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U.S. EPA awards Brownfields Jobs Training grant bolstering HCA's Nature Action Crew program

The program is possible with partnerships with Missouri Department of Conservation, Cornerstones of Care, Health Forward Foundation, and National Fish and Wildlife.

The Nature Action Crew began in 2021 as the "Conservation Corps" pilot program with funding from MDC. In the fall Magali Rojas (center) was hired as the first Nature Action Crew Leader. Along with technical leadership, she works closely with Theo Bunch (right) from Cornerstones of Care to provide mentorship opportunities to the Build Trybe students. Photo by U.S. EPA

By Sarah Benal

On Wednesday, April 20 HCA was honored to receive nearly $200,000 for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields Grant. Mayor Quinton Lucas, Representative Sharice Davids, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Region 7 (IA, KS, MO, NE) Administrator Meg McCollister attended the event. The event was held at the Stanley C. Palmer Engineering Building and was followed with a tour of The Municipal Farm on Coal Mine Road. The Municipal Farm, one of HCA’s Action Areas and a location that have been identified as a vital restoration site where the Nature Action Crew and our partners' work will directly impact the health of the Blue River.

The funding will go toward our green jobs program in partnership with Build Trybe and Cornerstones of Care. This award would not be possible without the hard work and leadership from former Executive Director Jill Erickson, and the dedication and support from our Nature Action Crew program partners such as the Missouri Department of Conservation, Health Forward Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation – Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration, and Shumaker Family Foundation.

“Today’s youth will be the future of conservation. We want to get youth engaged in conservation projects locally so they can also experience the benefits of nature where they live,” said Bill White, Private Land Services Division Chief for MDC.

Conservation is filled with long and difficult goals, and HCA is proud and excited by the work being done by all of the organizations in Kansas City. Build Trybe students will work alongside HCA's The Nature Action Crew, which began in 2021 as a green jobs pilot program with funding from MDC. MDC continues to offer technical training and support to the Nature Action Crew and Build Trybe through educational and fun skill courses such as plantings, bird identification, and field work.

With the EPA Brownfields grant, over 50 students, specifically at-risk youth who are aging out of foster care, will receive training and support to help them prepare for future careers in conservation. HCA is working closely with Build Trybe and Cornerstones of Care to address environmental workforce needs as well as the employment needs of young people in Kansas City. The goal of this training program is to provide students with a broad foundation in natural resources science and environmental management. These students will receive certification and relevant experience to enter environmental careers in the Kansas City area, and will join organizations that are working to restore natural areas and create healthier green spaces.

“We want them to understand how critically important conservation is to a good quality of life in our communities,” explained Wendy Sangster, the Community Conservation Planner at MDC. “Planting trees and native plants or removing invasive species not only benefits wildlife but also people. We need young people who understand this and will carry those ideas into their careers.”

This generous grant will not only open up the conservation field to others, but will also strengthen Kansas City’s environment and economy. In an effort to pursue environmental justice, HCA strives to increase health and safety for others by increasing access to green space and restoring valuable natural resources for future generations.

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