The state Department of Ecology’s Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) is seeking 245 young adults, including military service veterans, between 18 and 25 to for on-the-ground projects in 16 counties across the state.

For the 2011-2012 service year, Ecology will hire 150 WCC AmeriCorps members using a $2 million AmeriCorps grant from the Washington State Commission for National and Community Service. AmeriCorps Education Awards received through the Corps Network, a national service partner, will support the remaining positions.

WCC’s AmeriCorps members sign on for a year of service that starts in October 2011 and ends September 2012. Ecology WCC members work on environmental and community service projects and disaster response.

Members earn $8.67 an hour and receive a $5,550 AmeriCorps education award upon completing their service year. The award may be used for student loans or future tuition expenses.

The WCC was created in 1983 and has provided jobs and work training for about 1,600 young adults. In 1994, WCC started received federal AmeriCorps funding, allowing crews to carry out on-the-ground projects across the state. Local communities rely on WCC to complete environmental projects by forming cost-share agreements with Ecology.

Since 1994, WCC crews have:

* Planted more than 7.5 million native trees and shrubs.

* Improved or restored 15,800 acres of new habitat for fish and wildlife.

* Constructed or repaired nearly 3,000 miles of trails and boardwalks – enough to cover the distance between Seattle and Boston.

* Built almost 2 million feet of fencing for agricultural landowners to help keep animals out of creeks and rivers.

* Opened about 240 miles of habitat in salmon-bearing streams.

* Provided 133,500 hours of emergency response service to communities in need.

* Recruited and managed more than 65,000 community volunteers working on environmental projects.

* Taught environmental classes for some 191,000 students

When WCC members are not working directly with local organizations, they are called upon for disaster response. In 2011, WCC crews assisted with emergency response efforts in Washington, including flood response in Ellensburg and shelter operations after the White Swan fire near Yakima. As part of the interstate compact associated with the federal funding, crews also worked to help communities in Alabama and Missouri that suffered extensive tornado damage earlier this spring.

“In a tight economy, the WCC is making a critical difference for our young adults, our communities and environment,” said Nick Mott who oversees WCC activities across the state. “By providing practical job experience and critical professional training, more than half of our members continue on to full-time employment or go on to further their education.”

Last year, Ecology used federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to add 10 new WCC crews, employing 50 young adults. The remaining recovery act funding expires in 2012.

In 2011, the Washington Legislature created the WCC “Puget Sound Corps” as a partnership of Ecology and the state Department of Natural Resources. The new legislation means new opportunities for WCC crews, including veterans. The Puget Sound Corps will support the Puget Sound Partnership’s Action Agenda to restore, protect and preserve the Sound by 2020, Mott said. The official rollout of the WCC Puget Sound Corps will occur this fall.

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