src=”http://wingsoveramericadc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/IMG_8777.jpg” alt=”Rodney Stotts connecting youth and Raptors since being pioneer Earth Conservation Corps member.
Our inspiration stems from witnessing the passion of South East DC youth restoring the Anacostia River with Earth Conservation Corps.
The Earth Conservation Corps, was launched in April 1992 by nine teenage residents of ward eights Valley Green public housing community. The seven young men and two women learned the river flowing through their community was one of the most polluted in the nation and volunteered to start cleaning it up. Although living in extreme poverty and always facing crime and violence these young people reasoned that the river belonged to them so they would take it back.
The plan was simple. Pull on waders and pull trash out of the river. Repeat tomorrow.
The Corps became a remarkable team of committed naturalists to busy making a difference to see that something else was happening. Others began to notice these mud caked teenagers pulling mountains of trash out of the Anacostia. Citizens and elected officials were finding their way to the forgotten river, asking for waders and joining their cause of restoring their River, the Anacostia.
The sight of this “gang” of teenagers boldly wading into a polluted was especially inspiring to community elders who remembered a thriving Anacostia and had witnessed its long decline. One was Julis Lowery, who still live near the river bank at Kingman Park. One day Mr. Lowery shared that before world War II bald eagles had flourished along the river. He took them to where the last pair of eagles had abandoned their nest in 1950. The Anacostia had became to polluted to support the fish upon which they fed their young.
Immediately, a mission to bring a dead river to life had a specific measure of success. The river need support enough fish to allow the Bald Eagle to raise a family again. They would restore the river so the Nations Bird, The Bald Eagle, could to return to their community as a nesting resident of the nations capitol.
After four years and the work of an array of partners the fish did indeed return. The volunteers engaged raptor experts and then the US fish and Wildlife service and were eventually granted permits to “hack” juvenile Bald Eagles near their historic nesting sites. Effecting positive change and being the awarded the privilege of handling 16 bald eagle across the subsequent four year release program had a dramatic effect on the youth. Many fought their to rise above difficult circumstances and found careers in conservation. Many others were lost to the plague of poverty and violence that remains a constant backdrop of urban america.
Wings over America, led by Rodney Stotts a member of that pioneer corps, is a direct continuation and expansion of that commitment to give young people the opportunity to become part of the solution.