Foresters, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation
SCA 2013: National High School Crew Leader – Pisgah National Forest
SCA 2013: National High School Crew Leader – Allaire State Park
SCA 2012: USFWS FishTracs Trail Inventory Corps – Boise, ID
SCA 2010-2011: Forest Restoration Intern – Bureau of Land Management, Tucson, AZ
SCA 2013: Veterans Fire Corps Crew Leader – Rapid City, SD
Christina Perdos and Kip Stein served as SCA crew leaders on opposite sides of the country. Now they work across the desk from each other as urban foresters at the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, helping to support the next generation of SCA members in the Big Apple.
What led you down the path to conservation?
I didn’t plan on being involved in conservation or environmental work early on. I studied geography in college and thought I’d get into urban planning and deal with issues that meant a lot to me close to home. But after college, I started working for the Parks Department in New York City and got interested in parts of the city that literally grew through the built environment (or existed before it was built). Not only designed parks, but urban natural areas and forests, vacant lots, and even what was growing in medians. The city can actually be pretty lush. And city or not, we have a pretty interesting relationship with the environment.
I originally went to school for fine arts and tried to express environmental issues through sculpture. After college, I wanted to gain more hands-on experience and volunteered for a conservation corps based in Arizona. After volunteering on a few projects, I became a paid crew leader for SCA’s Veterans Fire Corps, working in California and the Southwest, where I got a lot of experience in restoration field work. This eventually led me to decide to go back to school for forestry and wildland fire management, and conservation became my career path from then on.
How has SCA impacted your life and career?
SCA made me feel great. It reminded me that asking questions is fine, that I (like all folks) have strengths, and that if I strive to play to those strengths I can succeed. SCA also gave me much more confidence in the field. Through working with SCA and its partners, I added concrete things to my resume like ATV/UTV training, 4WD operation, Wilderness First Responder training, and experience with ArcGIS and trail restoration. Through SCA, I spent significant time in Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina, and New Jersey, and I’m thankful to have good memories from each of those places.
My work with the SCA gave me some great experience coordinating with multiple partner agencies simultaneously to accomplish goals within a short field season. We were chiefly a wildland fire crew, but we got the chance to work with many other departments – which also brought its own challenges, as each department’s season objectives and each crew member’s goals had to be reconciled with one another. I feel that I’m better at multi-tasking and negotiating after my time with the SCA.
What was your most memorable SCA moment?
My best memory was being in Alaska while on my FishTracs Trail Corps program. During that program, we mapped trails for the US Fish and Wildlife Service across the country. We traveled a lot, and I got on a hitch to Alaska. Highlights included a flight in a chartered float plane to the remote Kanatak Trail of Becharof National Wildlife Refuge, and hikes in borrowed chest waders through the muskeg of Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge. We also portaged many miles of canoe trails at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and I felt like a million dollars while carrying that canoe.
I’d say my best memory was meeting my crew for the first time. I was a crew leader for the Veterans Fire Corps in the Black Hills, so all the crew members came from very different military backgrounds and had unique experiences to share. Our team did a lot of different work across almost all the departments of Black Hills National Forest, and the members were able to work on projects that fit their own interests – be it wildland fire fighting, trails, archaeology, law enforcement, wildlife, or public interaction and interpretation. But what sticks out most for me are the times when we were all together, especially all the evenings in our shared house on site.
How have you stayed involved with SCA?
I come out to volunteer events in New York City, where I have even met up with some of my former crew members. And I have helped organize two partner service projects between SCA and NYC Parks on the Staten Island Greenbelt.
My term with the Veterans Fire Corps was my only field season with SCA, but I’ve stayed involved by keeping in touch with my fellow crew leaders from the field, and other alumni here in New York City. It’s been great to hear how the Veterans Fire Corps program has been growing, as I was part of it early on during its second season.
What’s the coolest part of your current job with NYC Parks?
The best part of being a forester with the NYC Parks Natural Resources Group is getting to visit spots in the city that most people don’t even know exist. We have some awesome urban forests and wetlands, and it’s a pleasure to work in them. I know it’s a rare opportunity to manage acres of forest in a major city, and I feel lucky to have that privilege.
I work for NYC Parks managing the budgets, schedules, and operations for multi-year forest restoration contracts. I like being able to use what I learned as a restoration field practitioner and apply it to land management decisions within our contract sites. My time with SCA helped prepare me for this kind of position, because I often have to deal with multiple agencies to meet restoration goals, and SCA gave me those negotiating skills. In my past positions I usually only got the chance to work at a given field site for a few months… but now that I’m with NYC Parks, I’m excited to see how the landscape responds to our management over time.