Oregon Conservation Corps Partnership Giving Veterans New Mission to Restore Fish Habitat

Built on the success of Washington and California programs, veterans are gaining experience in natural resource careers with NOAA in Oregon.

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Chris Sutherland, a Veterans Corps participant in Oregon, tosses a sampling bottle into the water.

Program Overview

In 2018, our West Coast veterans conservation corps expanded to include a new partnership with the Mt. Adams Institute and the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership in Oregon. We’re welcoming the Willamette Riverkeeper as a new partner in 2020. Through this program, NOAA and partners are strengthening the connection between veterans and the natural world through education, service learning, career development, and research. 

The 11-month career development experience is for military veterans interested in the natural resources management, public lands, and the environment. Participants provide project support while learning about various career paths. The Mt. Adams Institute places veterans in other local, state, and federal agencies as well.

Oregon Veterans Corps Program Goals

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

  • Stewardship of conserved lands
  • Natural resource management
  • Invasive species removal
  • Native plants
  • Ecological surveys
  • Mapping
  • Data collection and management
  • Volunteer coordination
  • Environmental education
  • Field equipment management

Our first Veterans Corps participant in Oregon, Chris Sutherland,  was placed with the Tillamook Estuary Partnership in 2019. As a Restoration, Education, and Community Engagement Assistant with the Partnership, he supports salmon habitat restoration and outreach work. Duties include conducting water quality monitoring, microplastic and carbon studies, and land management activities at the Southern Flow Corridor project. This project is a 20-year effort that restored nearly 500 acres of tidal wetlands and 13 miles of tidal channels for salmon. Chris also assists with a native plant nursery that grows 75,000 plant species for use in habitat restoration projects along the Oregon coast.

“We [veterans] went in [to the service] for a sense of purpose, because we had something inside us that makes us want to serve. We’re service-oriented people, and this work keeps me in the mindset of continuing to fight for a mission.” Learn more about Chris Sutherland’s experience in the veterans corps program >

Meet Our Partners

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, the VetsWork Environment, and VetsWork GreenCorps

The Tillamook Estuaries Partnership is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation and restoration of Tillamook County’s estuaries and watersheds. Through VetsWork, the two organizations collaborated to host the first NOAA Veterans Corps internship program in Oregon. 

Willamette Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect and restore the Willamette River. The organization works to restore natural function to the river, focusing on water quality and abundant natural habitat. Since 1996, the organization has been engaged in habitat restoration and public outreach and education in support of a healthy Willamette River.

How to Apply

If you are interested in learning more about this partnership or applying to theVetWorks program in Oregon, please contact Megan Callahan Grant at megan.callahan-grant@noaa.gov or Aaron Stanton at aaron@mtadamsinstitute.org.