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American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides major funding for youth and conservation corps.

arrow From the Summer 2009 issue of American Trails Magazine

 

Shovels in the ground for recovery

photo of young people carrying rocks

Coconino Rural Environmental Corps works in the Four Corners area

 

UNDER THE CURRENT American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, public lands agencies have begun to receive funding for extensive backlogged work. Corps have made excellent partners for this funding because the purpose of the Recovery Act is both to restore America’s infrastructure and employ its people. Partnering with Corps delivers both benefits, especially in locations where economic benefits to tourism and the recreation industry are stimulated by freshly-restored public lands. Including young Corpsmembers in this opportunity also builds a new generation of land management professionals. (And it doesn’t hurt that young Corpsmembers are likely to stimulate the economy sooner rather than later by spending their paychecks promptly.)

The first group of Forest Service projects created by the Act add up to a total of $98 million nationwide, and are likely to result in 1,500 jobs. The remaining projects, for $1.052 billion, will provide an additional 23,500 jobs nationwide. In addition, the National Park Service will invest $750 million of Recovery funds in nearly 800 projects.

Initiatives will preserve and protect national icons and historic landscapes, improve energy efficiency and renewable energy use, and remediate abandoned mine lands. Similar funding opportunities are expected to be available through the other federal land management agencies in the near future. The action was slow to get started but is now under way. The California Conservation Corps claimed the honor of putting the first Forest Service shovel in the ground, as the CCC began projects in the San Bernardino National Forest addressing a tremendous backlog of trail needs, including maintenance, reconstruction, and survey work in all three of the Forest’s ranger districts.

photo of trail worker

Minnesota Conservation Corpsmember working on rock steps

Forest Supervisor Jeanne Wade Evans commented, “These conservation jobs will provide multiple land benefits for the citizens of southern California doing work on your national forest. In addition, the Forest Service will provide these young adults with opportunities to learn about and compete for long-term conservation careers.”

Forest Service funding will also provide $557,000 in a partnership with the Minnesota Conservation Corps to improve conditions on the Superior National Forest’s extensive trail system, including hiking, portage, crosscountry skiing, snowmobiling, ATV, and interpretive trails. Trail work will involve brushing, tread work, installation of water control structures, boardwalk reconstruction, and trail sign maintenance. Corpsmembers will receive professional certifications in wildfire suppression, chain-saw safety, and first aid, providing them not only with skills, but with portable evidence of their accomplishments and abilities.

Other Corps have been in conversation with Recovery Fund opportunities, but as of this writing had not solidified agreements. Dustin Woodman of the Coconino Rural Environmental Corps reports discussions with Grand Canyon National Park about possible significant funding for recreational improvements. Projects could include trail work on the highly trafficked corridor trails in the canyon, restoration of some historical sites, and repair and rehabilitation of water pipe lines that service the south rim of the canyon.

In most regions with large areas of public land, many experienced land management professionals are entering retirement age, making a strong case for using these opportunities to let young men and women experience the rewards and hard work that come from maintaining, restoring, and improving the heritage represented by our national parks and forests.

 

Learn about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and its potential for funding trails on public lands at www.AmericanTrails.org/support.

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