Initiative trains local youth in coastal restoration to assist in Gulf Oil Spill recovery

Through Gulf Coast Restoration Initiative, teens and young adults to gain skills in aquatic resource management and coastal habitat monitoring

Gulfport, MS – Young people from communities along the Mississippi Gulf Coast began training last week as part of the pilot project of the Gulf Coast Restoration Initiative (GCRI): an effort to develop the capacity of Service and Conservation Corps in Gulf State communities. Over the next five weeks, youth engaged in this pilot project will learn about aquatic resource management and begin restoring and monitoring streams and coastal habitats in Mississippi’s Hancock, Harrison and Jackson Counties.

The Gulf Coast Restoration Initiative (GCRI) was developed through a partnership between The Corps Network (TCN) and The Walton Family Foundation. Under this initiative, The Corps Network partnered with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to fund the current pilot project through TNC’s Coastal Stream and Habitat Restoration and Management Initiative. With funding from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Equality (MSDEQ) and the National Fish and Wildlife (NFWF) Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, TNC created this initiative in response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

The Corps Network, the national association of Service and Conservation Corps, is leading the pilot project through a partnership between Texas Conservation Corps, one of TCN’s member Corps programs, and CLIMB CDC, a nonprofit workforce development organization based in Gulfport, MS and The Corps Network’s first member in Mississippi. The goal of this pilot project is to develop a local workforce skilled in water monitoring and environmental field techniques.

Service and Conservation Corps are comprehensive youth development programs that engage diverse, and often disadvantaged, young people (16 – 25) in service projects designed to address important environmental and community needs. Corpsmembers receive a living allowance, scholarship money and access to counseling and career-planning assistance. Through participating in service projects, Corpsmembers gain hands-on job experience and earn credentials. By expanding and developing Service and Conservation Corps in the Gulf States, the GCRI will repair and revitalize the Gulf’s coastal ecosystems while seeking to prepare local youth for in-demand jobs in aquatic resource management.

“This is a fantastic example of communities connecting with their natural resources and protecting their livelihoods as well as the ecosystems around them,” said Tom Mohrman, The Nature Conservancy’s Director of Marine Programs. “The Corpsmembers are collecting important data that can help inform restoration plans that can make these habitats and communities less vulnerable to coastal hazards.”

During the first week of the five-week GCRI pilot project, an eight-person crew, consisting of six Corpsmembers from the local community (plus two Crewleaders from Texas Conservation Corps), will undergo training in water monitoring techniques, construction, water safety and basic First Aid. Over the following four weeks, the crew will travel throughout Hancock, Harrison and Jackson Counties to sample water quality, aquatic invertebrate populations, and freshwater fish populations. On October 24, 2014, The Corps Network will, in conjunction with United Way of South Mississippi’s Leo Seal Jr. Day of Caring, host a GCRI Day of Service to engage community members in a service/learning project at Gulf Islands National Seashore’s Davis Bayou.

“The Gulf Coast Restoration Initiative addresses multiple issues in communities affected by the Gulf Oil Spill and other recent environmental disasters,” said John Hosey, The Corps Network’s Director of Gulf Coast Restoration Development. “This model will help restore the coastal habitats that are vitally important to our economy while employing our youth and returning veterans in meaningful jobs. Corps have a long history of successfully responding to disasters and meeting critical community needs in a cost-effective manner; I’m excited to see what Corps can do for our communities in the Gulf.” 

“We’re pleased that graduates of CLIMB CDC’s Workforce Training Institute are serving as crew members for this important coastal project,” said Lori West, CEO of CLIMB CDC. “Our partnership with The Corps Network extends the commitment we made in 2010 to restore the lives of residents and the ecosystem of the Coast following the Deep Horizon Oil Spill.”

Following the five-week pilot project, Corpsmembers will understand how to analyze the physical and chemical properties of soil, sediment, and water samples; know how to identify native and invasive species; know how to use and apply GPS technology; understand how to assess the health of a coastal ecosystem; earn OSHA 10-hour construction safety; complete Coast Guard Water/Boat safety, and gain numerous other important skills.

The media are invited to see the pilot project in action on the morning of Tuesday, October 28 at 9:00 a.m. The crew will cast off from the Gulfport Lake boat ramp located at Rippy Road, Gulfport, MS 39507 (Bayou Vista Golf Course). Later that morning they will be. at 4003 Washington Avenue and Mimosa Drive in Gulfport to collect samples and data from Brickyard Bayou. Please contact John Hosey (contact information below) for more information regarding this project or to confirm site locations.

Information about each organization involved:

The Corps Network provides critical leadership to the Corps movement and our nation’s Service and Conservation Corps as they harness the power of youth and young adults to tackle some of America’s greatest challenges and transform their own lives. Our 100+ members operate in all states and the District of Columbia. Each year they collectively enroll approximately 26,000 Corpsmembers from ages 16-25. Corps are comprehensive youth development programs that provide their participants with job training, academic programming, leadership skills, and additional support through a strategy of service that improves communities and the environment. Learn more at www.corpsnetwork.org

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 18 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 117 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org

CLIMB CDC is a Mississippi non-profit and community development agency that provides workforce training, housing and financial counseling, housing development and disaster recovery services in the Gulf South Region. In partnership with local and regional organizations and donors, CLIMB CDC builds sustainable, community-based programs for low and moderate income residents that have created over $145 million in community and economic benefits. The agency’s Workforce Training Institute, which has served over 450 individuals, provides employment and business training related to construction, culinary arts, small business start-ups and computer networks and installation. The agency is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization that is governed by a Board of local community and business leaders. www.climbcdc.org

Texas Conservation Corps is an AmeriCorps service program of American YouthWorks, a nationally recognized job training nonprofit headquartered in Austin, Texas.  Each year the program engages over 100 diverse youth and college-aged young adults in critical, hands-on conservation and disaster service projects, giving participants the skills and opportunities to solve real life community and environmental problems. Building a trail at a Texas State Park, habitat restoration in deep East Texas, helping out in the aftermath of a flood in the Rio Grande Valley, hazard tree felling for a city park and preserve system, or managing volunteers at a conservation project just about anywhere in the Southwestern and Gulf regions- these are just a few of the projects we might be doing each week. Texas Conservation Corps (TXCC) is a powerful regional resource, not only for our conservation and disaster services, but also for our program alumni, who leave the program trained and ready to become the next leaders in these important fields. www.americanyouthworks.org/job-programs/texasconservationcorps

Contact:

John Hosey
Director of Gulf Coast Restoration Development, The Corps Network
www.gulfcorps.org
jhosey@corpsnetwork.org
228.239.2434