SFCC member at wildland fire resiliency project at La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve

Training the Conservation Corps Next Generation in Land and Fire Management

SFCC member at La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve (Frances Freyberg)

Midpen and the San Francisco Conservation Corps (SFCC) are teaming up to expand capacity for work that increases the natural environment’s resilience to climate change and potential wildland fire.

The Forestry Corps, a new branch under SFCC’s umbrella, was created to train young corps members in land and fire management techniques. When the SFCC applied for a grant to fund this new program in 2022, they were looking for a partner agency with land to support their stewardship training goals and Midpen was a great fit, according to Midpen vegetation ecologist Coty Sifuentes-Winter. Now in 2024, the Forestry Corps is in full force, and recently began working in Midpen preserves on ecologically sensitive vegetation management projects in multiple preserves as part of our Wildland Fire Resiliency Program.

“The Forestry Corps are helping Midpen with forest health work,” Sifuentes-Winter said. “In return as part of the partnership, Midpen staff provide them with education and job training.”

Midpen trains the corps members in topics such as wildlife biology and fire ecology, as well as land management techniques like preventing the spread of invasive species, arboriculture and sensitively thinning trees and vegetation for conservation purposes. Midpen continues building capacity to proactively increase vegetation management across our more than 70,000 acres of preserved public open space lands for wildland fire resilience through partnerships, with the support of outside grant funds, and by increasing our own resource management capacity.

SFCC member at a wildland fire resiliency project in La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve. (Frances Freyberg)
SFCC member at a wildland fire resiliency project in La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve. (Frances Freyberg)

“By tapping into the Forestry Corps, we can help develop their knowledge and skills in the conservation field,” Sifuentes-Winter said. “And when Midpen is looking to hire, they are going to be primed to apply for these jobs and be successful. It’s a win-win.”

Sifuentes-Winter also provides career-path inspiration for corps members, who are 18-26 years of age. He often brings out Midpen staff to give the corps members informal career talks.

SFCC Director of Corps Member Development and Evaluation, Kip Bowmar said that Forestry Corps members are earning certifications in wildland fire behavior and introductory firefighting.

“After we ordered uniforms and equipment a corps members said, ‘take a picture of me in my uniform, I want to send this to my mom’,” Bowmar said. “It makes your heart swell up with happiness and pride.”

Another corps member, Jason Verdugo, said the Forestry Corps gave him the opportunity to do something he loved: work outdoors.

“I’ve always had an interest in firefighting, but never really knew how to get there,” Verduga revealed. “The corps said ‘we got you, we’ll let you know how to do it, just show up, show your effort. That’s cool!”

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