AmeriCorps members are arguably one of the best agents of implementing “Nature-based Solutions”. If you talk to as many natural resource managers and ecologists as I do, you will see proof of this. One of the most common things I hear from my partners is – “I was an AmeriCorps member!” or “I was a conservation corps member!”
But what are nature-based solutions? In simple terms, nature-based solutions typically means the usage of a feature that exists in nature – such as oyster reefs, sand dunes, forests, floodplains, and wetlands and marshes – in a way that protects people from climate and natural hazards.
Nature-based solutions can refer to healthy and robust natural features used as an effective tool to buffer the impacts from climate-related emergencies, including more frequent massive hurricanes, unprecedented flooding, drought, and wildfires on scales that a US population has never experienced before.
Projects leveraging nature-based solutions are pivotal tools for The Nature Conservancy and many of our partners. They address impacts from climate related hazards and preserve the future resilience of people and nature through:
- preserving a healthy forest adjacent to a community;
- restoring and building new wetlands in areas with flooding or heavy development to act as sponges that soak up and clean water, while also reducing the amount of flooding and insurance claims to communities; and
- improving a sand dune on a barrier island or beach to reduce the impacts from waves to whatever is behind those dunes.
These are also the types of nature-based solution projects that the GulfCorps crews are known to do with nearly 100 different partners at more than 170 different projects, across the five Gulf of Mexico States including Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.
So? How can a person be a nature-based solution? AmeriCorps does it all day, every day – through inspiration.
AmeriCorps and the programs that it supports, such as GulfCorps, are providing the ingredients for thousands of young people to become inspired and committed to dedicating their lives and careers to protecting nature. Nearly all the 11 GulfCorps crews utilize AmeriCorps grants to build upon and reinforce conservation corps efforts. Without AmeriCorps, the GulfCorps program would not be as effective in the quality of the experience, inspiring young people continue this work.
These programs create lifelong, dedicated stewards of the Earth who will go on to address our planet’s biggest challenges, proving that people can be nature-based solutions too. Nearly all 11 GulfCorps crews utilize AmeriCorps grants to reinforce their conservation corps efforts. Without AmeriCorps, the GulfCorps program would not be as effective in the quality of the experience and the ability to allow for inspiration of the young people. (Find out more at nature.org/gulfcorps)
GulfCorps is a program funded through fines from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010. The RESTORE Council, which consists of governor-appointed representatives from each Gulf State, along with 6 Federal Agencies designated the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to provide the funding and oversight for a four-year Gulf-wide Conservation Corps Program in 2017. In 2021, GulfCorps was awarded an additional $11.3 million to continue the program for another four years. Now in its fifth year, GulfCorps Crews have helped restore over 10,000 acres of wetlands, marshes, forests, oyster reefs, sand dunes, and recreational areas across the five Gulf states. Nearly all of the 11 GulfCorps crews utilize AmeriCorps grants to build upon and reinforce their conservation corps efforts. Without AmeriCorps, the GulfCorps program would not be as effective in the quality of the experience and the ability to allow for inspiration of the young people. Find out more at nature.org/gulfcorps.
Jeff DeQuattro is based about 10 miles from the Gulf of Mexico in Alabama and serves as the director of restoration for The Nature Conservancy’s Gulf of Mexico Whole Systems Program. In this role, Jeff provides senior technical, programmatic support and leadership to TNC coastal restoration and conservation practitioners for coastal restoration projects across the five Gulf of Mexico states. His work includes planning, permitting, and construction of large oyster reefs, shoreline protection projects, and other nature-based solutions.
Jeff is also the GulfCorps program director, in which he directs of team that manages a series of 11 conservation corps from Corpus Christi to Apalachicola that engages over 100 young adults annually to conduct coastal restoration and conservation projects.
All images credited to GulfCorps, ©John Stanmeyer.