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Oregon Conservation Corps Partnership Connects Veterans with Habitat Restoration Efforts

Built on the success of other West Coast programs, veterans are gaining experience and skills in natural resource careers with NOAA in Oregon.

Two smiling people stand on a structure in front of a bridge Jodie Robinson (left) and Garret Engelke, 2023 NOAA veteran interns in Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, visit a restoration project on the Yakima River in Washington. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

Program Overview

The NOAA Restoration Center and West Coast Region have partnered with Mt. Adams Institute, a local non-profit organization, to provide diverse internship opportunities to veterans. Mt. Adams Institute's VetsWork: Environment is an 11-month career development internship program for military veterans interested in the natural resources management field. VetsWork participants are placed at local, state, and federal agencies or non-profits, where they provide project support while exploring various career paths.

Through this program, NOAA and partners are strengthening the connection between veterans and the natural world through education, service learning, career development, and research.

Oregon Veterans Corps Program Goals

Participants are trained and gain experience in a combination of social and natural science topics, including: 

  • Salmon habitat restoration techniques
  • Stewardship of conserved lands
  • Natural resource management
  • Invasive species plant removal
  • Native plants
  • Ecological surveys
  • Mapping/GIS
  • Data collection and management
  • Volunteer coordination
  • Environmental education
  • Field equipment management
  • Learning about NOAA and non-profit work
  • Networking with professional natural resource managers

Meet Some of the Veteran Interns

A smiling person with long hair kneels in a field, holding a small plant
Jodie plants cedars with Johnson Creek Watershed Council. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

After finishing her bachelor’s degree, Jodie Robinson was looking for a job where she could make a difference in the natural environment. Many entry-level positions required baseline environmental work experience, which she lacked. After exploring the VetsWork internship through Mt. Adams Institute, she realized it gave her the chance to take what she knew from her military experience and studies in geography and apply it to a position where she would get to work with natural resources. What really set this internship apart was the opportunity to interact and work with experts from different scientific specialties, and giving her just shy of a year to learn from them and discover what she's great at.

In the past, our veterans have worked at the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership (TEP), where they focused on native seed collection and propagation, field data interpretation, and honing leadership and professional skills. As community engagement specialists, the interns worked with a variety of scientists and in a variety of settings. 

A sister organization to TEP is Portland area Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership. Veteran intern work at Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership involved post-planting site monitoring, leading big canoe trips on the Willamette River for community groups, and lots of field work. As field technicians, the NOAA veteran interns do both ecological restoration and environmental education. They have found that the mix of duties, responsibilities, and learning opportunities suits them well. 

Meet Our Implementing Partner

Mt. Adams Institute strengthens the connection between people and the natural world through education, service learning, career development and research. The Institute hosts two veteran-focused programs: 

  • VetsWork: Environment, an 11-month career development internship program for military veterans in the natural resources management, public lands, and environment sector.
  • VetsWork: FireCorps, a 12-week career training program for military veterans interested in wildfire landscape management, wildland firefighting and other natural resource management and public lands careers.

How to Apply

If you are interested in learning more about this partnership or applying to the VetWorks program in Oregon, please contact NOAA's Laurel Jennings at Laurel.Jennings@noaa.gov or the Mt. Adams Institute's Erica Bingham at erica@mtadamsinstitute.org.