AmeriCorps members travel to South Carolina to help with disaster relief efforts

By Anja Hogan, NW District Manager – 10/26/2018

20181016_090839.jpg

Almost a month after Hurricane Florence made landfall, Conservation Corps folks finally got the call to deploy to assist with current recovery efforts.

Although Hurricane Florence grew in strength as it tracked across the Atlantic, and reached Category 4 status twice in its journey, when it made landfall on 9/14/18 it was officially classified as a Category 1. This didn’t stop Florence from leaving a historically destructive legacy in its wake, ultimately dropping 35.93 inches of rain in some areas and setting records with rivers cresting well above historic flood stages. The storm also sparked enough atmospheric turbulence that a few tornadoes sprung up in its wake, causing trees to fall and electrical poles to be compromised. This prolonged rainfall and slow retreat of waters from flooded areas prevented many disaster relief groups from responding earlier.

As soon as weather stations start tracking storms with the potential for landfall in the US, our staff and members are preparing for service. Many members join the Conservation Corps because they want to help, they want to give back and they want to make a difference in the world. Assisting with recovery after a natural disaster is one form of service that our mission takes.

After weeks of waiting for conditions to improve enough for us to gain access and provide meaningful assistance, we received the go-ahead from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). AmeriCorps members gathered in Saint Paul for a briefing on the situation and a final round-up of equipment to be prepared for activities that could include: mucking and gutting homes that had been flooded, mold suppression, clearing fallen trees and debris, volunteer and donations management, among other things.

After a two- and half-day journey, our 10 AmeriCorps members arrived in Dillon, SC where they tied in with other AmeriCorps-Disaster Response Teams (A-DRT) from Washington Conservation Corps, Southeast Conservation Corps, Conservation Corps New Mexico, and Montana Conservation Corps to begin organizing and planning the recovery work that needs to be done.

Two Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa Individual Placements, two Central District Corpsmembers, and four Northwest District Corpsmembers have been serving on Strike Teams completing muck and gut in homes and canvassing in neighborhoods to assess need. Corpsmembers on the Strike Teams say they’ve been happy to help homeowners and that one of the homeowners has even made them lunch twice.

Two Northwest District Corpsmembers have been assisting in the Planning Section which stays up-to-date on information and available resources to create daily Incident Action Plans and to work in the field with the Strike Teams.

Updates from South Carolina

Resized952018102395140608(0)955938.jpg

“Homeowner Robert Douglas, Jr. lives alone, but his little sister lives next door, and his cousin lives down the alley. All three had work done on their houses today. They all consented to media being present during the event today. Because they were so open to AmeriCorps, United Way, Lowes and the Carolina Panthers coming into their homes, the entire neighborhood turned out to see what all the fuss was about. Young boys met a football icon and role model, people got a free hot meal provided by Bojangles, and they learned more about AmeriCorps and our mission to help survivors. There is a lot of work left to be done on these and many other houses, but today was very inspiring. Seeing a community so devastated be able to come together and laugh with each other was amazing.” - Rebecca Schrupp, NW District Crew Member & A-DRT Florence Planning Section Member

A Northwest District Field Specialist has been serving as the Volunteer Manager who assisted with organizing an event and volunteers on 10/23 and said:

Resized952018102395105228952792.jpg

“I helped organize a volunteer event with Lowe's and the Carolina Panthers NFL team. We had almost 30 volunteers turn out for the event, including Julius Peppers, defensive end for the Panthers. These volunteers worked with our muck and gut teams to help people whose homes had been badly flooded after Hurricane Florence. Representatives from FEMA, Marlboro County school district, and our Cadre from CNCS were also present at the event.” – Alex Courneya, NW District Field Specialist & A-DRT Florence Volunteer Manager

As of Thursday, October 24th, the A-DRT programs stationed in South Carolina assisting with Hurricane Florence recovery have completed 41 damage assessments of homes, mucked and gutted four homes from flood damages, and cleared 120 cubic yards of debris. Great work!

We’re thankful to have amazing AmeriCorps members that want to help others in their time of need and look forward to more updates and amazing accomplishments from them in the future.

Thank Congress for saving AmeriCorps

Bipartisan Support for National Service!

10/1/2018

Congress has passed and President Trump has signed a FY19 spending bill that not only rejects the administration’s budget proposal to shut down the Corporation for National and Community Service—it increases funding for CNCS, AmeriCorps, and Senior Corps. Join us in thanking Congress for investing in national service. This funding ensures that we are able to continue supporting our hundreds of AmeriCorps members who help to conserve natural resources and respond to natural disasters every year.

ThankYouCongress_VoicesforNatlService.png

Excited about the future: a Q&A with the Board Chair and new Executive Director

By Rachel Wagner, Development and Communications Specialist – 9/28/2018

Mark Murphy officially joined Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa as executive director on September 4. The Board of Directors announced their decision in August after a comprehensive national search. Mark is a seasoned business and non-profit professional with a passion for mobilizing organizations to tackle environmental, social, and economic challenges.

Although you can read Mark’s bio on our website, we thought you’d like to take a deeper dive with us and hear from both Mark and our Board Chair, Jill Mahon Johnson, about why they are excited about the future of Conservation Corps.

  Board Chair, Jill Mahon Johnson

Board Chair, Jill Mahon Johnson

Rachel: Jill, share with us why you are excited about the future of Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa?

Jill: Easy one. We have talented staff, insightful board members, and an enthusiastic Alumni Council. And there is so much positive energy from partners about continuing our legacy. Now, with Mark on board as executive director, we are well-positioned to increase our capacity and impact. It’s a wonderful time to be part of this organization!

Rachel: Where do you see Conservation Corps in five years?

Jill: With high education costs and workforce shortages, we offer valuable opportunities for young people and the partners we serve. The demand for STEM careers and green jobs is increasing so our work remains extremely relevant. We give young people the skills to successfully reach the next stage of their professional development…whether education or permanent employment. 

Rachel: Why is our work important right now?

 Jill: I see the Corps continuing our legacy of transforming lives of young people through skills training, outdoor experiences, and environmental stewardship. We will have the capacity and flexibility to meet the ever-changing needs of the communities and partners we serve.

  Executive Director, Mark Murphy, saying a few words at the recent Mississippi Riverboat Cleanup

Executive Director, Mark Murphy, saying a few words at the recent Mississippi Riverboat Cleanup

Rachel: Mark, what drew you to this opportunity with Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa? Why is our work important right now and what are you most excited about?

Mark: Conservation Corps has a long history of working with young people who are committed to serving their communities, interested in building practical skills for their future, and intent on improving, conserving and protecting natural resources and the environment.   

This opportunity at Conservation Corps offers me a meaningful way to contribute and give back the skills and insights that I have been fortunate to absorb over my career as a leader in corporate responsibility and sustainability, philanthropy, and community advocacy and organizing.

The work of CCMI today is at the intersection of so many critical and relevant social, economic and environmental issues that we see in our communities.  I love getting up every day with the mission and task to embrace and tackle these opportunities and challenges. We are doing that at the ground-level at Conservation Corps.

Rachel: Share a glimpse of your vision for the organization and a bit about your leadership style.

Mark: My ambition is to help CCMI continue its legacy as an innovator and leader in working with national, state and local partners, to grow and adapt to meet a changing environment: workforce, economy, and climate.  I believe in the importance of collaboration and partnership. At CCMI, we have a great team already working with long-standing partners. Together, we can do more to develop and prepare young people, from diverse backgrounds, interested in STEM and Natural Resource-oriented careers, tackle opportunities in the emerging Green economy and meet increasing demands brought about by the changing climate and need for mitigating and responding to natural disasters.

Rachel: What do you hope to achieve in your first 100 days? First year? as the new executive director of Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa?

Mark: It may appear simple, but we must be patient as our first steps must be deliberate and sequenced. First, I must learn and explore what makes the Corps and its culture special. After all, I am not a former Corps member.  Second, fostering a collaborative environment, we need the team to keep building off solutions that are already in motion addressing some of our short-term fiscal and administrative priorities, while also preparing groundwork for where we want to set a future agenda. Lastly, we need input and alignment to set a new strategic plan for CCMI, and we must include the perspective of our many stakeholders as we set our course forward. The good news for me as I come on board is that CCMI is already on-the-move and its future is very bright!

Mark Murphy welcomed as new executive director

Nearly 60 people attended a welcome reception for Mark Murphy on Tuesday, September 25, 2018 including staff, board, partners, alumni, donors, and neighbors. If you were in attendance, thank you for stopping by! As our board chair Jill Johnson said, we have a bright future ahead. Thank you for supporting us and we look forward to sharing our future work with you.

Over 2 tons of trash removed during 27th Annual Mississippi Riverboat Cleanup

By Rachel Wagner, Development and Communications Specialist - September 24, 2018

After being rescheduled due to unsafe water levels from its original date in June, the Conservation Corps’ 27th Mississippi Riverboat Cleanup took place on Tuesday, September 18, 2018. The successful event mobilized 111 volunteers to remove 2.08 tons (4,160 pounds) of trash from the shores of the Mississippi River near Pig’s Eye Island. The volunteers found many sizable items such as a broken house boat, a 350-pound tractor tire as well as 25 vehicle tires. Also, many smaller items were removed that would otherwise harm wildlife habitat including hundreds of plastic bottles, straws, Styrofoam waste, and other plastics.

The Mayor of South Saint Paul James Francis thanked the volunteers and wished them well during the morning program by sharing, “We are grateful for your participation today and for your employer’s support in making this possible.”

Volunteers expressed their appreciation. Neil Hall of Van Wagenen Financial Services shared, “Thank you for such a cool and meaningful event yesterday on the river. I love what Conservation Corps does and appreciated being part of the Riverboat Cleanup effort. Keep up the magnificent work you all do!” Paul Nordell, Minnesota DNR retiree and volunteer, commented, “I’m grateful to Conservation Corps for continuing the Riverboat Cleanup, the annual tradition started by the DNR in 1992. This volunteer led event brings people to remote areas of the river where trash routinely accumulates. Over the years, thousands of volunteers have improved the health of our great river.”

Conservation Corps partnered with 10 local employers that provided important resources for the Riverboat Cleanup. These included Wells Fargo, Boston Scientific, Highland Bank, Van Wagenen Financial Services, Timberland, Thompson Reuters, SAP Success Factors, Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Refuge Friends, Inc., and Art Start. These employers encouraged employee registrations and provided a paid work day for their employees who volunteered. Volunteers of Friends of Upper Landing Park, located on Shepard Road near downtown Saint Paul, also participated.

Sponsors for this event included the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Wells Fargo Foundation, and Boston Scientific Foundation. Padelford Riverboats provided transportation and lunch. Upper River Services provided dumpster delivery. Tennis Sanitation provided use of a dumpster. Living Lands and Waters donated t-shirts and gloves. Cub Foods donated cookies. National Parks Service and Minnesota DNR provided shuttle boats. Local organizations contributed door prizes: Park Square Theatre, Science Museum of MN, Timberland, and Art Start.

SponsorSign.png

Our efforts are making a difference, but as you can see there is still work to be done! If you want to get involved with Adopt-a-River efforts, visit our website and become an adopter! http://www.conservationcorps.org/adoptariver/

CCMI&AAR_both logos.png

Disaster Relief Recap

By Rachel Wagner, Development and Communications Specialist – August 31, 2018

This month, after a thirty-day deployment to Puerto Rico, our crew of six AmeriCorps members and three staff returned from assisting with ongoing disaster relief. Upon arriving in July, our Conservation Corps crew joined other AmeriCorps Disaster Response Teams (A-DRT) in Puerto Rico including Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC), AmeriCorps St. Louis, and St. Bernard Project. Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa took over operations as the other teams finished their deployments.

The goals of this deployment were to 1) return individuals and families back to safe, sanitary, and secure homes; and 2) support local organizations in their efforts to aid Puerto Rico. The team operated from a recovery office in Guaynabo and at Sacred Heart University in San Juan. Disaster relief activities included developing a registry for high priority cases, referring cases with unmet needs, developing and conducting trainings for local organizations, and providing outreach across the island.

Dillon Pride, a Corps member who returned recently from deployment, said “This is my 3rd deployment and it’s amazing to see how much the AmeriCorps members grow in 30 short days and what an impact we can make in communities. Not only do the people in distress get the help that they desperately need but the AmeriCorps members learn flexibility, teamwork, physical strength, and I believe it also provides an inner strength that pushes our members to strive for bigger and better things once their term is done.”

Take a closer look at some of the projects our crew worked on during their time in Puerto Rico:

Deployment Newsletter

One of our Iowa crew members, Audrey Lash, held the position of Public Information Officer for AmeriCorps Disaster Response Teams while deployed in Puerto Rico. Along with countless other responsibilities, she was tasked with creating the final edition of a newsletter that has been coming out monthly throughout the deployment. Check it out.

Beach Clean-up

On August 11th, six members of Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa, along with CNCS Disaster Cadre Member, Brie Owades, joined The Mission Continues and their Puerto Rico Service Platoon for a beach clean-up service event in Ponce, Puerto Rico. The Mission Continues is a nationwide non-profit that connects veterans who are adjusting to civilian life and empowers them to find purpose in their communities by providing opportunities for them to get involved. Around thirty total volunteers of all ages and backgrounds spent the day cleaning Playa la Guancha, a sea turtle nesting area, shoreline and surrounding trails. After four hours of service work, the group collected over ten large bags of various trash, including broken glass, litter, and assorted plastics. At the end of the clean-up, all volunteers ate and celebrated together in the nearby plaza.

MissionContinues_BeachCleanup5.JPG

Volunteer Management for NGOs

Iowa crew member Audrey Lash, AmeriCorps Community Engagement Team Member, along with Andres Acosta, a FEMA Voluntary Agency Liaison, met with five different Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Maricao, Puerto Rico to teach them about volunteer management. Audrey presented the Hands on Connect program while Andres Acosta translated, since most of the NGOs only speak Spanish. Learning about volunteer management and the Hands on Connect platform was very important as it teaches NGOs how to track their volunteer hours, keep in contact with volunteers, and create events for their organization. Carolina Covington was onsite as well to answer any questions about the Voluntary Agencies Leading and Organizing Repair (VALOR) program. The VALOR program allows NGOs and local organizations to partner with FEMA to get needed supplies, materials and personnel to make temporary repairs that allows survivors to return to or continue to stay in their home after a natural disaster, like Hurricane Maria.

Teaching.jpg

Data Management

 The VALOR program (Voluntary Agencies Leading and Organizing Repair) provides Voluntary Agencies and NGOs with the means to make minor repairs on homes at no charge to the property owner. Sarah Klein, Data Management Specialist for the ACE Team, and Brian Owades, CNCS Disaster Cadre Member, worked on the AmeriCorps VALOR Tracking and Reporting Database while in Puerto Rico. Part of Sarah’s role was adding newly VALOR-vetted organizations to the database and reporting forms, which allowed organizations to self-report homes that were being or had been repaired through the program. Ultimately, the process allows them to see the how and where FEMA Material Request Form supplies are being utilized, which provides them with important feedback on the effectiveness of the VALOR program in assisting survivors and will help determine if this program is a viable option for future natural disasters.

In addition, Sarah also worked with Carolina Covington and Briana Owades as part of the AmeriCorps Community Engagement (ACE) Team, which meant they met regularly with Voluntary Agencies to discuss the VALOR program, volunteer management, and the new reporting process. The team collected feedback, concerns, and questions about VALOR for FEMA Voluntary Agency Liaisons. They discussed those needs and came to an amicable solution for all organizations involved.

“My role as both an ACE Team member and Data Management Specialist gave me a deep appreciation for all the incredible people of Puerto Rico who have dedicated their time, money, and energy to helping their communities. It was truly inspiring to meet with person after person, organization after organization that were all working towards the same goal of helping survivors restore their homes and livelihoods." - Sarah Klein, ACE Team Member and Data Management Specialist
Teaching2.jpg

 Service at a Local Elementary School

One Saturday during deployment, three Field Liaisons (Dillon Pride, Drew Evans, Cory Rhinehart) and the Operations Chief (Anja Hogan) for the deployment team went to Escuela Intermedia Rafael Martinez Nadal de Guaynabo, a local elementary school. Jonathan Ocasio, pastor at the local church Mar Azul, let AmeriCorps utilize a warehouse space for nine months, and in return all he asked for was help cleaning up some fallen trees and overgrown brush at the elementary school that had not been addressed since Hurricane Maria hit. "You all have the heart of what it means to be in service to others. We are so grateful that you are here today to help. And the four of you are doing the work of what we think forty would normally do," said Jonathan Ocasio. The school director hopes to have the school operational starting this school year. 

"It felt good to give back to somebody who was gracious enough to lend a warehouse space to AmeriCorps over the course of nine months. Our service meant the world to them, even though it was just a small gesture. It is going to be difficult to leave Puerto Rico knowing that there is still so much work to do." -Cory Rhinehart, ADRT Field Liaison
Elementary School.jpg

Duluth event engages 60 volunteers to tackle Japanese Knotweed and other invasive species in Fairmount Park

August 31, 2018

Conservation Corps has a long history of restoring Minnesota’s natural resources in the northeast region of the state and along the North Shore. Our office for the Northeast District is located within the Fitger’s Building in Duluth’s downtown district. However, few projects occur within the heart of the city itself. To address this issue and elevate Conservation Corps’ local presence, we partnered with the City of Duluth and MN Power/ALLETE, Inc. to organize an invasive species restoration event. The event took place on Monday, August 13, 2018 in Fairmount Park located next to the Lake Superior Zoo. Over 60 volunteers attended including Summer Youth Corps members, Young Adult AmeriCorps members, Corps alumni, and ALLETE employees. It was fun to see these groups working side by side cutting Japanese knotweed and buckthorn while pulling other invasive species such as tansy and honeysuckle, despite record-breaking heat. Read more about our RESTORE Duluth event in the Duluth News Tribune article below. 

•    Nisson, Jack, “Volunteers bank together, root out invasive species in Duluth,” Duluth News Tribune, August 13, 2018

Click through the gallery below to see images from the event.

Announcing our new Executive Director

Mark Murphy photo.jpg

August 14, 2018

Dear Friends of the Corps,

On behalf of the Board of Directors, I am thrilled to inform you that, after a comprehensive national search, we have selected Mark Murphy as the new Executive Director of Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa. 
 
Mark is a visionary leader and nonprofit professional with a passion for environmental conservation, youth development, and workforce preparedness. You can read his bio here.
 
Mark is committed to collaborating with the Board and staff to identify and execute a common vision for Conservation Corps’ future. With input from supporters like you, he will work to implement strategic priorities that sustain the success we have had over so many years. He will oversee Corps operations and foster growth in the most valuable resources of our organization.
 
Mark will officially start on Tuesday, September 4, 2018. Please join our staff and board members in welcoming him. We would love to introduce you personally and are hosting a Welcome Reception on Tuesday, September 25th from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm. For more information and to RSVP, click here.
 
Finally, please take a moment to review the 2017 Annual Report, which is a wonderful summary of the successes we have achieved together over the past year. As we transition to Mark’s leadership, we look forward to your continued partnership in restoring resources and changing lives of young people in the communities we serve. It is a privilege and honor to work alongside you as partners in this important work of providing hands-on environmental stewardship.
 
Thank you for all you have done to help us succeed. We greatly appreciate your generosity and dedicated support. 

Best regards,

 Jill Mahon Johnson Chair, Board of Directors

Jill Mahon Johnson
Chair, Board of Directors

Stairway to learning: a Shakopee Crew in action

By: Melissa Cuff - May 23, 2018

Crew Photo with Staircase.jpg

Oak Ridge Elementary School of Leadership, Environmental and Health Sciences now has a brand new 56 step stairway giving access to an outdoor classroom for 580 students of Eagan, Minnesota. This project was completed by the five-member Shakopee Crew over a three-week period in late April and early May.

Construction of the stairway required members to complete many tasks in sequence such as reading blueprints, grading, measuring, sawing, working with hand tools, and lots of digging. Shakopee Crew members also developed teamwork skills as they faced many challenges typical of outdoor construction projects including a delayed project start due to April snow storms and colder than expected working conditions.

When asked about the experience overall, Crew Leader Will Franta shared, “It was challenging at first to figure out our roles and tasks for this project because of its technical nature. But, once we got into a rhythm we realized that we could do anything that we put our minds to.” The confidence and discipline that Will describes is so critical to success in life.

Project experience is also inspiring Corps members to think beyond their service. After only four months, Shakopee Crew members shared their personal goals for the future:

“I plan to finish my bachelor’s degree in ecology.” – Alex

“I’d like pursue a career in wildlife conservation through a position with the Minnesota Zoo or with the Minnesota DNR.” – Kelsey

“I plan to join the Peace Corps.” – Amanda

“I’m hoping to discover a career I’m best suited for through this year of service.” - Joe

Thank you to Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan Public Schools (District 196) for supporting this meaningful project at Oak Ridge Elementary School. This project benefited not only the Eagan community, but it also made a positive difference in the lives of five young adult Corps members.

Our employees are experts

Our employees are experts. With degrees in environmental education, geography, biology and natural resource management and certifications as RXB2 burn bosses and arborists, Conservation Corps is lucky to have such skilled, dedicated employees. Beyond environmental expertise, many Corps staff also need to be experienced youth development workers.

download.png

Brian Hubbard, our Individual Placement Program Manager, has a Masters of Education in Youth Development and Leadership from the University of Minnesota and participated in the After School Matters Fellowship in 2013-2015. Through Action Based Research, Brian and 15 other Out of School Time (OST) Youth Work Practitioners participated in monthly writing workshops to develop content around their current work. Brian focused his research on the Corps Youth Council and his final paper was eventually submitted for review to participate in the national fellowship. This led to a weeklong writing workshop in Philadelphia with 20 other youth workers from around the United States. After about 3 years of writing, re-working and edits, his article was accepted into the After School Matters Journal.

Brian also has published chapters in two books; ‘Youth and Inequality in Education, Global Actions in Youth Work’ and ‘Evaluating Civic Youth Work’. “This was some of the most profound professional development in my career and contributed to my understanding, knowledge and experience of direct youth work practices,” said Brian. “It’s amazing to be with the Corps doing great work with incredible people and given the space and time to write and shed light on the amazing youth participants in the programs!”

Read Brian’s work:

Evaluating Civic Youth Work (Available in June 2018)

https://global.oup.com/academic/product/evaluating-civic-youth-work-9780190883836?cc=us&lang=en&

Youth and Inequality in Education, Global Actions in Youth Work. *Chapter 12.

https://www.routledge.com/Youth-and-Inequality-in-Education-Global-Actions-in-Youth-Work/Heathfield-Fusco/p/book/9781138808294

After School Matters Journal (Download the text in top right of web page)

https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1083957

After School Matters Fellowship: https://niost.org/Afterschool-Matters/afterschool-matters-fellowship

Corps Youth Council project archive: http://www.conservationcorps.org/newsroom2/2013/2/13/summer-youth-corps-offers-outdoor-opportunities-for-youth.html

Citizen Scientists

By: Danielle Yaste

IMG_8268.JPG

The International Water Institute (IWI) is a watershed based Non-Profit that has been working within the Red River Basin for over 15 years.  As an organization, it supports decision making, data collection, and education throughout the watershed, with its hallmark program being “River Watch.”  The River Watch program pre-dates IWI starting in 1995 as a response to a lack of water quality data in the Red River Basin.  In order to meet the data deficit, River Watch trained and utilized high school students to monitor their local rivers as citizen scientists.  Since then, River Watch has grown to include, on an annual basis, over 300 hundred students who continue to collect data, conduct annual projects for the River Watch Forum, and participate in River Explorers trips, which gives students the opportunity to paddle down their tributaries (some of which, have been maintained by NW CCMI Crews!).  River Watch currently works in both North Dakota and Minnesota and is consistently taking on new and engaging projects, making it a true cross-curriculum approach to watershed education.

P1080220.1.png

One of the many students to come through the River Watch Program was a young man by the name of Andy Ulven.  Andy went on to complete his Bachelor’s Degree in Geography and upon graduation he took an Individual Placement Position with Conservation Corps MN and Iowa.  During his term he visited his home watershed to share with River Watch students the opportunities that were available to them through CCMI.  A partnership was born.  Since this first interaction, IWI has utilized the Individual Placement at the University of MN Extension for collaborative work during the River Watch Forum, and then in 2015, the organization placed its first Individual Placement: me.  My name is Danielle Yaste and I served two terms with CCMI and now am a member of the Alumni Advisory Council.  I, along with CCMI alum Andy Ulven, work as a Monitoring and Education Specialists at IWI, allowing me to spend a large portion of my time working with River Watch and encouraging the youth of the Red River Basin to get outside and experience their watershed. 

IMG_6767.JPG

IWI currently has an Individual Placement, Kyle Glowa, who splits his time over multiple projects, including River Watch.  This past year, River Watch was able to offer a college and career fair to our High School participants and CCMI was proudly included in that event.  River Watch would not be possible without its multiple partnerships, and CCMI is one of those valuable partnerships.  Due to the collaboration and the development of the recent Individual Placement position, River Watch granted the Partnership Award to Brian Hubbard and the Conservation Corps of MN and Iowa.  The award was given in celebration of Hubbard and CCMI’s passion for environmental stewardship and their continued work of inspiring young professionals.  Creating a culture of environmental stewardship and awareness takes collaboration, and we are thankful for the opportunity to work with an organization like CCMI to create that culture.

To learn more about River Watch check out our Facebook Page:

https://www.facebook.com/InternationalWaterInstitute/

Or our Website:

http://iwinst.org/mesmerize/watershed-education/river-watch/

River Watch is funded primarily by the Clean Water Legacy Fund, Red River Joint Water Resource District and the Red River Management Board.

Adventure Station

MVIMG_20180407_104333.jpg

Need help planning your next outdoor excursion? Stop by the new Adventure Station at REI in Bloomington! The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trails Department and REI have partnered to launch the Adventure Station, a space to get free resources and advice on outdoor trip-planning.

Helping staff this new station is Individual Placement, Aimee Junget. Aimee is the Urban Outreach Specialist placed at the DNR, a new position focused on connecting new audiences to the outdoors.  “I love connecting people to things they didn’t know are available,” said Aimee. The Adventure Station is equipped with resources such as brochures, maps, iPads and guidebooks to connect people to new opportunities in the outdoors. “I have had great conversations with a variety of people. From those that have never stayed at a State Park to one guy who has been to every State Park in the state!” said Aimee.

Visitors can use the Adventure Station to plan their trip from start to finish. Aimee helped two women plan their first camper cabin trip from scratch! “It is fun to plan a trip with someone who is so excited to try something they have never done before,” said Aimee. And even though there is still snow on the ground, people are anxious to get outside to camp, climb, cycle and paddle at Minnesota state parks and trails. Bike trips are especially popular!

As a second year AmeriCorps member in our Field Crew and Individual Placement program, Aimee appreciates the variety of experience she has gained with the Corps, and is making the most of this brand new position.  She is excited to continue to build partnerships in order to connect new audiences to the outdoors.

The REI Adventure Station will be staffed regularly Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. as well as Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

The never ending winter

CCM Wildlife Snow 1 (1).jpg

We all can agree that this has been an extra-long winter. After a weekend of nearly two feet of snowfall it feels as if spring is nowhere in sight. The cold temperatures and late snowfall has been especially hard on our field crews, who spend nearly all of their time doing project work outdoors.

Grace Leppink, Crew Leader with the Three Rivers Wildlife Crew, spoke about how her crew has been impacted by the never-ending winter. “Last year at this time, we were in full fire prep mode. Burn season is super delayed this year. I bet we are about a month behind,” said Grace.

The Wildlife Crew takes on a variety of tasks during their service term, however, this time of year they are typically clearing trails, chopping dead wood and prepping for prescribed burns. Instead, the crew has been doing a lot of invasive species removal by clearing buckthorn.

Luckily, the crew has a good attitude and tries to make every day fun and motivating. “Even the average work days are important,” said Grace. However, the snow did make for interesting work conditions. During chainsaw training this year, the crew had to get creative, designing a makeshift sled to transport gear. Project breaks also often include a quick snowball fight between the crew members.

With proper gear and positive attitudes, our crews are still getting work done in this wintery spring!

Robert Buckthorn 4.jpg

Listening and Learning Together: Brainerd Focus Group

On Tuesday, March 27, Minnesota’s Northwest District held a Focus Group session in Brainerd at the DNR building on Minnesota Drive. The goals of the session were to 1) Develop relationships among stakeholders in the Brainerd area, 2) Identify Brainerd area community needs related to environmental conservation, 3) Gain perspective on Conservation Corps brand awareness in the Brainerd area, and 4) Understand levers impacting career pathways for young people in the Brainerd area. The eight individuals who attended provided insightful feedback particularly on recruitment, partnerships, and community needs. These stakeholders represented many organizations including the Minnesota DNR, Happy Dancing Turtle, Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District, Brainerd Parks and Recreation, and Rotary Club of Brainerd. The final session on Tuesday, April 27, 2pm at Jack Pine Brewery, will summarize results of the first session and discuss strategies to meet community needs followed by a social from 4-6pm. If you live in the area, please join us!  

Capture.PNG

Learning and Burning

Learning

20180316_164003.jpg

Each year around this time, Conservation Corps trains about 100 new Wildland Firefighters. Crews come together at Camp Ripley for an intense week of training including; classroom lectures, hands-on skills training and a work capacity test. Once complete, members earn an S-130/S-190/L-180 certificate from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources as a Firefighter Type 2. So what exactly does that mean?

AmeriCorps members spend four days in the classroom learning essentials such as; firefighter preparedness, fuel types, topographic influences, watch out situations, fire weather & behavior, cultural components of wildfire, wildland urban interface, and tools and equipment. They also get hands-on practice with fire shelter deployments, map and compass, radio communications, hand tools, pumps, hoses, Type 6 engines, firing devices, mop-up, gridding and line construction. The MN DNR is responsible for leading the trainings, however, members who have gone through the training before were able to assist in advanced leadership roles during the week.

Another component of training is the work capacity test where members must walk for 3 miles carrying a 45 pound pack in 45 minutes or less. If they are able to complete this pack test, then they receive their Red Card, which is an interagency certification that demonstrates a person is qualified to do the required job when arriving on an incident. 89 members completed the pack test this year!

After the training, everyone is qualified to work on prescribed fire or wildfires. Crews from all over the state will participate in on-call rotation status for wildfire incidents in Minnesota.  Four crews each week stand by as reserve crews in case the DNR is in need of assistance during a wildfire. Some of our crews in the Northwest and Northeast District even get to do staffing with DNR Forestry, working side by side with DNR personnel on engines.

“A big thank you goes to DNR staff for dedicating their time and efforts to produce such a valuable training,” said NW District Manager Anja Hogan. “This is not just a job for them. They are actively mentoring, providing good leadership and being a positive influence on our AmeriCorps members.”

At the end of the week, the DNR answered questions about careers in Wildland Firefighting. Even though not everyone will go into firefighting, the leadership skills, situational awareness and grit they learn during this week will apply throughout their entire life.


Burning

20180322_155527.jpg

Our Loess Hills crew didn’t waste any time before getting in the field after fire training. March 19-23, the six-person crew participated in the Loess Hills Cooperative Burn Week which included over 65 people from  20 different units made up of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, County Conservation Boards, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Doane College and Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa.

The burn week serves multiple purposes. The top priority is creating leadership and learning opportunities for new and experienced firefighters alike. This year, an S-211 portable pumps course was offered for free as part of the burn week. It is also an opportunity for firefighters in training to initiate task books and have tasks signed off on. Evaluators and mentors are made available for Squad Bosses, Burn Bosses and Fallers. Finally, it’s a chance for large, complex units to be burned to aid the recovery and sustainability of prairie remnant and woodlands in Loess Hills.

In addition to the training opportunities and chances for different agencies to work with one another, a total of 12 units were burned throughout the week totaling 1,243.7 acres.

"Even though the weather didn't turn out as we had had hoped, we got to spend our week working with firefighters from a multitude of organizations and experience levels. It was a great opportunity for the crew to meet and collaborate with project partners throughout the hills and gain valuable experience with prescribed fires. Working in the field gave us the ability to build on our classroom training by using the tools of the trade and watching fire behavior in different fuels under different weather conditions. Crew members were able to serve in a variety of roles and gain confidence in our skills - we started the week eager to learn and ended it with smiling, sweaty, sooty faces." - Inga, Loess Hills Crew Leader

20180322_181348.jpg