AmeriCorps Member To Oversee Town Conservation Lands

By: William F. Galvin

AmeriCorps Cape Cod member Hannah Schmidt will be working with the town and Harwich Conservation Trust on conservation land stewardship projects over the next 11 months. COURTESY PHOTO

HARWICH — Hannah Schmidt grew up among the trees at the base of Mount Hood in Oregon and did not spend a lot of time along the edge of the Pacific Ocean. She never experienced wind like that churning the Atlantic Ocean and whipping trees last Thursday during a three-day nor’easter.

But Schmidt has come east to work on land stewardship projects, help develop an arboretum and work on environmental education and outreach. A member of AmeriCorps Cape Cod, she will be working with the town and the Harwich Conservation Trust for 11 months.

“We welcome Hannah and her energized ideas to help advance Harwich Conservation Trust’s many land stewardship initiatives,” HCT Executive Director Michael Lach said.

AmeriCorps Cape Cod has been referred to as “the domestic Peace Corps.” The national AmeriCorps program began in 1994. The Cape program is in its 21st year, funded by Barnstable County and through grants from the Massachusetts Service Alliance and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

The program provides 21 young adults an 11-month, full-time residential living opportunity to serve the environmental and disaster preparedness needs of the 15 towns in Barnstable County. Housing is provided by Barnstable County and the Cape Cod National Seashore.

“Harwich is beautiful, amazing and there are so many ponds and areas that are conserved and are beautiful,” Schmidt said on Thursday as 50-mile-an-hour winds whipped the sides of Harwich Town Hall. “I’m happy I got this job.”

Schmidt will be spending much of her time in those beautiful and conserved areas. She will be spending two days a week working for the town and one day for the Harwich Conservation Trust. The town, trust and AmeriCorps Cape Cod have had this cooperative agreement since AmeriCorps Cape Cod formed.

Her work with the conservation department will include monitoring conservation areas, keeping an eye out for encroachment, illegal dumping and identifying invasive species and trees that need attention. While working with the trust, her tasks will be similar but on trust lands.

The day she spends with the cemetery department, Schmidt said, will be focusing on the Island Pond Cemetery Arboretum project, which will include helping with environmental education, public outreach and working with indigenous plants.

“We look forward to having Hannah serve with us,” Conservation Administrator Amy Usowski said. “This placement provides a unique opportunity for the AmeriCorps member to learn both governmental and non-profit aspects of conservation. For the town, Hannah will be assisting us manage our conservation lands, plan public events, and start the implementation of the Island Pond Cemetery Arboretum project. We look forward to further collaboration with the Harwich Conservation Trust through this AmeriCorps placement with Hannah.”

Schmidt is a graduate of the University of Oregon where she earned a bachelor of science degree in environmental studies with minors in public policy, planning management and ethics. She was first inspired to enter environmental studies after traveling to Costa Rica with fellow high school students and teachers to participate in sea turtle habitat restoration and research for two weeks.

Her university studies have taken her abroad to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands to further explore the climate mitigation policy and hands-on environmental restoration work. More recently, she served in the Environmental Leadership Program at the University of Oregon, actively educating young people about the importance of creating a connection with nature and a respect for the environment.

When considering post graduate plans, Schmidt began searching for opportunities to serve that allowed her to make a tangible difference in protecting the natural environment while gaining experience in a breadth of different conservation and natural resources programs. AmeriCorps seemed like the perfect fit for her.

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, she was always fascinated with the great outdoors, although habitats a bit different from those she will be focusing on.

“I am thrilled to be an AmeriCorps Cape Cod member and look forward to exploring the beautiful state of Massachusetts,” she said.