Wyoming Conservation Corps, a stewardship program housed at the University of Wyoming, is getting ready to launch a truncated fall work season in lieu of its normal summer schedule.
An eight-person crew is set to leave Monday to work with the Bureau of Land Management and Devon Energy on Casper Mountain. They’ll also do projects on the Black Hills National Forest and with the Sheridan Community Land Trust, working through Sept. 30.
Program director Jim Fried said the shortened fall session will be about half the length of a normal Wyoming Conservation Corps work season, and with just one crew instead of several. But crew members and leaders are happy to be able to put shovels to soil in any capacity.
“This is the first time in months we’ve had certainty and project work dates,” he said.
Wyoming Conservation Corps, launched in 2006, enlists college-aged adults to do projects on public lands around the state. Corps members earn a stipend and an AmeriCorps Education Award, plus upper-division UW credit and several certifications.
They also get to spend their time outside in some of Wyoming’s prettiest spots while working with natural resource professionals and getting a first-hand look at environmental challenges in the state.
During a normal spring, crew leaders, who are hired in January, spend several months completing volunteer work and preparing for the summer work season. As this spring went haywire, crew leaders ended up stuck in Laramie and without a summer season to prepare for.
They filled their time locally, working with organizations such as Feeding Laramie Valley and the Pilot Hill Project. For the last three weeks, they’ve been building a boundary fence on the Pilot Hill parcel.
A crew leader from that group will continue with the organization this fall, leading the upcoming session.
“We rely on that and don’t have to spend days training,” Fried said. “Time now is the hard variable.”
While most crew members fit a summer work season around fall and spring university semesters, a fall work season complicates their participation. Fried said some members will be able to take courses online and still participate.
With just one crew able to work this fall and funding uncertainty among management agencies, some projects had to be put off.
“It was a unique balance this year of figuring out what makes sense and what we can realistically accomplish in the time frame that we have,” he said.