NOAA veteran and conservation corps efforts are creating a community of habitat restoration practitioners across the nation made up of veterans, young adults, and others. The programs are boosting coastal communities by recruiting, training, mentoring, and employing workers to implement habitat restoration projects in support of long-term coastal restoration. There are three unique regional efforts that are a reflection of the wide range of habitats and species we work to protect, conserve and restore.
On the Gulf Coast, the GulfCorps program, funded by the RESTORE Act and in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, and local organizations in each of the Gulf states, is helping NOAA to restore degraded coastal habitats there. Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas are all benefiting from restoration crews of young adults from local communities. GulfCorps participants are trained to restore coastal habitats like wetlands, oyster reefs, rivers and streams, all while gaining job skills that will help with academic or career goals. The GulfCorps program and crews recently finished a successful first year of work, and we’re expanding to engage more participants in more locations in fall of 2018.
Our other two efforts, both on the West Coast, are focused on training armed service veterans in habitat restoration and restoration effectiveness monitoring.
For the past six years the Veterans Corps Fisheries Program in California has been providing post-9/11 veterans with opportunities to train in fisheries habitat restoration up and down the state. Six corps locations provide vets with a variety of coastal and marine ecosystems to work in, with restoration experts from more than 15 state, federal and non-profit partners. Veterans are helping restore habitat for threatened and endangered species like salmon and steelhead, in places like the Eel River in northern California, and the Ventura River in the south.
In Washington, in partnership with the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs, veterans are employed and trained in habitat restoration internships. Participants gain valuable skills through an individualized applied science experience helping us evaluate success of NOAA’s restoration efforts in the Pacific Northwest. In collaboration with NOAA Staff and other outside academic institutions, veterans are monitoring restoration projects in the field, analyzing data and authoring reports that contribute to the scientific community. During and after the six-month experience, interns become a part of a statewide network valuable for leveraging next steps in their careers.
Our veteran and conservation corps initiatives are aligned with NOAA Fisheries’ commitment to partnering with organizations and efforts enhancing ecosystem, community, and economic resiliency around the country. These efforts will help sustain valuable fisheries habitat, and provide participants with employable skills to support long-term coastal economies and restoration right where they live.