Ryan Lisson’s first connection to the Corps was through Youth Outdoors (YO) when it was a pilot program in 2008. He served the following two years as a YO leader and field crew member, working out of the Central District in Saint Paul. YO AmeriCorps members serve in unique positions within the year-long field crew program, working eight months of the term as youth leaders afterschool and on Saturdays during the fall and spring and full-time during an eight week summer session. During the remaining hours they serve in a more traditional crew. Ryan worked with crews of urban high school youth members to conduct natural resource management work, education activities and job skills training. In the field, he worked throughout the metro area on habitat improvement projects, prescribed burns, native prairie plantings, oak stand regeneration projects and, of course, invasive species removal.
He recalls a particularly challenging (but very rewarding) project restoring a bluff top prairie in southeast Minnesota in July. In record-setting heat, his crew carried their gear up and down the bluff each day and they had to take water breaks every 15 minutes. What kept them going was knowing that a beautiful prairie would enhance the scenic view one day. Ryan is still amazed when he visits parks and natural areas around the metro and sees the prairies and woodlands he helped restore. “It’s an honor to share in the CCC tradition, and know I left a lasting positive impression on the world,” he said.
Today, Ryan works as a wetland/wildlife project scientist at Environmental Resources Management, an environmental consulting company, helping to assess environmental impacts from different types of project proposals and find ways to avoid or mitigate those impacts. He credits his time in the Corps with teaching him the value and reach of a good team effort. “It made me appreciate the value of volunteer work,” he said, “and the fact that only a few individuals with a common cause can make a dramatic impact.”