|Sarah Castaneda: A Firefighting Hot Shot
As a combat medic for the U.S. Army, Sarah Castaneda enjoyed the structure and direction of the military. Now, working on a fire crew as an employee of the U.S. Forest Service, Sarah finds similarities that make her appreciate her experience as a military service member. “There’s a certain structure with fire services that gives me a direction to go,” she says. But it was Sarah’s training with conservation corps that landed her a job in firefighting. “The corps opened that door for me, provided initial training, and introduced me to people who could help me get into the fire community.”
Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia on the Job
Sarah got involved with wildland fire mitigation and outdoor conservation work when she joined the Southwest Conservation Corps' Veterans Fire Corps crew in 2010. The Veterans Fire Corps is a partnership with Veterans Green Jobs. Working in several areas of the Four Corners region, she gained valuable skills and hands-on training in wildland firefighting, earned her S130/S190 fire certifications and took the S212 wildland fire chainsaw class. Under the guidance of Shawna LeGarza of the San Juan Public Lands Office, Sarah did fuels reduction work and in the winter burned slash piles. Sarah also made important connections with other Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service personnel.
Through her connections, Sarah was detailed for one month with the San Juan Hot Shots. Hot Shots are interagency fire crews that are considered an elite group among wildland firefighters. Requiring extensive training, high physical endurance and an ability to undertake difficult assignments, Hot Shot crews can respond to wildland fire incidents in any U.S. jurisdiction. It’s hard work, but Sarah thrives on it.
“I like being outside, doing labor and working with others – and it keeps me out of trouble,” Sarah says. Helping people and the environment are important aspects of the work. “There were a lot of fires this year in the wildland/urban interface that were close to structures, houses and people’s private land. Once you’re done with a project like that, there’s a feeling of self accomplishment.”
While Sarah is considering returning to college for a degree in fire science, she is content for now working for the U.S. Forest Service, and wants to make a living out of it. “I’ll do this until my body breaks down and I can’t do it anymore.”
In late July, Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia paid a visit to the Mile High Youth Corps’ Hayman Restoration crew. The crew had been building “rolling log erosion control structures” to mitigate the ongoing effects of the Hayman Wildfire on the Upper South Platte Watershed, Denver and Aurora’s major water source.
“The Lieutenant Governor expressed his gratitude for the work the crew is doing to restore this devastated environment,” said Nancy Wilson, Southern Front Range regional director for MHYC. “The crew was thrilled to show him what they had learned and share their experiences –including being evacuated during the Waldo Canyon Fire!”
Many of the corpsmembers on the crew earned AmeriCorps Education Awards administered by Serve Colorado, under the Office of Lt. Gov. Garcia.
Historic Ronald McDonald Cabin Gets a Make-Over
This summer the Boulder County Youth Corps helped preserve the Ronald McDonald Cabin, a 19th century log cabin located at Betasso Preserve in Boulder County open space. Corpsmembers repaired and replaced sill and wall logs, sometimes splicing new wood with old using a method called “dutchman.” They dug drainage ditches and installed a California drainage system around the perimeter of the cabin, removed old and added new daubing, and hand-mixed mortar to build a rock foundation.
Corpsmembers loved working on a project that needed lots of attention to detail, where they could see tangible improvements each day. They also enjoyed learning about historic preservation techniques from their team leader, Adam Sanderson, and their sponsor, Brian Bartel.
Raine Kennedy, a corpsmember on the project, said, “Youth Corps has been really fun this year! The team and team leader were great, and I definitely learned new skills.”
“All in all, I've enjoyed my experience this summer with the youth corps very much,” said Brian Bartel, facilities technician for Boulder County. “I had the opportunity to witness both the young participants’ involvement, and the advantage to the county. I can easily see why it is a win-win situation for the community, the county agencies, and the youth corps members.”
Boulder County funded this project.
Katie Lampe, VISTA Award Winner
We extend huge congratulations to Katie Lampe, who was recently honored at the State Capitol by Serve Colorado as the 2012 Outstanding AmeriCorps VISTA member. Katie is a CYCA Good Works for Youth VISTA member serving at Sand Creek Regional Greenway Partnership.
21st Century Conservation Service Corps Update
CYCA and youth corps staff have been participating in meetings of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Committee, which formed as a result of the America's Great Outdoors Initiative. The committee is chaired by Harry Bruell of the Southwest Conservation Corps. The following key recommendations were released in a recent progress report:
If implemented, these recommendations will raise the national profile and priority of conservation corps, with broad and positive repercussions for corps and the communities we serve for years to come. Stay tuned for updates!
Establish the 21CSC and Operate it Through Partnerships. These would include accredited non-profit, higher education, local, state, tribal and federal conservation corps. These programs have the expertise, experience and capacity to engage more participants.
Employ an Innovative Funding Strategy. Support the 21CSC with project-based funding from existing and new public sources leveraged and supported by private funds.
Support the 21CSC to Promote Growth and Quality. This involves establishing a permanent "National Council for the 21CSC" and with a "Federal Advisory Committee for the 21CSC" through an MOU among lead America Great Outdoors agencies.
Rapidly Increase the Scale and Presence of 21CSC. The goal is to double the current number of conservation corps participants using existing and new leveraged resources, including private funds. Set a further goal to scale up to 100,000 participants per year with new and existing funding.
Local Government, Open Space Agencies Invited to Bid
Local government and open space organizations may compete for land stewardship projects through a Request-for-Proposal process conducted by Great Outdoors Colorado and CYCA. Supported by $500,000 in GOCO/Lottery funds announced in July, these projects will create more than 200 outdoor jobs statewide for young adults through youth corps and their project partners. Agencies may obtain the Request-for-Proposal application online. The application deadline is September 24, 2012. Successful projects will be announced in December 2012 and crews will complete the proposed work in 2013.