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Oregon

Going the Distance

“AmeriCorps has opened my eyes to places I would have never gone otherwise."

Sean McKenzie
2010 ACT member

Chances are, if you were just about anywhere in Oregon during September and October, you could have seen Snowball and The White Duck headed your way — NPR leaking from the windows, crammed full of muddy gear, “a ridiculous amount of trail mix,” at least four AmeriCorps team members, and even compost. The tandem of white pickups encircled Oregon in a spiral.

The AmeriCorps roving crew (part of Oregon’s larger 13-member volunteer team) spent the two months assisting with projects on Conservancy preserves that needed a dose of intense labor. They even dashed off to help with controlled burns when weather conditions were right. All told, they put in more than 2,500 miles, all within Oregon. If you ask them, they saw more than they expected.

“AmeriCorps has opened my eyes to places I would have never gone otherwise. I’ve seen more of the state than a lot of Oregonians,” said crew member Sean McKenzie, from Northern California. “Oregon’s such a diverse place and gorgeous anywhere you go.” McKenzie even said he’s confident that, after two years with the Conservancy’s AmeriCorps team, he has found a home in Oregon.

Among multiple opportunities to experience conservation in action, controlled burns were a favorite. “It’s pretty exhilarating to work on a burn. Most of the time when you do restoration work in the field, intellectually you know that down the road there will be some impact, but with a burn you see it right afterwards,” McKenzie said.

They also removed 300 fence posts from Borax Lake Preserve, pulled two acres of invasive Canada thistle and English ivy from Big Creek, monitored forest plots across 1,000 acres in the Ashland watershed, collected data across 50 acres of oak woodlands, constructed aspen exclosures at Middle Fork John Day River Preserve and more.

While some crew members will use their acquired skills in further field work, member Jennifer Bartlau hopes to apply her roving crew experience to her next career, teaching. “It’s helpful for me to learn about what people are doing for conservation across the state. I have all these experiences now of how people use biology lessons in real life,” she said.

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