The Orange County Conservation Corps and the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) are working together to improve the environment and the lives of at-risk young adults living in Orange County.
More than 20 youths are working to restore 53 acres of land in San Juan Capistrano, part of the OCTA’s Freeway Environmental Mitigation Program.
OCTA’s program dedicates money to purchase land for preservation and habitat restoration. Properties purchased are permanently preserved as open space, restoring lands to their native habitat and removing invasive plant species.
The youth team removes trash, weeds and non-native plants and replaces them with native species that restores the ecosystem. The corps’ mission is to help teens gain confidence and necessary life skills they will need when searching for a permanent employment and while furthering their education.
This work is made possible by OCTA’s Measure M half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements. Measure M’s unique Freeway Environmental Mitigation Program helps offset the ecological impacts of the freeway system by preserving and restoring native habitats throughout the county.
“Measure M has been truly incredible in what it has been able to achieve in restoring very sensitive species and ecosystems in Orange County,” said Derek Ostensen, a conservation consultant who leads the planning and execution of the restoration work. “With the help of taxpayer dollars, degraded landscapes have been transformed to thriving landscapes right before our eyes.”
In summer 2007, the OCTA Board of Directors approved approximately $55 million as part of the Measure M2 Early Action Plan. The board also allocated approximately 80 percent of the revenues toward acquisition and 20 percent for restoration activities over the life of the program.
“These young men and women work hard to improve Orange County and improve their futures,” said OCTA Chair Paul Glaab, also the mayor of Laguna Niguel. “This program is a great example of what can happen when we invest in our transportation system while also preserving the environment for future generations.”