|Dolores River Restoration: Taming the Tamarisk
The Dolores River flows for more than 200 miles through southwestern Colorado and eastern Utah to its confluence with the Colorado River. Unfortunately, the invasion of tamarisk, a non-native plant species has spread extensively along the banks of the river, displacing native vegetation, impairing wildlife habitat, and affecting the health and sustainability of the river’s vegetative communities. The Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC), the Western Colorado Conservation Corps, and the Canyon Country Youth Corps are three of about 20 organizations that helped form the Dolores River Restoration Partnership in 2009 to restore riparian habitat through the entire watershed.
In spring 2012 alone, corps crews have treated more than 32 acres of tamarisk and employed 24 young adults – 14 of whom earned AmeriCorps Education Awards totaling $20,468. Overall since 2009, the three corps have treated 379 acres and engaged 104 young adults in these projects.
Tamarisk Mitigation's Ties to the Colorado Economy
J. Aaron Lewis is one SCC crew member who shares his experience working on the Dolores River Restoration crew this year:
“My service with this project was one the best experiences of my life. I will never forget what I learned and endured in the field. I went into the corps with great interest in the environment and conservation, but with minimal knowledge of the project. The physical work, coupled with the project’s numerous educational components, gave me a broader understanding of the role I was playing,” Aaron said. Aaron was fortunate to land an internship position with the Bureau of Land Management, which will allow him to continue working on the Dolores River Restoration Project. “I am very excited to be able to monitor what we have already done and contribute more to an effort that I believe will better myself and the community and environment.”
Mike Wight, director of Corps River Restoration, speaks about the challenges of working with tamarisk, and what youth corps brings to this project: “Treating tamarisk as an initial step in restoration is some of the most grueling project work in which corps engage. The young adults who serve on these crews bring enthusiasm, energy and excitement to the project and leave with a comprehensive understanding of invasive species management, riparian function, and appreciation for river systems in the southwest. These folks work incredibly hard in a variety of challenging conditions to help improve habitat for the benefit of future generations, wildlife, recreation, and other uses.”
Stacy K. Beaugh, executive director of the Tamarisk Coalition, added, “The corps have played an enormous role in the partnership, not only in getting work done on the ground, but inspiring the rest of us to try and keep up! The passion and work ethic that these young people bring to this project is invaluable.”
Learn more about this great work on YouTube.
Visit the Dolores River Restoration Partnership website.
Contact Mike Wight for further details: firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHOTO 1: J. Aaron Lewis, Southwest Conservation Corps Member, works on the Dolores River Restoration Project.
PHOTO 2: J. Aaron Lewis
Tamarisk isn't only problematic on the Dolores River; the Colorado River is also affected. Residents planning to hike, fish, raft or camp along the Colorado River this summer will once again want to thank their local youth corps. Western Colorado Conservation Corps (WCCC) crews have been working for many years to mitigate tamarisk infestation along the river to improve recreational access and preserve wildlife habitat. Check out pictures of the WCCC chainsaw crew rafting the river to tackle hard-to-reach tamarisk stands. Plus, if it's good for the river, it's good for the economy. Recreation on the Colorado River and its tributaries contributes about $17 billion in direct spending annually to the economies of six of the states – including Colorado – that depend on its water. Read more in a recently released study: “Colorado River generating money and jobs”.
$3.7 Million in Competitive Grants for Outdoor Youth Jobs
President Obama’s administration announced plans to hire 20,000 young people for summer work opportunities in national forests, national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands. Two Colorado corps (Southwest Conservation Corps and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps) were granted funds – for a total of 100+ young adult jobs!
We like what Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Tom Vilsack had to say: "This program is putting youth to work and making our nation's public lands more accessible. 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." And with youth and young adult unemployment at 25%, every job counts. CYCA thanks President Obama, Secretary Vilsack, and Secretary of the Interior Salazar for their leadership on this issue. Read more on the U.S. Dept. of the Interior’s website.
Forest Thinning and Prescribed Fires: A Big Need
This summer, our thoughts and wishes are with those affected by the multiple fires throughout Colorado that have devastated homes and displaced many families. The number and size of wildfires are growing in Colorado, despite forest thinning initiatives and prescribed burns. But these measures are still needed in order to prevent bigger, more devastating fires from occurring in the future. With all of the fire activity occurring in the state so far this summer, state and federal agencies continue to look to youth corps for help on fire mitigation projects. Recently, the Denver Post covered this topic and included a photo of Tom Pryor, crew leader for the Larimer County Youth Conservation Corps, whose crew was performing fire-mitigation work around Brainard Lake, near Ward. Read more: Hayman fire, 10 years later: More forests being allowed to burn.
Colorado Lottery: Not Just for Luxuries
CYCA applauds a recent guest commentary about the benefit of Colorado Lottery/Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) funds for local communities. We couldn't agree more with the statements, "GOCO grants are used not for frivolous expenditures but for projects that make a real difference in the everyday lives, health and pocketbooks of Coloradans across the state....Parks, playgrounds, community gardens and connected trails are not simply amenities, but real drivers in local economies - drivers of tourism, of property value, of health, and ultimately of jobs." Thank you, Tim Wohlgenant (Colorado and Southwest director for the Trust for Public Land), Happy Haynes (Denver School Board member), and Sam Mamet (executive director of the Colorado Municipal League), for writing such a compelling article. Read "Great Outdoors Colorado an investment in future."
Watch a Movie With Us
If you haven't had a chance to see youth corps in action - we encourage you to check out the Colorado Lottery's brief movie of our work. Please take three minutes out of your day and check out the video showing youth corps putting Great Outdoors Colorado Lottery funds to work - and feel free to share it with your friends!
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