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21CSC Champion of the Year 2020 – Kim Wren

The 21CSC Champion of the Year Award is presented on an annual basis to dedicated individuals from organizations and federal agencies that partner with 21CSC programs. The 2020 honorees will be recognized in Washington, DC during the annual meeting of the Partnership for the 21CSC, part of The Corps Network 2020 National Conference. RSVP to attend the annual meeting by clicking here.


Kim Wren
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve (ANERR)

Kim Wren serves as the Assistant Manager/Environmental Manager for the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve in Florida. In this role, Kim ensures that operations, resource management, restoration and conservation goals are met for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). She also oversees management of the region’s eleven aquatic preserves, as well as the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve. Kim was a foundational partner in the development of Conservation Corps of the Forgotten Coast and Conservation Corps of the Emerald Coast (both programs of Franklins Promise and the GulfCorps initiative).

“Kim Wren is is committed to the success of the young people in these programs, serving not just as a technical expert in coastal conservation, but as a mentor and teacher.”
– Joseph Taylor, Executive Director, Franklin’s Promise Coalition

Continue reading for a Q&A with Kim

Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get started in conservation/land and water management?
I am a Florida native, born in Miami, and have always enjoyed being outside in nature, whether playing in the woods or at the beach. I have a degree in Biological Sciences and have conducted focused research on sea turtle nesting behavior at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. I have also worked with the University of Florida’s Wildlife Cooperative Department to monitor and tag nesting sea turtles in Northwest Florida.

Over the last 19 years, I have worked for the Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection (CAMA, FCO) and have extensive experience in coastal resource management. I started as a Research Technician, became the Central Panhandle Aquatic Preserve Manager, moved on to Stewardship Land Manager, and now, Environmental Manager.


Tell us about how you have engaged with Service and Conservation Corps.
The Reserve works with the local community on a variety of projects and had been looking to enhance partnerships that engage the community and youth in environmental stewardship, sustainability and the conservation of natural resources. After learning about the goals of the Conservation Corps of the Forgotten Coast program, it seemed like the perfect fit. The Corps has helped us meet our resource management goals by assisting with activities including prescribed fire and prep; invasive species monitoring/removal; enhancing public access; marine debris removal; and coastal restoration.

The partnership has been extremely valuable to the Apalachicola Reserve and the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve. The Corps team has allowed us to meet goals that may have been put on the back burner due to our already loaded staff responsibilities.


What advice would you offer to other employees from land/water management agencies and nonprofits that are interested in partnering with 21CSC programs (What to expect, etc.)?
It is a great opportunity all around. You will accomplish conservation goals and be involved in a program that is helping local youth, young adults, and Veterans in the community get on-the-job training. There is work in the beginning to outline a clear plan with identified goals and outcomes. Coordination is needed to get everything up and running smoothly and good communication is very important to the success of the partnership. You can expect to get stuff done quickly with a well-trained crew.


What are the most beneficial aspects of partnering with a 21CSC Program?
Our partnership with the program has moved us much further along in restoring, enhancing and protecting valuable habitats on Reserve-managed lands. It has been rewarding to watch the team evolve and grow into these invaluable natural resource partners. This program empowers young people to positively impact their lives and provides a range of training and experiences that will allow them to do that. This partnership has allowed the Reserve and the Preserve to get projects done that may have otherwise been put on the back burner due to a lack of staff capacity.

I am proud to be a partner and to be able to help build this valuable program in our community. We have similar goals of educating our youth to appreciate the natural resources and the place they call home. ANERR and the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve are committed to the success of the Corps partnership. It has had a positive impact on our environment, the local community and the participating Conservation Corps crew members.


What advice would you offer to young people in 21CSC programs who are interested in careers in conservation and land/water management?
Try different things to find your passion. Internships and volunteering are a great way to get hands-on experience and to develop skills. Get as much training as you can. Always continue to learn and try new things. Ask for help and ask questions. There are no dumb questions.