Building conservation careers

Clean Water Fund allocations provide soil and water conservation districts with a trained labor force, and equip Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa crews with skills ranging from firefighting to disaster aid. In Stearns County, a Brainerd-based crew stabilized a stretch of Mississippi River bank in a park north of St. Cloud.

The Brainerd-based Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa crew that spent a week working on a bank stabilization project at Mississippi River County Park in October included, clockwise from front: crew leader Austin Dixon, 24, of Catonsville, Maryland; and crew members Thomas Rusco, 22, of Lino Lakes; Megan Gillespie, 23, of Morris; Joshua Dilling, 22, of Killeen, Texas; and Alexis Rodriguez, 22, of Phoenix. Photo Credits: Ann Wessel, BWSR
Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa crew members, from left, Alexis Rodriguez, Austin Dixon, in the blue crew leader’s hat, and Joshua Dilling head back to work. The average CCMI crew member is 22 or 23 years old and has a four-year degree.
The training Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa crews receive on the job prepares them for employment elsewhere.
Stearns County Soil & Water Conservation District Lakeshed Specialist Greg Berg checked in on the Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa crew. “We like working with them, and it’s a cost savings for the project,” Berg said.
A project at Mississippi River County Park north of Sartell used anchored logs and layers of coconut fiber mats to help stabilize a 600-foot-long stretch of riverbank and curb erosion. A Brainerd-based Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa crew drove lengths of willow into the bank. Clean Water Funds are in play in the Stearns County Soil & Water Conservation District project.
Upstream-facing root wads help to cut the velocity of streambank-eroding water.
Megan Gillespie and Joshua Dilling make lunch during a break from bank-stabilization work at Mississippi River County Park on Oct. 2. The crew camped through September. Full-length terms run through mid-December.

Meet the crew

Austin Dixon
Joshua Dilling
Megan Gillespie
Alexis Rodriguez
Thomas Rusco

Our mission is to improve and protect Minnesota’s water and soil resources by working in partnership with local organizations and private landowners.