The Partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Corps has selected several partners who work with 21CSC programs to recognize as “21st Century Conservation Service Corps Champions of the Week.” This week, Coreen Francis, Lead Forester for the Nevada Bureau of Land Management is recognized.
Nominated by Nick Nelson of the Nevada Conservation Corps, Nick wrote that “Coreen has proven to be dedicated to building the capacity of youth who come through the Nevada Conservation Corps. She always dedicates additional time to educating Corpsmembers on the role they perform for the RMP, as well as the impacts they have on each facet on the Bureau’s overall state plan. She traditionally exposes the members to aspects of the BLM that are outside of their normal scope of work, through educational opportunities by her colleagues or experts in the field, to showcase the numerous opportunities that the BLM affords in career management. Coreen has also taken a keen interest in developing the skills of underserved youth populations, such as Native American tribal youth of Nevada.” Coreen kindly agreed to answer our questions about working with youth programs via email. Thanks to Coreen for her efforts to support youth and cultivating them as stewards of our public lands.
How long have you been working with the Bureau of Land Management and how did you get started?
I’ve been working for BLM since 1998 and before that I worked with the Forest Service (May 1993). I was a seasonal forestry technician on my initial appointment.
When did you start working with young people, and specifically conservation corps?
Off and on throughout my career I’ve participated in various youth programs (clean up days, camps, environmental interpretation). I started working with the Nevada Conservation Corps (NCC) in September of 2012.
Why do you think it’s important to connect young people to public lands and the conservation field?
This next generation hasn’t been as connected to the outdoors as previous generations. There are a lot of misconceptions about public land management and conservation that need to be addressed with the next generation. Getting them out on the land doing hands on projects is the best way for them to understand the complex issues and solutions to those issues.
How do Corps better prepare Corpsmembers and crew leaders for natural resource and conservation careers, and how do you think land managers can help youth make the most of their experience?
It is hard to prepare young people for the reality of conservation work (the rugged terrain, hard work, heat, weather, etc) but I feel the NCC does a really good job. They instill a professional ethic in their crews of zero tolerance for drugs, alcohol, mistreatment of fellow crew members, swearing, etc. I think a video detailing the work and the close quarters that are shared would be highly beneficial. Recruits being able to talk to previous members is also highly beneficial.
Managers and project leaders need to spend more time with Corps crews to explain project objectives, constraints, and controversial topics. They also need to understand that the goal is not to get project work done, rather it is to raise the next generation of conservationists.
From your experience, what are the most suitable projects to work on with Corpsmembers?
Any project that doesn’t require immense work output to be accomplished is highly suitable to Corps crews. The goal should be about learning and developing skills they can take with them. I use my crews for vegetation management projects and from this they learn chainsaw skills.
What type of funding have you and your agency used to support partnering with a conservation corps?
I have used one time forestry funding, Nevada Department of Wildlife funding, and a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps has the potential to bring significant attention to the work young people can accomplish on public lands and in their communities. It also has the potential to bring more funding across federal, state, and local agencies to support conservation corps and other youth programs. Given that many initiatives and programs come and go, what do you think will give the 21CSC staying power, and help it leave behind a unified legacy that captures the American imagination like the Civilian Conservation Corps?
The Conservation Corps in different forms has been around for several decades. I think an endowment fund would really provide the longevity the program needs.
Is there anything else you would tell land management agency employees interested in partnering with a local corps?
Just do it – we need to develop the next generation of conservationists!