Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Idaho Youth Conservation Corps

I haven't written here in awhile, been pretty busy this summer and fall with many projects.

You might remember me talking about the potential of starting an Idaho Youth Conservation Corps where Idaho teens can get outside and work on conservation projects throughout the state (see my last post here).

It's taken a few of us some time, but we were able to put together a successful pilot program this last summer. We were able to work with some great partners within the Dept of Labor, BLM and some private 501(c)3 groups and put 6 teens to work on various projects within 100 miles of the Treasure Valley. Sportsman's Warehouse stepped up supplied boots and gloves for the teens, DirecTV provided water bottles and The Hagedorn Group provided a water cooler for the team. The teens were paid a good working wage through some federal funds available through the Idaho Dept of Labor.

Projects consisted of refurbishing and building trails, cleaning up garbage dumped in the desert, removing old fence lines, weed bio-control projects... lot's of "outside stuff" where some teens with great potential got the opportunity to work for good wages and make a difference in our state's environment. They were mentored and led by a great college grad that took them out on these projects and ensured everyone was safe and projects were completed on or before the deadlines set for them.

One of the requirements we set up from the beginning was that prior to each project, the "project owner" was required to do some team training on why their project was important to the state and it's long term conservation impact to the area in which they would be working. The teens really appreciated understanding the need for the projects and helped them better understand why it was important providing an incentive to do a better job. The teens were also required to keep a journal of their daily work so that they and their team leader could go back and review their accomplishments.

At the end of the 6 week pilot program, we had learned quite a number of lessons on things we could do better and groups that would really help contribute projects and funding. Because there was not focal point for Idaho teens, there are currently quite a number of state and federal agencies that hire kids from out of state to come work on these types of projects in Idaho, so it was a matter of bringing these agencies together and putting to work a focal point to join Idaho teens with the planned Idaho conservation projects.

The Department of Labor was perfectly positioned and enthusiastic to perform as the focal point of joining tasks and our high school teens that would be looking for summer work. Gov. Otter is excited about the program and has directed his agencies to see where they can dovetail into the IYCC concept.

Currently, out of state vendors for these conservation projects bring in kids at a much higher cost than it would be if we could hire local kids to take care of some of the projects that are worked on in Idaho every summer. By getting our state and federal agencies to join with the Dept. of Labor in supporting the IYCC, we can not only save tax Dollars by not having to pay for the overhead of food/lodging of those coming in from out of state to complete the tasks assigned, but employ our teens on Idaho conservation projects out of doors (... and away from the Xbox).

As an example, as it's done today, out of state vendors would come to (put in your local town name here) and set up a camp for their workers (which costs the agency more money) so they could then travel back and forth to their assigned projects. The plan is to make our local Idaho teens aware of the conservation jobs available and then put local teams together of all over the state to work on the projects that are required in that area.

State and federal agencies are now putting their projects together for a March 1st targeted kickoff of putting teams of Idaho teens together for summer jobs. Depending on the projects, teams will consist of an older Team Leader (trained by IYCC) and 4 to 12 teens.

City and county projects are out there as well and can be dovetailed into this program. There are also a number of conservation minded, non-profit organizations that also have projects or funding that can be focused on putting our Idaho teens to work outside on Idaho conservation projects.

From trail building and maintenace, bio-control of weeds to stream bank restoration, there are a ton of Idaho outdoor projects that we can be putting our Idaho teens to work on. We've got the Idaho Youth Conservation Corps now established to do just that. With great state, federal and non-profit partners, we can all help our next generation have some "skin in the game" by working on and "owning" some of Idaho conservation projects that could last longer than their lifetime...

Anyone interested in helping out or learning more about Idaho's IYCC can drop me a note at: marv@marvhagedorn.com

Your thoughts?
(added 1-2-09: Forgot to mention that we are also working with the Dept of Ed as they have a mandate for Senior HS graduation to have completed a Senior project in 2013. We are working to try to tie the IYCC projects into this requirement that would allow Seniors to work on projects within the IYCC program that could have some educational components that would support the Senior project required to graduate from high school. The Dept of Ed has been onboard with this from the beginning, having seen the potential to tie these two efforts together.)