Stewards Individual Placement Programs's history begins in 2002 as a partnership between AmeriCorps*VISTA, grassroots community improvement groups in Appalachia, and the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE).
Appalachian Coal Country Watershed Team (ACCWT) The ACCWT assisted local watershed improvement groups in their efforts to address water quality issues such as acid mine drainage, straight piping, and sedimentation runoff in the Appalachian region. These water quality issues, caused largely by pre-regulatory coal mining, negatively impact community, ecosystem, and human health. Beginning in central Appalachia and expanding over time throughout the Appalachian region under the direction of Dr. T Allan Comp, the ACCWT hired its first paid employee, April Elkins, in 2007. Over time, the mission of the ACCWT expanded to include the VISTA focus areas of economic development and healthy futures (community and human health). To reflect these changes, the team was renamed the Appalachian Coal Country Team (ACCT). ACCT VISTAs built local capacity for a number of grassroots watershed organizations that remain active in the effort to restore water quality in Appalachia today.
Western Hardrock Watershed Team (WHWT) The OSMRE/VISTA Teams expanded to Colorado and New Mexico with the creation of the WHWT in 2007. Modeled after the ACCT, the WHWT served Western communities impacted by the environmental and economic effects from the boom-and-bust cycle of hardrock mining. Dr. T Allan Comp was awarded the Service to America Medal in 2009 for inaugurating the unique and innovative OSMRE/VISTA partnership that allowed the WHWT and ACCT to reach rural mining communities in Appalachia and the mountain west.
OSMRE Regulatory Trainee AmeriCorps Program In 2010, Dr. Comp and the growing ACCT staff in Beckley, WV launched the OSMRE Regulatory Trainee Program as a partnership between OSMRE, and Southwest Conservation Corps and other state based environmental regulatory organizations. The OSMRE Regulatory Trainee Program, or OSMRE/AmeriCorps is a year-long opportunity to engage young professionals in natural resource management while providing invaluable hands-on experience in OSMRE regulatory offices.
Environmental Stewards Southwest Conservation Corps, the sponsoring nonprofit of the OSMRE Regulatory Trainee Program, expanded the model to include other agencies such as the National Park Service (NPS), and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and local and state agencies, to create the “Environmental Stewards” program. Today hundreds of Environmental Stewards per year serve in land-management training projects across the US. Environmental Stewards serve with land-management agencies and organizations in direct service projects that train participants in land-management skills through short-term or year long AmeriCorps terms and internships. Hosting a passionate young person for these projects helps land-management agencies and organizations in meeting their mission.
United States Department of the Interior Volunteer in Service to America (DOI/VISTA) In 2013, the US Department of the Interior (DOI) and AmeriCorps VISTA invited Dr. Comp and the OSMRE/VISTA Team Staff to expand their efforts to include projects in partnership with multiple bureaus across the United States Department of the Interior including NPS.
The first DOI/VISTA positions were placed in February 2014, with initial positions being funded by NPS and FWS. After the successful placement of these sites, the office of Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell funded a large majority of DOI/VISTA positions - these positions began placement in August and November 2014, with additional positions being added throughout 2015. The mission of the DOI/VISTA Team is to support underserved communities in using public lands for employment opportunities, health, and education. Stewards staff is working to continue the DOI/VISTA Team by seeking continued funding for the DOI/VISTA Sites by facilitating partnerships with bureau leadership at NPS, FWS & BLM respectively. In less than two years, the DOI/ VISTA Team has expanded to include projects serving in diverse communities across the country that connect underserved communities to the great outdoors and public lands.
Tribal College and Universities/VISTA During the development of the DOI/VISTA Team, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) funded the development of several VISTA sites in partnership with USDA’s Tribal College and Universities Land Grant Development Initiative (TCULGDI). With direct site development support from TCULGDI, the TCU/VISTA Team was developed with eight positions serving with Tribal Colleges and Universities across the country. The mission of the TCU/VISTA team is to support Tribal colleges and universities in fostering food systems development, job training opportunities, and environmental stewardship in Tribal communities.
Stewards Individual Placement Program Beginning October 2015, the Stewards Individual Placement Program was launched as a program of Conservation Legacy. Through the model first established by Dr. Comp in 2002, Stewards Individual Placement Program is proud to work with federal and local partners to create lasting community change. While each team remains independent in its focus and funding structure, each team is also part of a larger network which includes team members, supervisors, funders, staff, and partners across the country. Stewards Individual Placement Program strives to create a better future for people and for the environment by supporting and investing in the next generation of leaders. Together with a robust network of partners, Stewards Individual Placement Program encourages and supports team members and alumni to continue their service to the country by going on to work in government, nonprofit, private, and academic sectors.
Join Community Stewards as a VISTA:
- Work with a community based nonprofit
- Receive a Living Stipend & Ed Award
- Get professional nonprofit training
Join Environmental Stewards as an AmeriCorps Member:
- Work with a land-management agency
- Receive a Living Stipend & Ed Award
- Serve for 8-10 weeks or a full-year