ATHOL, MASS. >> Nationwide recruiting has begun for the Massachusetts Land Initiative for Tomorrow. Established in 2010 and managed by Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust of Athol, this AmeriCorps program serves regional conservation organizations (including urban conservation and gardening efforts) seeking to involve more people and do more community conservation projects across Massachusetts.
"MassLIFT is a unique land conservation program," says Mount Grace Executive Director Leigh Youngblood. "Because of MassLIFT, more people are personally experiencing the benefits of conservation — for instance, through the accessible trail being built at the new Alderbrook Meadows Sanctuary in Northfield. It is also the best job training program for land conservationists I know of in the country. Sarah Wells is a great example. She grew up in the town of Orange, received a degree in Natural Resource Conservation from UMass Amherst, served for two years as a MassLIFT-AmeriCorps member, and is now a very effective, full-time Director of Land Protection at Mount Grace, protecting the place she is from."
This year 36 AmeriCorps members from around the United States will serve in MassLIFT. Members carry out capacity building projects; educate or train individuals in environmental stewardship; recruit, train, manage, and support community volunteers engaged in land conservation activities; and identify new individuals and groups to participate in education, recreation, or service opportunities that address land conservation needs. Specific activities vary by host site.
Land Stewardship Coordinators build the long-term capacity of their host sites to meet core land stewardship responsibilities and collaborate externally with municipal boards, local volunteer land trusts, and other community groups to develop sustainable volunteer stewardship programs.
Community Engagement Coordinators build the long-term capacity of their host sites to expand community engagement efforts, traditionally focused on conservation-minded groups and populations, to include more diverse demographics and civic interests for the purpose of increasing public support for land conservation (including urban conservation and gardening efforts).
Regional Conservation Coordinators build the long-term capacity of their host sites to assess and coordinate opportunities for collaborative land conservation and community planning across all social sectors working in the region.
Youth Education Coordinators build the long-term capacity of their host to develop and deliver youth-focused service learning projects, science field trips, and outdoor experiential education.
Twenty organizations, located across the state, will host MassLIFT-AmeriCorps members this year: Mount Grace, Backyard Growers, Berkshire Natural Resources Council, Buzzards Bay Coalition and Wareham Land Trust, East Quabbin Land Trust, Essex County Greenbelt / Town of Ipswich, Groundwork Lawrence, Groundwork Somerville, Hilltown Land Trust / Grow Food Northampton, Kestrel Land Trust, Mass Audubon Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, MassConn Regional Conservation Partnership (a project of Opacum Land Trust), Mill City Grows, North County Land Trust, the North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership (with Mount Grace), South East MA Pine Barrens Alliance, and Sudbury Valley Trustees.