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.
Who are the GrizzlyCorps?
-Eliza Munger, Program Manager of GrizzlyCorps
The 20 fellows who have started their 11-month placements at community organizations throughout California are recent college graduates with widely varying histories and expertise. Some have more direct experiences in this work as former firefighters, farmers, and food justice advocates, while others bring backgrounds in art, policy and education to the table.
Like many others, GrizzlyCorps partners and fellows had to shift their project plans in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. While some of the projects have been able to continue in person with appropriate pandemic precautions, many shifted to fully remote projects or some hybrid of the two. As a program that is focused on community resilience, this has presented interesting opportunities for GrizzlyCorp fellows to get to know and be involved in the community, even while remotely connecting. Many are laying important groundwork for more outreach in the spring.
Eliza Munger, Program Manager of GrizzlyCorps, shared that engagement in communities is a primary reason for the program and key to its success. According to Eliza, this program provides huge benefits for communities as the communities themselves are able to ask for and shape the change they want, with the added capacity and direct service of a GrizzlyCorp fellow. Every community member gets a say in what type of projects they want to see advance their climate resiliency.
Adding capacity to the Healthy Soils Program
The GrizzlyCorps fellows are placed at Resource Conservation Districts (RCD) , research and extension stations and non-profit partners all over the state, co-creating projects that focus on expanding regenerative ranching and agriculture practices, creating fire plans for local school districts, and more. Many are working on outreach, implementation or other assistance activities for the Healthy Soils Program.
As we wrote about last year, the UC Cooperative Extension in Fresno county has supported the large population of Hmong farmers in the area in applying for and receiving Climate Smart Agriculture program grants. Their GrizzlyCorps fellow is working directly with traditionally underserved farmers and highly diversified farms to adopt and integrate these healthy soils practices. Fellows working with different RCDs—Tehama County, Sonoma County, Placer County, Upper Salinas Las-Tablas—as well as other non-profit partners, are also providing assistance for the popular program.
CalCAN Coalition member Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) is working with a GrizzlyCorp member. Rose Curley is working with CAFF’s Climate Smart Farming team on their Healthy Soils Program demonstration project at Bullseye Farms in Yolo County among other projects.
-Rose Curley, GrizzlyCorps fellow
You can read about the different projects here.
Interested in being a fellow or partner?
The next application cycle for project sites will open on November 16. One of the best ways to use AmeriCorps members, Eliza emphasizes, is as a connecting force, supporting collaboration between different organizations and agencies and encourages these types of joint projects.
Application for the next cohort of GrizzlyCorps fellows will open in February 1st and applications will be accepted throughout the spring, to begin September 2021.