Meet Dave Weaver: The Chavez Environmental Corps’ Director is Committed to Reclaiming the Environment

David Weaver brings years of experience in the California Conservation Corps to his job as Director of FIELD’s Environmental Corps job training program. He discusses his department’s mandate to train corpsmembers into restoring the natural environment, especially after wildfires, floods, and other natural disasters.

Weaver spoke about his work, his love of nature, his dedication to public service and his vision for the corpsmembers in the Chavez Corps.

Tell us a little about yourself and how you got here.

Right out of high school, I joined the California Conservation Corps, so I’ve spent my entire career in public service. I went through the whole CCC experience learning skills like tree climbing, chainsaw use, trail construction and maintenance, and heavy natural resources related work.

After my time with the CCC I went to work with various public agencies like the National Park Service, California State Parks, and other groups. I was a crew supervisor for the California Conservation Corps, the Civic Corps in Oakland, the San Francisco Conservation Corps. Then, most recently, I was a park supervisor for the East Bay Regional parks district for about six years.

In 2022, FIELD recruited me to come manage its Natural Resources Department and then promoted me into the director position in July of 2023.

What is the Cesar Chavez Environmental Corps?

The Cesar Chavez Environmental Corps started about 14 years ago; it is one of 14 certified local conservation corps in the state of California. We are part of the California Association of Local Conservation Corps (CALCC), and we are a subset of FIELD’s job training program.

FIELD’s Conservation Corps is two broad departments — natural resources and recycling. Within natural resources we do work such as fire fuels reduction in the local area, trail work, tree planting, river restoration, habitat restoration, and non-native invasive species work.

The recycling side of things is primarily funded by a group called CalRecycle based out of Sacramento, and they are a government agency that gives grant money to groups that do recycling-related work. We do recycling of beverage containers, e-waste collection, oil signage review, tire collection and we operate a number of recycling buy back centers.

What is the mission of the Cesar Chavez Environmental Corps?

FIELD empowers the underserved to have the capacity to be self-sufficient not only through job training but also through education. So, our corpsmembers not only are able to take part in the overall FIELD education programs, but they also get out in nature for the work-based learning that we provide with the corps experience.

Who are the members of the corps?

Right now, we have 87 members, but it’s a constantly fluctuating number. A typical corpsmember is between the ages of 18 and 26 and generally does not have a lot of work experience. Or maybe they didn’t finish high school or something else that might get in the way of them being able to successfully complete the hiring process.

So, we take these folks, educate them, and give them work experience; we give them the opportunity to pursue their high school diploma or a career path through career technical education, and we pay them to do it.

Our corpsmembers come from and operate at locations all over the state, depending on where they are needed. They may be camping out for eight days at a time doing burn rehabilitation in a burn area.  We have a group that is starting a trail maintenance project in the Malibu Creek area, while another crew is working in the Tehachapi Mountain area doing fire fuel reduction with chainsaws and hand tools, thinning out dead brush and making fire fuel breaks. We also have another crew working with our river partners in Kern County planting trees along the Kern River and one getting ready to help California Cities with a public works project at the Borax Bill substation.

We recruit locally here in Kern County, but also in California City, Mojave, and all the surrounding areas. We have crews operating in the central coast in the Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo area. We have a crew operating on the eastern side of the Sierras, out of Bishop and Lone Pine.

What does a success story look like for corpsmembers? What are you trying to achieve with them?

The initial agreement is for them to be a corpsmember for a one-year period. During that time, they go through FIELD’s workforce training program where they receive performance evaluations quarterly and upon completion, are evaluated by their crew supervisor.

They can exit the program as a success story if they finish their training or education, or they transition into a job with one of our partners like State Parks or one of the cities we work with. If they need more time or they want to continue their training or education and their evaluations have been up to par, they can request to extend their stay in the program for another year or ask to be promoted to a crew leader position. The bottom line is there is no one version of a success story. The true success story is creating a platform for them to take the next step in either their education or career…. or both. Setting them up for a better life is truly the ultimate success.