In a joint application, Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council and Heart of Oregon Corps were recently awarded $995,000 in Oregon Conservation Corps state funds to help reduce wildfire risk in Jefferson, Crook, and Deschutes counties through fuels reduction projects. COIC and Heart of Oregon Corps have partnered to form the Central Oregon Wildfire Workforce Partnership, or COWWP, under the new Oregon Conservation Corps funding opportunity.
As a whole, the COWWP will train and employ over 140 local youth and young adults in wildfire reduction and related skills. In addition to gaining on-the-job training, certifications, and knowledge in fire fuel reduction practices, youth in the program will receive wages, scholarships, additional workforce training in both soft and hard skills to prepare them to enter the professional workforce. Youth crews will start project work on identified high risk areas in early May and will continue through June of 2023. Youth, young adult, and staff positions are available now and applications are at www.heartoforegon.org or at www.coic.org.
In collaboration with Oregon Department of Forestry and the Office of the Oregon State Fire Marshal, COIC and Heart of Oregon Corps will continue working with longstanding partners at the U.S. Forest Service and local fire districts to outline work, as well as build new relationships with Homeowner Associations, municipalities and other local organizations to coordinate projects in high risk areas across all three counties. Work will be prioritized for underserved and low-income communities and will range from thinning, chipping, and ladder fuels reduction in natural areas to create defensible spaces around homes, neighborhoods, and critical infrastructure.
Oregon Conservation Corps funds are the result of Senate Bill 762, new comprehensive legislation passed with bipartisan support that will provide more than $195 million to help Oregon modernize and improve wildfire preparedness through three key strategies: creating fire-adapted communities, developing safe and effective response, and increasing the resiliency of Oregon’s landscapes.
Doug Grafe, the Wildfire Programs Director of the Office of Governor Kate Brown, shared “Supporting youth programs to reduce hazardous fuel reduction projects around our communities is a brilliant and inspiring investment in our future. Many thanks to the local leadership who have envisioned and will soon be delivering on these critical projects.”
Commissioner Phil Chang, who advocated for the passage of Senate Bill 762 throughout the 2021 legislative session and now serves on the Advisory Committee of the Oregon Conservation Corps added “It is so exciting to see these state investments in building the workforce to make our communities safer from wildfire in Central Oregon.”
Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council (COIC) was designated a Council of Governments in 1972 under ORS 190 and serves the local governments of Central Oregon. COIC provides regional services for employment and training, alternative high school education, business loans, planning and governance, community and economic development, and public transportation services operated by Cascades East Transit.
Heart of Oregon Corps (HOC) is a nonprofit organization invested in inspiring and empowering change in the lives of Central Oregon youth through jobs, education, and stewardship. Their programming creates pathways out of poverty while stimulating regional economic growth. They apply a “work-earn-learn” model that invests in local young people, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds, to prepare them for the workforce and to encourage their success. Heart of Oregon Corps trains tomorrow’s workforce today—and they are accepting youth applications now! For more info or to apply, visit www.heartoforegon.org