More than three years ago, in January 2018, I had the opportunity to participate in the orientation and training for the first participants in GulfCorps—a three-year project led by The Nature Conservancy (in partnership with the Student Conservation Association and The Corps Network) to put young adults to work to help restore the Gulf of Mexico. GulfCorps is sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) using funds from the settlement with BP of civil penalties that resulted from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010.
A GulfCorps Timeline
Pilot Conservation Corps Launches
The Nature Conservancy launched a pilot program in coastal Mississippi that tested the idea of recruiting local young adults from marginalized communities to conduct conservation and restoration work and monitoring in those communities for larger restoration efforts that will be funded through the Deepwater Horizon settlement funding.
The GulfCorps program was supported with the help of grants from Walton Family Foundation, The Nature Conservancy’s Gulf of Mexico Program, The Nature Conservancy in Mississippi, The Corps Network, and Climb
Conservation Corps Grows
The coastal conservation corps program grows with the addition of a veteran’s fire crew, and another conservation corps in Apalachicola, FL.
The Florida crews, and the continuation of the Mississippi crew, are supported by a $500,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and a private supporter.
GulfCorps is Born
GulfCorps is born. The Nature Conservancy, Student Conservation Association, and The Corps Network apply for a grant through National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) allocation of RESTORE funds.
The program receives $7 million over three years to launch conservation corps in all five Gulf states.
Jan 7, 2018
Day One of GulfCorps
Five crews of 10 people in each Gulf state tart Year 1 of the program. Each crew consists of two leaders and 8 crew members.
June 30, 2018
First Season Success
GulfCorps’ first season comes to a close. By the end of the first six months, crew members will conserve and restore more than 632 acres, surpassing initial estimates by nearly 200 acres.
GulfCorps Grows Exponentially
By the end of its second season, 91 people in 10 crews across the Gulf have conserved and restored more than 4,600 acres.
After several years of successful impact, NOAA proposes to the RESTORE Council to continue the program as GulfCorps 2.0. The proposal is for a $15 million program over four years starting October 2021.
RESTORE Council Funding
GulfCorps program receives Gap funding from the RESTORE Council to bridge the time between the end of GulfCorps 1.0 and beginning of GulfCorps 2.0. The award is for $1.25 million for 11 crews of 5 people each for up to four months of work. An additional $425,000 can be awarded when the RESTORE Council officially approves the program in Fall 2020.
GulfCorps Goes Virtual
COVID-19 forces crews to transition to a virtual program. More than 80 members participate in GulfCorps-related work through the virtual program, which includes monitoring, training and professional development.
Some crews return to work in the field. Some crews end their term as planned.
Initial GulfCorps Project Closes
The final season of the initial GulfCorps project comes to a close. Looking back, the impacts far exceeded expectations. Over three years, more than 10,000 acres were impacted by 300 GulfCorps members.
Beginning of Season 4
This is the gap year before the beginning of GulfCorps 2.0.
GulfCorps 2.0 to begin with 11 crews and approximately 90 members.
From the earliest discussions of how to organize and accomplish recovery from the devastating Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010, the Nature Conservancy has advocated for a conservation corps component in the Gulf restoration strategy. Why? Because while we are passionate about the science-based restoration of the Gulf's ecological resources, we also care deeply about the future of the people of the Gulf coast and about their longstanding relationship with the natural resources of the region.
More than in many places in America today, the quality and character of life in the communities along the Gulf of Mexico relies heavily on the health of the Gulf and its associated resources.
We at the Nature Conservancy understand the interdependence of healthy natural systems and the well-being of people. After advocating for the inclusion of funding for a conservation corps in the Gulf to be part of Gulf restoration, we joined together with the Student Conservation Association and The Corps Network to compete for the opportunity to establish and operate the GulfCorps Program because we believe that:
- Well supervised and trained crews of young people can make real and lasting contributions to the restoration of the Gulf; they can accomplish fine-grained tasks that can't and won't be done by bulldozers and dredges.
- If young people from local communities are recruited for this work, they and their friends and families will, through this experience, better understand the relationship of their lives and their natural surroundings and become lifelong stewards of their bays and estuaries.
- Working together with others in the outdoors can provide the skills, discipline and resilience that can lead to successful careers whether in natural resource management or elsewhere.
- We as an organization have an obligation to reach out to the diverse people who live along the Gulf to help young people of many backgrounds participate in shaping the future of the places where they and, ultimately, their children will live.
GulfCorps: Getting Started 2017-2020
award granted in 2017 to help create 300 coastal restoration jobs in 3 years.
acres conserved and restored in year one and two of GulfCorps (2018-2019).
people in 10 teams across the gulf by year 2 (2019).
GulfCorps members transition to virtual training programs due to COVID-19 in March 2020.
The Nature Conservancy cannot, however, accomplish these goals alone. Key to the success of this project is working cooperatively with community-based organizations in each state who recruit corps members from within their communities, supervise their activities on a day to day basis, and assist the corps members to gain new skills and confidence in their abilities. For GulfCorps, our on-the-ground partner organizations include:
- Conservation Corps of the Forgotten Coast in Apalachicola, FL
- Student Conservation Association in Mobile, AL
- Climb CDC Conservation Corps in Gulfport, MS
- Limitless Vistas, Inc in New Orleans, LA
- American YouthWorks in Houston, TX
GulfCorps Years 1-3 By The Numbers
hours worked by crewmembers.
acres of upland conservation.
acres treated for invasive species.
acres of beach and marsh enhancement.