If you’ve been following our work for the past few years, you’ve likely heard us talk about the Caucasus Conservation Corps (CCC), our flagship program to connect and inspire young conservation leaders from the region through outdoor work and training.
The CCC started in Georgia in 2020, with a similar effort growing in Armenia led by our partners Trails For Change. Over the past few years, thanks to an expanding partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and your support, we’ve grown the program while training up new local crew leaders and getting dozens of volunteers from Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan out on the trails.
Now, we’re thrilled to announce that we’re expanding the program into a wider three-country partnership. The CCC will include outdoor leadership and training programs in Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, as well as international exchanges between the countries.
Over the next few years, we’ll bring together young conservation leaders from the region to work on trail projects and learn a wide range of technical and life skills. We’ll build collaborative partnerships with communities and organizations across the region, and use CCC projects to support shared priorities around conservation and nature-based tourism. And we’ll use trail crews as a platform for international exchange – creating opportunities for cross-border collaboration that can help build a more sustainable future for the Caucasus.
In January, the U.S. Forest Service hosted our core CCC team for a study tour in Washington, D.C. and North Carolina. We had the opportunity to visit several different conservation corps programs, explore different program models, and map out our strategy and workplan for the first year of the CCC.
We came away with a lot of excitement for the years ahead, several new ideas to try out, and an appreciation for the shared challenges that conservation corps programs face in both the U.S. or the Caucasus. We also built stronger relationships among our core team members from all 3 countries – who don’t often get a chance to meet in person!
Collectively, we agreed on our mission statement and vision for the CCC:
The Caucasus Conservation Corps connects and inspires young conservation leaders through outdoor work and training. We collaborate with our communities and partners to build a more sustainable future for the Caucasus.
Our long-term goals for the program are to:
- Train young people with relevant skills to set them up for success
- Have crews do meaningful work that supports conservation and nature-based tourism
- Establish collaborative, mutually beneficial partnerships
- Connect to communities to promote shared ownership, access and stewardship
- Facilitate cross-border collaboration and international exchange
We are now in the early days of the 2023 field season. Trail crews are out improving the trails in Armenia and Georgia. We’ve hosted our first international exchange – a joint wilderness medicine training for trail crew leaders from Armenia and Georgia – and are now into our second – a joint crew leader training program for new leaders from Georgia and Azerbaijan. We’ve done a lot of work over the past few months to develop and translate the CCC curriculum and leadership manual. And we’re planning several community outreach initiatives and exploring new partnerships.
There are a lot of exciting developments to come… so stay tuned for updates throughout the field season – and consider supporting our young CCC leaders this summer. Together, let’s build a more sustainable future for the Caucasus region and leave a legacy for generations to come!