservation Corps will engage young people from urban communities, rural Montana and Native American tribes to accomplish 43 weeks of stewardship, restoration and monitoring projects to enhance the Southwestern Crown of the Continent ecosystem, and will work on the Flathead, Lolo and Helena National Forests and the BLM's Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument and northern prairie landscapes.


- The Great Basin Institute will partner with Nevada Conservation Corps and Partners in Conservation to restore 40 acres of BLM land along the Virgin River near Mesquite, Nev., that is prime Southwestern willow flycatcher habitat. Seventy young people will engage in hands-on restoration and monitoring and visit with hydrologists, biologists, and other natural resource professionals to learn about conservation career pathways.

New Mexico

- The Forest Guild and the Cibola National Forest will hire and train 12 Tribal youth from Cibola and McKinley counties for part-time seasonal jobs for up to two years. The young people will help with gathering habitat structure data to carry out management for an area that is habitat for keystone species such as northern goshawk, Mexican spotted owl, and Abert's squirrel.


- Mt. Hood Community College will hire and train 30 urban youth and 2 crew leaders to complete essential restoration projects over two summers in the Sandy River Basin, just east of metropolitan Portland. Youth will work with agency professionals and Basin partners to gain job-readiness skills and hands-on experience in salmon habitat restoration, trail work, native plant restoration, project management, and invasive-plant removal.

- The Tillamook School District will partner with the BLM to monitor Coho salmon stream restoration sites and collect data to assess the effectiveness of ongoing stream restoration on the Wilson, Nestucca, and Trask Rivers. A crew of one adult leader and five youth members, will work on will conduct aquatic invertebrate sampling, riparian fence monitoring, fish habitat evaluation, water quality sampling and analysis, and photo-point monitoring. $42,570 BLM; $77,500 non-federal funds.

- The Northwest Youth Corps will hire 50 local youth, at least 40 percent from the Klamath Tribe, to work on riparian fence building, invasive species removal, native plantings, survey completions and data management, and public lands access management. This project supports the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Upper Klamath Basin Keystone Initiative by implementing high priority stewardship projects near the city of Klamath Falls, the Wood and Sprague River systems and the Williamson Delta. $99,995 BLM; $108,073 non-federal funds.


- The Corps, based at Utah State University in Logan, Utah, will expand its Bilingual Youth Corps by hiring 36 bilingual high school students over a two-year period to help complete 50 miles of wilderness trail maintenance and habitat restoration on 135 acres of public lands on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, the Salt Lake Watershed and along the Jordan River Parkway.


- Operation Fresh Start will engage 60 young people ages 16–24 in the inventory, planning, and restoration activities to identify and conserve the natural resources on 64 islands owned by BLM within the lower Wisconsin River. Activities include GIS mapping of plant communities and observed wildlife, natural features, and human use and development, and removing invasive species control and adding site enhancements such as bird boxes and signage.

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