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Climate Corps members deploy to sites across West

A conservation service member uses a chainsaw to cut a horizontal log
Conservation Legacy
A Conservation Legacy crew member works on a wildfire mitigation project on the San Juan National Forest. The first members of the American Climate Corps are deploying across the country this month.

The first members of the American Climate Corps are deploying across the country this month. The program builds on the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps and aims to place 20,000 young people in jobs to tackle climate change.

Conservation Legacy, a nonprofit based in Durango, Colo., has placed about 2,000 young adults in environmental service jobs across the country for more than two decades. Now, the organization is participating in the Climate Corps.

Amy Sovocool, the president, said she hopes the new federal program will mean she can hire more people and connect them with a wider diversity of jobs, such as helping communities install solar panels and jumpstart economic development projects to lessen dependence on fossil fuels. These experiences, she said, would prepare participants to continue careers in climate.

“There’s a desire and a hope that this will ensure that other opportunities and doors are open for folks as they exit our program,” Sovocool said.

Corps members in Colorado this summer will remove invasive species and thin forest understory, the layer of trees and shrubs between the forest floor and the forest canopy, to prevent wildfires. Other positions in the region include mapping noxious weeds in Montana, planting urban trees in Idaho and conducting elk research in Utah.

In addition to the federal program, 13 states, including Colorado, Arizona and Utah, have launched their own climate corps.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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Rachel Cohen is the Mountain West News Bureau reporter for KUNC. She covers topics most important to the Western region. She spent five years at Boise State Public Radio, where she reported from Twin Falls and the Sun Valley area, and shared stories about the environment and public health.