Q&A with Huron Pines AmeriCorps Member Shelby Cain

This is the first in a series of conversations with our 2020 Huron Pines AmeriCorps members. We talk highlights, takeaways, and what their average days have been like in a not-so-average service year.

We’ll open this conversation with a foreword from Roger Garner, Vice President for The Little Forks Conservancy’s Board of Directors:

Working ‘separately together’ on a team during a pandemic is a bit unusual but I took the opportunity to do trail work at Riverview Preserve near Midland with Shelby, Sara and Elan [Little Forks Conservancy’s Preserves and Volunteers Manager and Director of Land Conservation].

The first challenge was to get our wagon load of tools into the preserve and to the areas needing work. Shelby was always first to grab the handle and pull the heavy little wagon to where it needed to go. She also helped others pull the wagon by pushing it from behind over rough spots in the trail. She is a cheerful person and I believe she really enjoyed the work, no matter what the project happened to be.

Every autumn, when our Huron Pines AmeriCorps member has to move on, it’s a bittersweet moment. Each one has contributed greatly and Shelby is no exception. It has been rewarding to know them all. Shelby and other young Huron Pines AmeriCorps members like her make me feel hopeful and encouraged about the future.

Roger Garner, Board Vice President, The Little Forks Conservancy

Q&A with Shelby Cain

Position: Serving as Land Steward for The Little Forks Conservancy
Hometown: Midland, MI
Education: Bachelor of Science from Saginaw Valley State University
Interests: Hiking, kayaking, caring for her animals and playing with her dog

What drew you to Huron Pines AmeriCorps?
It seemed like a great opportunity where I would get a lot of hands on experience in my field. The host site was also located right in my hometown. The ability to serve my own community while gaining skills I could use later on in my career was something I really wanted to do.

Shelby Cain uses a chainsaw to clear downed trees across a trail at a Little Forks nature preserve. Courtesy photo

What was your best day of service? 
Some of the best days I have had during my service have been the days where I do conservation easement monitoring. A conservation easement is an agreement between a landowner and the conservancy that protects their land and its resources forever. During a visit, the person monitoring walks the property, takes photos and makes notes about things of interest or concern. Little Forks Conservancy has over 30 conservation easements and each property has to be monitored annually.

Some of the properties have been absolutely beautiful—I’ve seen farm fields, wetlands, forests, rivers and lakes. Little Forks has helped protect some amazing land and habitats throughout mid Michigan and I’m glad to have gotten the chance to see these conservation practices at work.

How did the dam failure and flooding in Midland impact Little Forks and your service? 
There was and still is a lot of cleanup associated with the flooding. Three of our preserves had damage and debris that needed to be taken care of. We have been working on cleaning up from the flood for a few months now but there is still a lot of work to go.

After the flood we had trouble finding places to keep our supplies. Our basement, where three of the offices and the storage room were, had over 3 feet of water in it. We created a “traveling stewardship office” which was just an enclosed trailer with hand tools, chainsaws and other things we typically use in the field. It allowed us to store, transport and quickly access materials when working at our preserves.

Following the May 2020 flood, Shelby Cain volunteered at Midland Center for the Arts helping move and store historical artifacts. Courtesy photo

What experiences from your service do you think will serve you best on your career path?
I have become familiar with different types of computer programs used in conservation. I have done a lot of fieldwork and trail building using a variety of equipment and have gained a lot of knowledge on invasive species including how to identify and remove them. I even got my commercial pesticide certification.

Along with all of this, I also learned more about nonprofit organizations, land protection, event planning and community outreach. I feel as though my Huron Pines AmeriCorps service at Little Forks Conservancy has prepared me well for my future.

Anything else you’d like to share?
I have truly enjoyed my service and am very grateful to have gotten the opportunity to learn from such amazing people. Even though my service did not go as expected (due to the pandemic and the flood) I still feel lucky to have gotten the opportunity. I have learned a lot over the past few months and I know that the experience and skills I have learned will help me in the future. 

Huron Pines AmeriCorps is a program of Huron Pines and is supported in part by the Corporation for National and Community Service, Michigan Community Service Commission, Huron Pines and contributions from host sites.


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