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MUSHROOMS FOR WILDFIRE RESILIENCE

Posted on January 24, 2024 by Josh Harjes 

In December 2022, the Community Alliance with Family Farmers partnered with TurkeyTail Farm to co-host a workshop and peer-to-peer learning event about using mushrooms for bioremediation (utilizing natural processes to improve/heal something) in post-wildfire applications. Several years ago, Cheetah Tchudi and his wife Samantha Zangrilli bought 40 acres of undeveloped land in Butte County. The farm sits on a hillside just up from where the western fork of the Feather River flows into Lake Oroville, and also just a few miles east from Paradise, California. Today they raise several types of livestock, tend a one acre herb garden, and produce a variety of culinary grade mushrooms.

In 2018, TurkeyTail Farms was faced with disaster. The Camp Fire was tearing down the Feather River canyon and headed straight towards the town of Paradise. Cheetah and his family were on the other side of the canyon and able to get out, but he didn’t have time or space to evacuate 15 sheep and pigs and decided to set them loose so they could fend for themselves. Under the extended evacuation orders, his worry grew that the pigs would not survive because no one was allowed to return to their properties. However, with support from local officials like police, fire, and the County Agricultural Commissioner, Cheetah was able to visit his farm while still under evacuation orders (now known as an Ag/Livestock Pass), and support the livestock with water and hay deliveries. At first, it looked like the fire would spare Turkey Tail Farms, but then on the fifth day, a shift in the winds caused the fire to burn back up the gorge and across the farm. Cheetah’s house, and even the water and power infrastructure were completely destroyed, leaving behind a variety of pollutants from melted cars, pumphouses, etc.

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GrizzlyCorps Stories from the Field

Posted on December 31, 2023 by Shasta Land Trust

I have spent nearly all 25 years of my life in California under the ever increasing threat of unprecedented wildfire. For much of this time, I understood any fires larger than small beach bonfires as exclusively just that: threats. This misconception was largely the result of my public school education nested within a settler colonial culture of attempted erasure of indigenous culture and national pursuit of misguided fire suppression dating back to the early 1900s. As a child and young adult, I had no idea how integral fire is to the land’s wellbeing and culture of so many.

My own understanding of fire has thankfully come to shift over recent years. At the same time, I’ve become more aware of the tide turning on a larger scale, albeit slowly, as much of what Smokey the Bear embodies has come under sharp criticism and controlled fire is being returned to lands that desperately need it. My week of burning in the Klamath Mountains was a tangible and powerful shred of insight into what fire can do for and mean to those wielding it.

Since these trainings aren’t widely known, I want to describe them briefly here. TREX programs are platforms for two things: the exchange of knowledge on prescribed and cultural burning and physical implementation of burning practices. And so follows the acronym(esque) term TR-EX, short for training exchange. All TREX participants partaking in fire activities must hold firefighter Red Cards, so they complete the same training as does any wildland firefighter. This training includes over 40 hours of online courses in wildland fire suppression and the Incident Command System. The final steps to earning a Red Card are finishing a physical pack test, which entails walking three miles in under 45 minutes carrying 45 lbs, and successfully deploying a ‘fire shelter’, a reflective aluminum covering that is intended to shield the body from fire in emergency situations. Throughout the month of October I completed the online training, and from November 8th through 12th this Fall, I joined the final Klamath TREX cohort of the 2021 for five full days of ‘good burning’.

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Erin Ziegler’s Endowment Empowers Berkeley Law CLEE to Shape the Future of Environmental Law and Policy

Posted in October 2023 by Judith Katz

One of the programs the Ziegler Fund has backed is CLEE’s GrizzlyCorps program, which focuses on both training and policy implementation. GrizzlyCorps, UC Berkeley’s first AmeriCorps Program, connects recent college grads with rural organizations that focus on wildfire resilience and regenerative agriculture. In a way, it’s a smaller-scale version of President Biden’s recently launched American ClimateCorps, which aims to employ over 20,000 people. 

“Erin’s gift from the Ziegler Fund was a big deal for us—it not only helped with our expenses but was also one of our first donations, which set the stage for more stable funding down the road,” said GrizzlyCorps’ founder Ken Alex. “When you get support like that early on, it’s not just about the money; it shows other potential donors that we’ve got something worth investing in.”   

The Ziegler Fund exemplifies the transformative power of individual philanthropy as a vehicle for academia’s real-world impact. The Fund will undoubtedly continue to support Berkeley Law’s ability to infuse the discipline of environmental law with thoughtful leadership both in terms of law school graduates and policymaking for years to come. As the world looks to California for innovative solutions to the climate crisis, the Ziegler Fund shows how philanthropy can be a key lever in the effort to build a more environmentally sustainable future. 

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Resource Conservation District Greater San Diego Highlights: Meet our 2023-2024 GrizzlyCorps fellow, Joe!

Posted in September 2023 by RCD of Greater San Diego County

Last year, the RCDGSDC hosted two GrizzlyCorps fellows. Since then, Carolina Guia has been officially hired as a full-time Forestry and Fire Prevention Technical Assistant. She will be assisting the team with coordination, outreach, assessments for community programs and projects such as defensible space, home hardening, community fuels reduction, invasive pest management, ignition reduction, and much more.

 

“Being a fellow hosted by the RCD, has truly been life changing. This experience has helped me develop my professional goals and given me the confidence to continue my career in the conservation world. I would like to thank the GrizzlyCorps and Forestry and Fire Prevention team for this wonderful opportunity and I highly recommend this program to anyone who is interested in fire resilience and conservation,” says Carolina.

This year's GrizzlyCorps fellow will be assisting our Forestry and Fire Prevention team with outreach and education events, GIS support, relaunching our assistance programs, and more. This year, we will be undertaking launching a new Home Assessment Program, and we are so excited to have the help from our fellow to conduct field visits, organize program data, and map program participation. GrizzlyCorps fellows are an integral part of our work here at the RCD, bringing new energy and ideas to our team!

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Farewell from Gabe, Our GrizzlyCorps Fellow

Posted on August 9, 2023 by Gabe Seidman

I was a member of a cohort of about 35 fellows serving at organizations throughout the state working in fire and forest resiliency and/or regenerative agriculture. In this capacity, I spent the year working as a member of Napa RCD’s Forest Health program. In this post, I want to share a little bit about what I’ve worked on this year.

I came to Napa knowing relatively little about it – anything I had heard about Napa was in association with wine. While it’s true that viticulture is certainly a big part of Napa’s identity, there is much more to Napa than grapes and wine. Considered a biodiversity hotspot, about 18.5% of California’s plant species can be found here in Napa County, which makes up only about 0.5% of the state’s land area. This makes Napa a very exciting place to be doing resource conservation work.

 

I spent the year working with the Forest Health program, which has grown a great deal in the last few years. This growth is mostly because of the impact of wildfire – over 60% of Napa County has burned since 2017, so there is a lot of demand for wildfire resilience and mitigation work. The forest health program provides technical and financial assistance to landowners, works with partner organizations on planning and monitoring, and supports community engagement and education. Although there is a big focus on wildfire resilience, the program aims to take a holistic approach to forest health.

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ENSTU Alumna Selected as GrizzlyCorps Fellow

Posted on August 2023 by CSUMB Department of Applied Environmental Science

Michelle Cone, a recent Environmental Studies graduate, was selected to be the Tribal Wildfire Resilience Coordinator with the Tribal EcoRestoration Alliance through the GrizzlyCorps, an AmeriCorps fellowship through UC Berkeley and CaliforniaVolunteers that places students in rural California communities to promote regenerative agri-food systems and fire and forest resilience. We recently touched base with Michelle to learn more about her work and how her experience at CSUMB has helped her on her current career pathway. 

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Interview With Pepperwood’s GrizzlyCorps Fellows

Posted on March 20, 2023 by Stephanie Beard

This month we celebrated AmeriCorps Week. AmeriCorps is a government agency that focuses on uniting individuals who choose to participate in service to their community. There are different programs for different age groups, but a lot of people choose to do a service “gap year” before or after college. I know, because I was one of those people! I did a program called City Year when I graduated from college, and it changed my entire life and mindset for the better. It wasn’t easy and there were many difficult learning lessons, but I’ll never regret my year of service.

There are many programs that fall under the AmeriCorps umbrella from City Year to VISTA to a newer program created by UC Berkeley’s Center for Law, Energy, and the Environment called GrizzlyCorps. This is where Pepperwood comes in, because we have on our team not one, but TWO GrizzlyCorps fellows! Makayla Freed has been with Pepperwood for two years through this program as our Field Technician, while Sophia Pruden joined us this past year as our Restoration Technician.

The AmeriCorps ethos runs deeply through all of its programs, so I was curious how this new program through the UC system, with an environmental service focus, was instilling AmeriCorps’ mission of improving lives, strengthening communities, and fostering civic engagement through service and volunteering. To find out, I asked Makayla and Sophia to share their own experience.

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Assessing Opportunities to Drive Better Outcomes for Water and Sustainable Agriculture

Posted on October 3rd, 2022 by Sustainable Conservation

Last year, we introduced you to Mikayla Tran, our 2021-22 GrizzlyCorps Fellow. We’re celebrating the culmination of her time with Sustainable Conservation, a white paper focusing on two comprehensive California water policies and where they can, and should, intersect.

Mikayla studied the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and the Central Valley Salinity Alternatives for Long-Term Sustainability (CV-SALTS). Enacted in 2014, SGMA is California’s first-of-its-kind regulation on pumping groundwater, while CV-SALTS seeks to address how we can respond to salt and nitrate contamination in our groundwater to improve drinking water quality.

The two complementary initiatives are ambitious and complex, and require a multitude of regional entities, plans, and working groups to make the policies an on-the-ground reality. There is huge potential for these efforts to support equitable water outcomes, and to encourage holistic water management across policies.

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Big Accomplishments from GrizzlyCorps Fellows

Posted July 29, 2022 by Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority

MWPA has been privileged to host two GrizzlyCorps fellows, Maria Schmitt and Josh Hampshire, this past year. Sadly, their MWPA fellowships are coming to an end, but their accomplishments will last long into the future. We wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors and feel certain that we will be working with them both again soon. Below are some of their contributions over the past year.

Maria’s Contributions  

During her fellowship Maria focused on educational outreach and assisting with both incoming and outgoing grants. She worked to organize two webinars, one on prescribed fire and the other on forest health, as well as a field trip for MWPA’s environmental stakeholders. Maria also created a digital resource library, so that members of the public can see some of the literature that we use to inform our work.

Maria also spent a significant amount of time working on grant writing to help bring additional funding to the MWPA. This included assisting with the authoring and editing of the CalFIRE Fire Prevention grant, which will bring $3.25 million into the MWPA for the creation of the Greater Ross Valley Shaded Fuel Break over the next several years.

Maria has spent months supporting our Community Grant program both through the launch as well as the week to week administration. This program has led to over $100,000 in grant funding being administered in the last seven months. Maria has also completed over 250 hours of external training including a wildland firefighter certification, a wilderness first responder certification, CPR and epinephrine certifications, a 12-week course on community mitigation best practices, and trainings on CEQA, ArcGIS, California biodiversity, prescribed fire, and more.

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Civilian Climate Corps can help stem rural-urban divide

Posted on, May 1, 2021, by Ken Alex


President Biden’s Infrastructure Plan includes a $10 billion proposal to create a Civilian Climate Corps, modeled on the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, designed to put young people to work reducing fire risk, restoring ecosystems and generally building community resilience around the country. The proposal has garnered extensive support, including a stand-alone bill introduced by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

The new corps could take many forms, including work crews for national forests and parks, planning assistance for cities and counties, electric vehicle charger installers, and the like. It could — and should — also help bridge some of the urban-rural divide that currently runs through much of the country and virtually every state and defines a good deal of our politics and climate debate. ­In California, at the University of California, Berkeley, we run an AmeriCorps program called GrizzlyCorps that could provide a transformative model.

GrizzlyCorps sends recent college graduates into rural communities across California to promote regenerative agri-food systems and fire and forest resilience. The response after one year has been overwhelmingly positive, allowing us to nearly double the size for the second year and begin work to add a new program focusing on food waste and food system resilience.

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A 'Climate Corps' of California Volunteers

Posted on, September 28, 2020 by James Fallows

Back in the early days of the pandemic, when some people imagined that changes in American life might be a matter of months rather than of years, I wrote about California Volunteers and its response to the crisis.

This is a publicly sponsored organization, serving the nation’s most populous state, designed to do what organizations from the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, to the Kennedy-era Peace Corps, to more contemporary organizations (with a variety of funding models)—from the Job Corps to Americorps to City Year to Report for America to Code for America—have aspired to do. Namely: matching people of all ages (but mainly younger people) who have an interest in service with the most pressing needs for service in the America of these times.

This past week, California Volunteers announced an expansion of its program: a new California Climate Action Corps, designed to address both the causes and the effects (drought, wildfire, mudslides, intense heat) of California’s exposure to climate change. The state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, announced the creation of the Climate Action Corps a day after his executive order that all cars sold in the state (the largest single auto market in the U.S.) meet a zero-emissions standard by 2035.

 

In practice, this new program will mean that some 250 “climate action fellows” will work on sustainability projects across the state. The benefit for the fellows is that they receive a stipend and experience during their period of service, and afterwards receive a grant to help cover college costs. “We’re going to work city-by-city toward meeting their community goals,” Josh Fryday, the head of California Volunteers, told me last week. “In Los Angeles, it could be helping them meet their tree-planting goals.” In other communities, it could be efforts to support sustainable forestry or agriculture (for instance, with the Grizzly Corps), or to help food banks, or other goals determined locally.

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Partner Profile: GrizzlyCorps, a New Program for Climate Resilience 

Posted on Tuesday, November 10, 2020 By Becca Lucas

In early September, the worsening impacts of the climate crisis were felt acutely all over California as one of the state’s most destructive wildfire seasons caused hazy skies and dangerous air quality. Under uniquely orange and smoky skies in the Bay Area, a new AmeriCorps program focused specifically on climate resilience officially launched.

Focused in rural areas, this program,  GrizzlyCorps, supports community capacity to respond to climate change through regenerative agriculture and forest and fire resilience projects.

The idea was conceived by Ken Alex, director of Project Climate at the Berkeley Law Center for Energy and Environment, as a way to address the climate crisis in rural areas. Prior to Project Climate, he was the Senior Policy Advisor to former Governor Jerry Brown and chair of the Strategic Growth Council. CalCAN recognized Ken Alex’s leadership in the Brown administration on natural and working lands issues at our biennial Climate and Agriculture Summit in 2019. In particular, we are appreciative of the role he played in the establishment of the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program.

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Roaring Into Action: Berkeley Law Center Launches New GrizzlyCorps Climate and Resiliency Program

Posted on Friday, October 9, 2020 by Andrew Cohen

Berkeley Law’s top-ranked environmental law program is blazing yet another new trail with the launch of GrizzlyCorps

Developed by Project Climate within the school’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environment (CLEE), GrizzlyCorps is a nascent AmeriCorps effort that sends recent college graduates to work in farm and forest communities across California. Each year, the initiative will select 20 fellows to engage in 11-month placements that help build community resilience and respond to climate change.

During their service stint, fellows will tackle projects that promote regenerative agriculture, forest and fire protections, and carbon sequestration while building long-term resilience. The inaugural cohort began their placements in early September. 

 

“CLEE focuses extensively on the climate crisis, finding both innovative solutions and ways to overcome persistent barriers,” says Jordan Diamond ’08, the center’s executive director. “GrizzlyCorps is a concentrated expression of that mission, focusing on providing vital support to farm and forest communities that often bear the brunt of climate harm and have meaningful opportunities to realize climate progress.”

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