New Colorado Climate Corps to combat wildfires and floods, protect public lands
Right now, wildfires are spreading, the west coast is experiencing drought, and it’s been one of the hottest summers on record. And in the Northeast, there’s flooding, supercharged hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, and that’s just what is happening this week.
Colorado is stepping forward help tackle and prevent these disasters. Colorado leaders announced they are joining forces with the Colorado Interagency Climate Team to create the Colorado Climate Corps. The goals of the program are to mitigate the risks of wildfires and floods, move Colorado’s electric grid to 100% renewable sources by 2040 and ensure future generations can enjoy a protected environment.
“We are proud to see Colorado taking bold action to tackle the threats from climate change by launching the Colorado Climate Corps,” said Yasmeen Shaheen-McConnell, AmeriCorps senior advisor for strategic partnerships. “For nearly three decades, AmeriCorps has provided significant funding to support conservation corps around the country and this experience now allows us to play a central role in tackling our greatest challenge—the climate crisis. AmeriCorps is making a significant investment in this project made possible by the American Rescue Plan because we know the impact it will have.”
The 240 AmeriCorps members to be recruited for the Colorado Climate Corps will play a key role in conserving parks and public lands, building community resilience, and preparing Coloradans for the green jobs of the future. This builds on conservation programs already working in Colorado.
Carly, who serves with Mile High Youth Corps, a current conservation-based AmeriCorps program, helps prepare Colorado forests for an era of increased aridification driven by climate change. In a few years, she hopes to build on the experience to become a wildland firefighter.
“I like being outside and working with my hands. This program has helped me realize there are so many other opportunities for me,” said Carly. Opportunities like this one will be part of Colorado’s Climate Corps.
Colorado Climate Corps members will
- improve health and resiliency of public lands and mitigate the threat of future wildfires and floods;
- conduct energy and water weatherization and retrofitting in low-income households to conserve resources, lower utility bills, and decrease the need for burning fossil fuels that contribute to climate change.
- increase public awareness of climate change and its impacts;
- provide resources and education to marginalized communities experiencing the effects of climate change
National service is well-positioned to preserve our lands and waters, expand renewable energy use, and increase community resilience with more than 16,000 individuals serving in these roles across the country. Engaging passionate, committed young adults in this type of corps experience to tackle a specific crisis is a smart and cost-effective way to help train the next generation of climate leaders, provide opportunities for youth from low-income communities to gain valuable experience while increasing racial and economic opportunity and building a more prosperous, sustainable future.
Through this announcement, Colorado is leading the way by demonstrating how national service can be a solution to the intersecting challenges of climate change, unemployment, and racial inequity facing our country today.
This initiative will serve as a source of inspiration for other states around the country. While we have lots of work ahead, AmeriCorps is up to the challenge.
“Building on decades of experience in environmental stewardship and proven pathways from service to employment, the Colorado Climate Corps is well positioned to conserve our lands and waters, expand renewable energy use, and increase community resilience,” said Sonali Nijhawan, director, AmeriCorps State and National. “AmeriCorps serves as a modern-day Civilian Conservation Corps, focused on 21st century environmental challenges. Working closely with our partners at the Colorado State Service Commission, we will engage more members and volunteers each year in conservation, renewable energy, and projects that address the climate crisis.”
Want to join the Colorado Climate Corps?
AmeriCorps members serving with the Colorado Climate Corps are eligible to receive a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award to help pay education costs at qualified institutions of higher education, for educational training, or to repay qualified student loans. While in service, members also may receive a modest living allowance, student loan deferment, professional development, health insurance and childcare.
In September 2021, Serve Colorado will begin accepting applications from organizations and other entities interested in hosting a Colorado Climate Corps or other AmeriCorps program. For more information visit, servecolorado.colorado.gov.
Learn more about how AmeriCorps is tackling the climate crisis: