Lopez Island's Kwiáht joins federal conservation service initiative

Lopez Island-based Kwiaht is among 91 organizations nationwide so far to be selected to help implement the Obama Administration’s 21st Century Conservation Service Corps initiative.

The 21CSC is a national collaborative effort managed by the U.S. Department of the Agriculture and of the Interior and seeks to put the nation's youth and veterans to work protecting, restoring and enhancing natural and cultural resources.

Kwiáht director Russel Barsh welcomed the selection as “a breakthrough in our efforts to bring island youth and Tribal youth together to protect and enhance the new National Monument and other federal lands, shorelines, and small islands in the San Juan archipelago.”

Barsh says the first steps will include identifying priority actions with federal agencies, and devising recruiting strategies with high schools and colleges serving the islands and Tribes with historical ties to the islands.

“After that it’s a question of how much money the administration will be able to send our way, which in these difficult times may not be anywhere close to what we could put to good use,” Barsh said.

Kwiáht has offered youth apprenticeships in ecology and conservation since 2006, and partnered with the youth conservation corps programs on Orcas and Lopez. Kwiáht also recently launched a joint program with the Swinomish Tribe growing camas, a traditional Coast Salish food crop.

The 21CSC targets young Americans ages 15-25, and veterans up to age 35, with the aim of providing them with meaningful work, gaining important personal and professional skills, and reinforcing their connection to the outdoors. Eligible activities include enhancing recreational access, protecting wildlife, restoring degraded watersheds, removing invasive species, reducing wildfire risks, preserving historic or cultural sites, and collecting monitoring data. All 21CSC member organizations emphasize diversity and inclusion.

The 21CSC is coordinated by a national council that includes representatives of USDA, the Interior Department, the Army Corps of Engineers, NOAA, the Department of Labor, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Council on Environmental Quality.

For additional information on the national initiative, visit, and for information on activities in the San Juan Islands, write to



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