Life with the Utah Conservation Corps

4 Month Update – Post-Spring Season/Beginning of Summer

It seems pretty wild that I’ve already been out here for over 4 months. I’ve been loving it! Things have been quite busy with taking care of my UCC responsibilities, my online grad school studies, and getting out to explore Utah as much as possible. I realize I sort of abruptly ended my van life adventures on here once I made it to Cedar City though. So, first off…

How has living out of my van been going?

The short answer is, great! Ronnie has been running like a champ and handling the dirt roads amazingly well for not having four-wheel drive. I’ve been searching and finding new spots to camp all the time and have several go-to spots as well. I thought I would worry about where to park each night, but that’s certainly not the case.There’s a hilly area above The Home Depot, which is where I probably stay the most since it’s so close to our office and has good cell phone service. Another favorite is up a winding road that overlooks that flatlands of Cedar City and beyond.

Utah is a pretty ideal place to live this type of life since almost half of it is Bureau of Land Management public land, not to mention all the other public lands like National Forest and such. Other things that makes my situation practical is that our field office has a bathroom and shower that I’ve able to use. The truth is about half of our Crew Leaders also are living out of their vehicles and so our office culture has been very open towards our lifestyles (as long as we don’t abuse that privilege I suspect). At the beginning of June, we began our summer season and welcomed 20 new folks to the UCC Cedar office. Thinking our one bathroom might get a bit overused, and also experiencing a week of trying to keep up my running routine in 100 degree temperatures, caused me to finally join a local gym!

Here’s some vanning photos…

What’s it been like working for UCC?

Similarly to when thru-hiking, it’s been the people even more so than the beautiful scenery or interesting projects that have made this such a great experience! Things kicked off with a fun, yet demanding and exhausting training for myself, other Field Bosses, and Crew Leaders. UCC has three offices: Cedar City, Moab, and Logan and it was great getting to meet up with them all for training. Afterwards, it was right into our Spring season, which gave our soon-to-be Crew Leaders the chance to work together on public land projects at a variety of locations (along the Virgin and Colorado Rivers, Zion and Capitol Reef National Parks, and nearby to Cedar as well). We had two crews of four people each allowing them to see and try out different leadership techniques and gain skills for when they’d lead their crews in the Summer and Fall seasons.

The Spring season went from March – May. At the beginning of June, we once again had folks arrive to Cedar City from all across the country. We held another two-week long training and have now split them into 6 crews, each with 1 or sometimes 2 of our Crew Leaders. It’s been quite different now with so many folks around, but the chaos is fun, and all seem to be excited and eager to get working on projects!

Figuring out my role in all this has taken some time, but I’ve had great support from my two bosses, and have already learned so much from them. I joined the UCC not fully knowing all the details of what it was going to be like or what was expected of me in my role as a Field Boss. It’s still a bit hard to describe, but I see myself as a floater/in-between among staff and my fellow AmeriCorps members. I’m lucky in that I get to join out on projects and help them to run smoothly, but also have the chance to be in the office and see how things are managed somewhat more behind-the-scenes. It’s a great community we’ve got here in the Cedar office and I’m super excited to have found my place here and have the opportunity to spend the year out here!

Collectively, our group has had the chance to work with The National Park Service (in Bryce Canyon, Zion, and Capitol Reef NPS), the U.S. Forest Service, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Bureau of Land Management, and a few private organizations as well. Some of the types of projects have been:

  • Removal of invasive species (typically Russian Olive and Tamarisk, but noxious weeds too). This sometimes involves cutting trees with chainsaws or hand saws/loppers and then spraying with herbicide. Otherwise, we’ve used herbicide backpack sprayers or just physically pulling.
  • Planting and watering of native species
  • Fencing construction and repair
  • Forest fire fuels reduction
  • Irrigation ditch digging
  • Removal of fallen trees/branches

Here’s some photos/video from our two trainings…

Here’s some photos from various projects I’ve gotten to be a part of!

So there you go 🙂

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