By Janice Schneider, Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management
Today American Express announced a grant that will help train veterans to serve as first responders on America’s public lands. The $300,000 grant will go to Team Rubicon, a nonprofit disaster relief organization that offers veterans the opportunity to continue their service by helping those affected by disasters while regaining a sense of purpose, community and identity.
Veterans are key to America’s workforce, and this generous grant will help better protect public lands while supporting veterans in learning new skills. The funds will support the development of a new program in partnership with Interior where veteran volunteers will work on disaster mitigation and habitat improvement projects. These funds will also help Team Rubicon develop a nationwide model for responding to disasters like wildfires on public lands.
With these funds, Team Rubicon expects to send at least 300 volunteers to support Interior-initiated disaster mitigation or response efforts. Depending on project needs, Team Rubicon’s veteran members will receive technical training -- such as the use of heavy equipment and firefighting techniques -- so they can act as first responders for future events and improve their chances of finding a job in fields that require these skills.
Interior’s Bureau of Land Management recently formed a partnership with Team Rubicon to provide wildland firefighter training and certification for veterans, allowing them to assist in federal wildland firefighting efforts. Through the partnership, this summer nearly 200 veterans received training, and more than 100 helped fight wildland fires during one of the most devastating wildfire seasons in recent history.
Earlier this year, American Express announced a $5 million commitment to help Interior reach its goal of one million volunteers on public lands annually. In partnership with the YMCA of the USA, the funding from American Express will create community coordinator positions in 50 U.S. cities to increase awareness, support and participation in outdoor programs. The funding will also support efforts to engage young adults and veterans to serve on the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps and engage new volunteers during the 2016 National Park Service Centennial.