Where are they now: Tiffany (Forner) Schaufler, Project & Land Manager at Minnehaha Creek Watershed District

October 25, 2018

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When were you in the Corps? What positions did you hold?

2007 (Crew Member - Three Rivers Park District)

2008 (Crew Leader – Central Roving)

2010 (Central Regional Field Specialist)

Where did you work and what kind of work did you do?

My first year with the Corps I spent learning all things forestry as I was stationed out of the Three Rivers Park District’s Crow-Hassan Park Reserve nursery. My second and third years with the Corps were spent “roaming” across the metro working with a variety of agencies including the Belwin Conservancy, St. Paul Parks, DNR, U.S. Fish & Wildlife and several watershed districts.

Working alongside Three Rivers Park District forestry staff I quickly learned how to nurture trees from seedling to a full-grown tree. I pruned tree roots, planted trees, harvested trees, trimmed trees, and watered trees.

During my crew leader and field specialist years I spent a lot of my time implementing lakeshore restorations, installing raingardens, assisting with prescribed burns, removing hazard trees from regional trails, and countless hours trying to defeat buckthorn.

Were there any particularly memorable or challenging experiences?

Learning how to operate a chainsaw to fell trees was an empowering and enlightening experience. Each tree brought its own unique challenges which always kept things interesting. I also appreciated felling trees on subzero temperature days as it would keep me plenty warm. Operating a chainsaw is one of the things I really miss about being in the Corps.

I jumped on the opportunity to provide emergency response work to people in Missouri after they experienced a serious ice-storm. I left that experience learning a new appreciation for what “hard-work” meant and also left with a heart-full of gratitude from all the people we met and helped.

Challenging days were certainly experienced but I always found that my fellow crew members had creative ways to combat the monotony or to fight the heat or cold.

What was/has been the most personally meaningful part of the experience?

The people and relationships that I formed during my time with the Corps will always be an important part of my life. I have been to countless happy hours and enjoy reconnecting with past Corp members on a regular basis.

In my current position it is always rewarding to work and interact with a past Corps member who is working for another natural resource agency and to reflect on how far we have both come.

How did your experience shape your current career/life?

When I joined the Corps I had no idea how to identify plants, plant trees, restore/manage native landscapes, etc. I acquired those skills over my short time with the Corps and those skills have provided me with the foundation to be successful and continue to grow in my career. My time with the Corps helped to confirm that my passion was in natural resources and that was what I should pursue as a career. The Corps also helped create connections with so many different natural resource agencies and people which allowed me to confidently begin my network within the natural resource field.

What advice would you offer to a current AmeriCorps member serving in Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa?

Work hard, make an impression on your project hosts, network with your project hosts, network, network, network! Figure out the three things you are passionate about and then figure out which companies/organizations do that type of work. Then use your network of people. It’s crazy how small the natural resource field really is – someone you know probably knows a person at the organization you are interested in working at so take advantage of it!

Ultimately at the end of the day hard work and a passion for the environment can go a long way and working hard does eventually pay off!

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What is your current position and what kind of work do you do?

Since I left the Corps in 2010 I have worked at the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) and currently hold the Project & Land Manager position.

In this position I manage the Project Maintenance and Land Management department which oversees the long-term maintenance of over 70 capital projects and uses innovative approaches to manage over 700 acres of land owned by MCWD or held by conservation easement. I also plan new projects and manage project development through feasibility, design, land acquisition, construction and maintenance. I oversee the operation of the Gray's Bay Dam and manage and coordinate MCWD’s emergency response for flood events with local and state emergency responders.

My work is currently focused in Minneapolis where I am working with staff from the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the City of Minneapolis to develop a master plan for the entire Minnehaha Creek corridor in Minneapolis.

I am also currently serving as a board member for the Women’s Environmental Network where we work to foster professional networks for women working to protect the environment.

Karl Schmidtke

How did you get involved with the Conservation Corps?

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I was a recent college graduate from the University of Minnesota-Duluth with a degree in biology and a minor in environmental sustainability.  After graduating in December I began my search for employment. A great resource for me in the process was macde.us. At this website I found the job posting for the Conservation Corps Individual Placement Academy position at a Soil and Water Conservation District as a conservation apprentice. I saw this as a great opportunity to serve a local community while gaining quality experience in my field. After applying and interviewing I accepted a conservation apprentice position located at the Le Sueur County SWCD. 

 
How long were you with the corps and what were your jobs/duties throughout your time here?

I was with the Conservation Corps for three months (May 15th - August 15th). In that time I served as a conservation apprentice at the Le Sueur County SWCD. 


Are there any meaningful stories that come to mind when you first hear the words Conservation Corps?

I will always remember my first day as a conservation apprentice. I went out to a local food plot with the Le Sueur County SWCD district manager and technician. My first task of the summer was to seed the food plot with sorghum using their new dew drop drill. At this point I knew I could make a career out of this type of work and it never would have happened without the opportunities provided by the CCM. 

Did your experience with CCMI influence your career or life?

Definitely, it allowed me to get hands on experience that couldn't be gained any other way except for working side by side with SWCD professionals. Through working as a conservation apprentice it allowed me to gain experience and build relationships necessary to further my career in environmental conservation. 


What would you say to anyone who’s interested in joining CCMI?

Join. The CCMI is a great opportunity to serve your community while preserving our natural environment and providing  valuable experience to continue working in the environmental conservation field. I would recommend joining the CCMI to anyone and especially applying for the conservation apprentice position. You will also meet great people. 

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What are you up to now?

I recently accepted the Farm Bill Technician position at the Le Sueur County SWCD. The relationships built and experience gained through the conservation corps has set me up for success in my career.            

Honorable Louis Thayer

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Human Services Judge Thayer graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1992. He was a judicial clerk with the Minnesota Court of Appeals 1992-1993.  Prior to becoming an human services judge (HSJ) in May 2000, he was a staff attorney with the department with responsibilities for contract management, data privacy, and other administrative law issues.  As an HSJ, he conducts administrative hearings on various county and state agency human services actions. In April 2006, he became one of two Assistant Chief HSJs and was later promoted to co-Chief HSJ.  He supervises 15 judges. He also serves as an ethics official for the Minnesota Department of Human Services

Thayer has volunteered on several non-profit organizations including the National Association of Hearing Officials, the Lambda Justice Center, the Minneapolis Foundation and the Minnesota Supreme Court’s Implementation Committee for Racial Fairness.  He was chair of the Public Law Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association from July 2006 to June 2008 and on executive committee of the Administrative Law section of the bar association.  He was an adjunct faculty member of William Mitchell College of Law where he has taught legal writing and a practicum on poverty law and administrative hearings.  

“I enjoyed serving in the YCC in the late 1970s.  I enjoyed making trails in the Voyageurs National Park.  Coming from the inner city it was my first time in the wilderness.  I so enjoyed the area that I bought a cabin in the BWCA twenty years later.”

Michael Wurth

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Michael Wurth joined Conservation Corps as a crew member on the St. Paul Roving Crew in 2012 and became a crew leader in 2013. Being a part of the program for two years had its’ benefits. He was not only able to gain leadership skills, but also had the rare chance to see the progress of his work a year later. The experience that truly impacted Michael, however, was his disaster deployment to aid survivors of Hurricane Sandy in New York. Michael was so impressed with how the members of the community came together during this time of tragedy.

The people he met continued to stand out through his entire Corps experience. Michael built long lasting friendships, networked with professionals to further his career and ultimately was led to his current position through staff members at the Corps. Michael took advantage of resources offered by our recruitment department to find new opportunities. He was encouraged to join the Student Conservation Association after the Corps, spending 6 months doing similar work in New Hampshire and Vermont. After that, Corps staff directed him to an open position at Urban Boatbuilders, and he has been there ever since.

Urban Boatbuilders’ mission is to empower youth to succeed in work and life through woodworking and experiential learning. Michael works as their Development Officer and Instructor, working with youth, planning outreach events, writing grants and leading fundraising efforts. Before this job, Michael had never built a boat before. But the Corps taught him that you can really do anything if you have the right combination of staff, peers, training and a positive environment.

“I'm passionate about the work I do with Urban Boatbuilders, but I wouldn't be where I am without the Corps. The Corps is more than a job. It’s an experience you take with you forever, with an open mind and open heart.”

Lindsay Frost

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1)      When were you in the Corps, year and program?

Rochester Cedars 2011, Field Crew

2)      Where did you work?

Rochester

3)      What kind of work did you do?

We were the “bluff crew” and primarily did prescribed burning, invasive and tree removals, and rattlesnake surveys on the bluffs throughout SE Minnesota. We also worked on clearing brush, trees, and invasives along trout streams and trails, and we spent a fair amount of time on “spike” trips, especially to South Dakota to help with prairie restorations.

4)      Were there any particularly memorable or challenging experiences?

I certainly remember cutting down my first tree. It was a mixture of adrenaline, excitement, relief, and fear combined with the realization that I’d be cutting down trees for a good portion of the next year. I still have the “cookie” from my first tree that my crew leader made for me.

 Photo Credit: Derek Montogmery

Photo Credit: Derek Montogmery

5)      What was/has been the most personally meaningful part of the experience?

I think I most enjoyed the people. The young people in Conservation Corps are really amazing and dedicated to improving the environment and natural resources. Also, the many partners we worked with from the Minnesota DNR and federal agencies, along with private land owners and other partners all provided great learning opportunities, experiences, and connections. I still connect with a handful of contacts at the Bureau of Land Management and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. I also ended up marrying one of my crew mates 6 years after our Corps experience together!

6)      Did your experience shape your current career/life in any way?

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Certainly! Before the Corps, I knew I wanted to work in “the environmental field,” but I only really understood what that meant in a very broad sense. Working in the Corps helped me realize the many varied facets of environmental work, and I ultimately learned that I wanted to help coordinate a range of restoration and also that community-involvement and environmental education were almost more important to me professionally than doing field work (although I did have a lot of fun using a chain saw and doing burns!). I really felt an affinity for the environmental nonprofits we worked with, and I ended up going back to graduate school for my MS in nonprofit management because of my experience in the Corps. I now work for a nonprofit doing economic, environmental, and social redevelopment in the heart of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

7)      What is your current position? What do you do?

I work for an organization called Harbor District, Inc. in Milwaukee, and my title is Manager of Water Projects. I actually work on a variety of environmental and social projects, though, ranging from improving public access and water recreation to coordinating with partners on large-scale restoration projects to leading educational kayak tours through Milwaukee’s Harbor District.

Similar to the Corps, I work with partners in all levels of government, the private sector, other nonprofits, and with academic researchers and students. I am currently working on a project where we install submerged habitat retrofits into steel sheet piling bulkheads which line much of Milwaukee’s urban rivers and waterways to improve aquatic habitat connectivity. The habitat structures are built by local technical high school students, and the project is building off of a habitat research project being conducted by the School of Freshwater Sciences at UW-Milwaukee. We just received funding through a national grant program to carry out the program for four more semesters with our partners, and hopefully the program can be replicated in other urban areas. We are also collaborating with partners to restore the last remnant wetland in the Milwaukee Estuary to provide improved fish spawning habitat.

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I really enjoy the variety in my work – we have a four-person staff, so I also help with day-to-day tasks needed to keep a small organization running. On any given day, I might process invoices for our projects, teach high school students about fish habitat in the urban environment, meet with City planners and engineers, and then lead a kayaking tour with the public.

Without my experience in the Corps, I know my professional career path would have gone in a very different direction. I learned from many great mentors in the Corps, and of course after as well, that if I wanted to work in the environmental field and do meaningful work, that I’d have to stick with it, and that advice has certainly paid off.