Young People Complete Projects to Reduce Phosphorus Pollution in Vermont Waterways as part of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps

Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, a member of 21CSC, planting trees to improve water quality

With a grant through the Ecosystem Restoration Program, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation has provided funding to support the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC) as part of the 21st Century Service Conservation Corps to complete 11 weeks of water quality improvement projects throughout the state of Vermont during 2014.  The VYCC provides employment, training and education to young people ages 16-24 through the completion of high priority conservation projects around the state.

Phosphorus is one of Vermont’s greatest water quality challenges.  In Lake Champlain, phosphorus, combined with sediment, feeds toxic algae blooms, particularly in shallow sections of the Lake such as Missisquoi Bay, Saint Albans Bay, and the South Lake region.  These toxic blooms negatively impact public health, recreation, and our immediate enjoyment of the lake.

In 2014, as part of a multi-state, international effort to reduce the amount of phosphorous in Lake Champlain, the VYCC as part of the 21st Century Service Conservation Corps will field crews to complete water quality improvement projects including river and lake shoreline stabilization, planting of native trees to create riparian buffers, and the installation of engineered stone structures to help dissipate erosive forces in storm water impacted streams.  Projects have been developed in partnership with the Connecticut River Watershed Alliance, the White River Partnership, The Black River Action Team, the Lake Iroquois Association, the Winooski Natural Resource Conservation District, and the Vermont Lakewise Program.

The VYCC is a nonprofit youth, leadership, service, conservation and education organization whose mission is to teach individuals to take personal responsibility for all their actions. Corps Members are placed on small teams under highly trained leaders to complete high priority conservation projects.  The work and living experience is intensive and many Corps Members reflect upon it as a life changing experience.

“[The VYCC] is a really cool way to see Vermont and learn about rivers and trails,” states 2013 Corps Member Ella Wegman-Lawless at the completion of her service term. She was most proud of, “the moments when we talked to each other kindly and worked together well, fueling each other’s ideas instead of putting them down.” Her teammate, Martin Badot, declared that his summer with the VYCC was “one of the best experiences of my life. One of the best, complete, outdoor experiences.” The opportunities that the VYCC provides to these young, emerging stewards of the land instills in them a greater awareness environmental and community issues of our day.

-Submitted by Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC)

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