INFORMATION FOR PROSPECTIVE APPLICANTS
If you are a college student who would rather learn in a classroom surrounded by 14,000-foot peaks, alpine lakes, and mountain goats than one surrounded by desks and walls, let us introduce you to Earth Corps. If learning outdoor leadership and mountaineering skills interests you more than a summer job at the country club, let us introduce you to Earth Corps. And if you are enticed by the opportunity to push yourself physically in a rugged environment and make friends for a lifetime, let us introduce you to Earth Corps…
Earth Corps Overview
Earth Corps was created to provide undergraduate students with the opportunity to directly address a critical environmental threat while immersed in a backcountry environment. This hands-on program combines environmental education with environmental stewardship through an intensive 30-day field study wherein participants live and work in a remote setting, complete long hours of demanding physical labor, work effectively as a team, exercise the highest level of commitment and perseverance, and make enduring friendships. Students will develop key outdoor skills during the program and through their summits of Crestone Needle (one of the top 50 classic climbs in North America), Kit Carson Peak, and Humboldt Peak. They will practice and learn Leave No Trace, backcountry navigation, alpine mountaineering, and risk management. Upon successful completion of the program, each student will receive 4 hours of credit from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (GES 446: Field Studies in Geography).
Earth Corps was started in 2002 with a two-fold purpose: first, to provide an exceptional experiential education opportunity centered around understanding sensitive ecosystems and the challenges faced in sustainably managing them; and second, to enable RMFI to complete critical restoration projects in difficult and demanding environments. The result is a unique, hands-on, field-based course, integrating a curriculum of land management policy and wildlands systems science with on-the-ground service work. The program includes lectures from renowned experts in the fields of geography, botany, natural resource management, and biology, as well as industry professionals. Through student-led discussions and projects, RMFI promotes the development of critical thinking skills and teamwork, two important and productive parts of science and life. Reading assignments, individual research reports, and a final examination complete the curriculum. Earth Corps is an experiential education program that exposes students to both the tangible and intangible lessons that spending 30 days in the backcountry brings.
This year’s stewardship project will focus on the South Colony Lakes Basin Restoration Project, located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range in Southern Colorado. The service component of Earth Corps involves difficult and highly technical restoration projects that are well beyond the scope of traditional outdoor volunteer programs. Earth Corps is 30 days to provide for ample time for skills training, acclimatization, orientation to the area, and the opportunity to accomplish a tremendous amount of work
The Rocky Mountain Field Institute is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) environmental stewardship and education organization dedicated to the conservation and stewardship of public lands in the southern Rocky Mountains. The Institute accomplishes its mission through development and implementation of environmental projects in partnership with federal, state, and municipal land management agencies. RMFI has been working since 1989 to address critical land preservation and restoration issues throughout the Southern Rocky Mountain Region. Current major project sites include Pikes Peak, South Colony Lakes Basin and Lake Como Basin in the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range, Garden of the Gods Park, Shelf Road Recreation Area, Waldo Fire Burn Scar, and Indian Creek Canyon in Utah.
2013 Earth Corps
In 2013, Earth Corps will take place in South Colony Lakes Basin, an alpine Wilderness Area in the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range in Southern Colorado. The stewardship project will provide key support for the completion of the South Colony Lakes Basin Restoration Project. Crestone Needle (14,197’), Crestone Peak (14,295’), Kit Carson Peak (14,163’), and Humboldt Peak (14,064’) tower 6,000’ above the San Luis Valley in Southern Colorado. Thousands of backcountry enthusiasts are drawn to this area each year to summit the peaks, especially Crestone Needle, considered one of the most challenging peaks to summit in Colorado. The basin and surrounding peaks have been atop the Forest Service’s list of management priority areas for many years. RMFI began working in partnership with the Forest Service in 1996 to establish the basin as a model for how high-use locations within a Wilderness Area should be cared for. RMFI’s work to date includes the construction of summit routes to the Needle and Humboldt, major repairs to the basin’s trail system, and the restoration of visitor created social trails and campgrounds. Earth Corps 2013 will continue to carry out these objectives. This will be accomplished through the re-vegetation of denuded areas, construction of erosion control structures, retaining walls and rock risers and steps, reconstructing eroded slopes, rerouting the trail, and restoring closed sections of the trail.
The curriculum is comprised of four units:
- Environmental systems and physical geography of the South Colony Lakes Basin
Students are introduced to climatology, alpine soils, geology, flora, and human impacts on the environment through lectures, readings, and discussions.
- Natural resources management and policy
Students gain an understanding of the principles and framework of U.S. public land management, and the challenges facing sustainable management.
- Land management practices today, Sangre De Christo Wilderness Area case study
Students analyze management issues and policies such as recreational use, fish stocking, invasive species, fire, natural resources extraction and user fees
- Environmental service component: South Colony Lakes Basin trail re-construction and campground improvement project
Students are trained in alpine restoration and trail construction techniques and methodologies through the completion of the South Colony Lakes Basin Restoration Project.
Earth Corps students will work out of a base camp located in the South Colony Lakes Basin, at an elevation of 11,500 feet, just below tree line. This will be an incredibly physically demanding program, from beginning to end. Campsite restoration will primarily take place at 11-12,000 feet, however trail maintenance of both summit routes to the Needle and Humboldt will occur at elevations up to 14,000 feet. Participants will be working almost every day of the 30-day program, off-days are minimal however there will be opportunities to summit the nearby peaks. Group equipment (3-person 4-season Mountain Hardwear tents, stoves, kitchen, etc) and food will be provided by RMFI. In addition to sleeping tents RMFI will provide a large group tent (Mountain Hardwear Stronghold) for evening study sessions, refuge from weather, and general socializing. Students will be required to supply their own personal gear (outdoor clothing, backpack, sleeping bag and sleeping pad, etc.). The program is coed. Enrollment is limited to 10 students.
Outdoor Recreation and Skills Building
Students will develop key outdoor skills during the program. Students will have the opportunity to summit Crestone Needle (14,295’) and Humboldt Peak (14,064’), with the added possibility of Kit Carson (14,163’) depending on time and weather. They will practice and learn Leave No Trace, backcountry navigation, alpine mountaineering, and risk management. Seasoned professionals from RMFI will lead the program. With over 75 years of combined climbing and mountaineering experience, RMFI staff brings an unparalleled amount of backcountry and exploration expertise and an enthusiasm for stewardship and the natural world. While passionate about restoration and conservation work, the staff also recognizes the need for adventure. Cumulatively, the staff has climbed on six continents and established routes in several classic climbing areas including Turkey Rocks, Shelf Road, Rocky Mountain National Park, Devils Tower and Patagonia. In addition to the experience and enthusiasm the staff brings to each and every program, safety is always a main focus on all RMFI programs. All RMFI field instructors are certified Wilderness First Responders.
It is our priority to provide quality, nutritious food during the program. We believe in real food and rely on freeze-dried and dehydrated rations only when needed. Please understand that the remote location requires some flexibility in normal eating habits. Typical dinners include pasta, stir-fry, burritos, polenta, rice, couscous, chili, grilled cheese and tomato soup, etc. Typical lunches include pb&j, summer sausage, hummus, fruit (fresh and dried), trailmix, etc. We typically have meat-eaters and vegetarians and provide a variety of protein options such as chicken, tofu, tempeh, and veggie crumbles. If you have concerns or special dietary requirements please address them on your application or give us a call.
Is Earth Corps Right for Me?
Given the expectations of the program and the considerable investment that it represents on the part of RMFI, our agency partners, and our funding sources, it is imperative that Earth Corps be the right fit.
Earth Corps is physically and mentally challenging. It is not uncommon for students to remark that the program was one of the most demanding experiences of their lives. Due to the nature of the service work, excellent physical conditioning is a prerequisite, and students are expected to come to Earth Corps already in good physical shape. Earth Corps requires a commitment to teamwork. The overall success of any given Earth Corps program depends directly upon the extent to which students function as a team. Working and living continuously for 30 days in the backcountry is demanding and a positive esprit de corps is absolutely essential. Effective communication skills, empathy, and humor all play key roles. Teamwork is also critical for safety reasons. The backcountry environment is potentially hazardous by nature, and requires a steadfast commitment to risk management. Beyond anything, Earth Corps requires a commitment to seeing the experience through (there are no breaks and students remain in the field for the duration of the program), and dogged determination on a daily basis. 30 days is a long time to live and work in the backcountry. Weather conditions are often very trying. Also, studying in the evening after a long day of work isn’t an easy task.
Earth Corps Costs
The cost to students is a $2,000 course fee due at the time of program acceptance. We strive to make our programs affordable and therefore subsidize much of the cost of the program. This amount is less than 50 percent of the true program cost per student. The program is subsidized by RMFI through grants and other funding sources. Travel expenses and arrangements to and from Colorado Springs, and lodging before and after the program, as well as all personal gear, is the responsibility of the students. Accepted students have access to a limited number of discounts through RMFI’s gear company partners.
We believe that Earth Corps is a remarkably unique program that integrates two previously separate pursuits—education and service work. We believe in making this opportunity available to all students regardless of financial status. For that reason, RMFI subsidizes the true cost of the program, including tuition, food, supplies, personnel, etc. We ask that you show up motivated, inquisitive and ready for a challenge.
A limited number of scholarships are available for those students who demonstrate the financial need. A select number of scholarships will be awarded, ranging from partial to full. To apply for a scholarship, please send a 2-page letter demonstrating your interest in the program and need for financial assistance.
Earth Corps Acceptance
Earth Corps participants will be selected based upon academic interest and achievement, prior backcountry and outdoor experience, and overall exuberance. Applicants will be required to submit an application that includes the RMFI Program Application Form, a cover letter, and current resume. Top applicants will be interviewed by phone or in person. Applicants will be selected on a rolling admission basis; therefore, applying early is strongly encouraged. The early deadline for applications is March 4, final deadline is March 21, and final decisions will be made by April 5.
A completed application includes:
- RMFI Program Application Form
- Cover letter stating interest in the program and qualifications
- Current resume
- 2-page scholarship application letter (if applicable)
Please do not hesitate to contact the office with questions about Earth Corps! Contact Joe Lavorini, Program Coordinator, email@example.com.