The following is a letter written to Helen Hankins of the Bureau of Land Management as a great testimony of the Veterans Green Corps program. We wanted to share this – kudos to the VGC team!
I wanted to make you aware that the San Juan Public Lands is currently using a Veterans Green Corps (VGC) sustainable forestry crew to reduce hazardous fuels on BLM lands near Durango. The Veteran Green Corps is a partnership between the non-profit Veteran Green Jobs (VGJ) and the Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) designed to support and reintegrate veterans by providing training and employment in the natural resource conservation and renewable energy industries.
A pilot of this partnership was funded by Forest Service Recovery Act allocations to the San Juan and Rio Grande National Forests last year. Two veterans crews completed several weeks of orientation in safety, chainsaw, and basic wildfire training and then went to work. The pilot was very successful and resulted in treatment of over 400 acres of wildland urban interface that could not be treated mechanically or with prescribed fire because of the extreme proximity to homes and steep topography.
The San Juan PLC then sought to expand the program to include BLM public lands. The CEOs of VGJ and SCC briefed the FS Chief and BLM Director last year on the partnership. Bob Abbey issued an IB describing the Veteran Green Jobs program and encouraging field units to use the crews if appropriate. With BLM fuels funding to treat Animas City Mountain, within the Durango city limits, the Columbine FO developed an MOU with SCC to employ the first crew ever to work on BLM lands.
I had the pleasure of visiting with the crew this week as they began thinning the first unit on Animas City Mountain. I was impressed at how well trained, cohesive, and efficient the crew was. The individuals on the crew expressed appreciation for the program, the experience, and opportunity it provides for potential long term employment with one of the land management agencies. The Durango cable public access station filmed the crew and is producing a feature on local fuels reduction efforts that will air here in July. I’ll send you a web link to the video once its up. Attached are some photos of the crew.
All in all, this is an outstanding partnership that offers employment and career training to our veterans and provides us with a way to treat critical WUI acres that we might otherwise not. Please share as appropriate.
Associate Center Manager / Deputy Forest Supervisor
BLM / Forest Service – San Juan Public Lands