Arizona Conservation Corps’ First Stewards Corps Working in the Tonto National Forest, Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act

The inaugural Arizona Conservation Corps First Stewards Corps crew, a program of Conservation Legacy, is working to maintain the Siphon Draw and First Water Trails, which lead into the Superstition Wilderness from Lost Dutchman State Park, just outside of Phoenix, AZ. This area is near the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and the area of the Superstition Mountains where the crew working is highly regarded by the native people from this area. This region of Arizona has hosted a relationship between the land and the people since 300 BC, when groups migrated into the Gila River Valley, and we honor this relationship with this crew and our conservation work.

The Superstition Mountains and the wilderness area that surrounds them is a special place to many people. In order to preserve and maintain the land while also allowing people to experience this wilderness, the crew is working to maintain several trails that have been damaged or were in severe disrepair. Many parts of the trail are unsafe and lead through steep and rocky terrain, which the crew is repair and increase the accessibility into this area.

The crew is expected to repair and maintain a few miles of trail in a short seven weeks, with a project end date of May 2nd. They know the importance of this wilderness and how much of an impact the Wilderness Act has had on public lands and have committed their time to successfully completing all project work. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, are the crew members themselves. This crew, made up of individuals from several different tribes, focuses on teamwork, challenge and growth. Arizona Conservation Corps has partnered with the Forest Service and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community to provide additional training and professional development support for each of the crew members. The crew has completed Wilderness Character Monitoring training, volunteered at the Salt River Earth Day Festival, and will attend a Career Resource Day at Arizona State University.

The 27,000+ corpsmembers that participate in conservation corps around the country, such as Arizona Conservation Corps, gain valuable job skills and participate in work that transforms both the land that they work on as well as their view about conservation and stewardship. Juan “Johnny” Armenta, a returning corpsmember with Arizona Conservation Corps, exemplifies the transformation that conservation corps make. Johnny is a native of Tucson, Arizona, and after graduating from Pueblo High School, he joined a conservation crew and has been working his way up to his current position of Assistant Crew Leader with the Tonto Native Wilderness crew. He has grown as a member since joining AZCC, and has one of the hardest work ethics around. He’s always ready to tackle something new, and always with a smile on his face. This past December, Johnny spent a week at Colorado Fire Camp, earning his Wildland Firefighting certifications. With his leadership experience at AZCC, his future plans include working for a Wildland Fire Crew after this session ends in May.  Another corpsmember, Marcus Newood, from Zuni, NM, who has previous corps experience working with the National Park Service, is finding this to be a rewarding experience. “Working with the crew is awesome in both project work and off time. We all get along and the laughs are always coming. This is one of the best crews I’ve ever been, on hands down!”

The work that these Corps do is only possible because of the partnerships that they have made through generations of working on America’s public lands. “This project has been made possible by a great partnership between Arizona Conservation Corps, the Tonto National Forest, the US Forest Service and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. It has taken a lot of hard work to get it off the ground, but we look forward to the future of this program after the successes we have seen in the past few weeks. It’s been wonderful to see the crew come together to accomplish their goals- they are the ones who are making this project work!”  -Jenna Rosengren, AZCC Recruitment and Member Development Coordinator

-Submitted by Conservation Legacy

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