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Wyoming Conservation Corps Will Be Back at Work This Summer

January 23, 2014
Two students working on river bank
Wyoming Conservation Corps members work to clear a new trail at Curt Gowdy State Park. Plans call for the WCC to work on 18 projects around the state this summer. (UW Photo)

The Wyoming Conservation Corps (WCC) has received one-time funding to complete 18 field projects this summer, the program’s director says. 

Administered by Residence Life and Dining Services (RLDS) in the University of Wyoming Division of Student Affairs, WCC is a grant-supported program that engages students in conservation-based projects throughout the state, Patrick Call says. In December, project proposals for summer 2014 were put on hold while administrators worked to establish a more sustainable funding system to support the program.

WCC has received a loan from the UW Research Office ($41,000) and one-time funding from RLDS (about $200,000) to support the program this summer, including hiring two individuals to lead WCC projects, Call says. In previous years, six crews each worked three 10-day projects, for a total of 36 projects.

The plan for this summer calls for three crews to complete 18 10-day projects. Call says nine of the projects will be sponsored by the Wyoming Division of State Parks and Historic Sites, traditionally the cooperating agency that supports the most WCC work projects each year. The newly hired program coordinator, Patrick Harrington, already is working to fill the remaining nine projects.

The second position that Call plans to fill soon is a field supervisor who will oversee training and scheduling and will obtain essential equipment and supplies. Additionally, advertising for students to fill the work crew positions will take place soon.

“Our intent all along was to find a way to continue the program this summer,” Call says. “We have received nothing but positive feedback about the work our student crews do for the state and for the people of Wyoming. Now that the financial concerns appear to be resolved, we’re excited to get back out into the field.”

WCC is a grant-funded program that has been supported by the Corporation for National and Community Services’ AmeriCorps program, Wyoming State Legislature and cooperating partners including the Bureau of Land Management, Wyoming Division of State Parks and Historic Sites, national parks and some industry, corporate and nonprofit organizations.

The grants, plus program costs paid for by the cooperating agencies, will cover the loan repayment, Call says.

Looking forward, Call will develop a budget to sustain the WCC for years to come. He says one problem was that the program grew quickly, without the necessary growth in support to sustain the program.

“The rates we charged did not keep up with costs of fuel, equipment and other expenses,” Call says. “We are now taking a close look at what our actual costs are, and will determine how much we will need to charge to sustain the program.”

To maintain a sustainable program, Call says the WCC likely will continue to offer 18 summer projects before considering expanding to offer more projects.

Students gain leadership experience and skills in projects ranging from maintaining habitat for wildlife and mitigating bark beetle impacts on the forests to creating recreational trail systems and restoring historic sites.

“Some students have told me that working on WCC projects has been a life-changing experience,” Call says. “They are able to go out there and connect with the land and the environment, and be able to do things and give back to the greater good.”

Founded in 2006, the WCC continues the civil service tradition of the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s and Youth Conservation Corps of the 1970s. Nearly 300 students have completed more than 200 projects relating to energy, wildlife, recreation, grazing, timber management, property restoration and maintenance, and water and air quality.

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