Supporting our firefighters and the rainforest through meaningful work
The Wildland Cooperative is a conservation, education and mental health initiative developed by Wildland firefighters and Eco Era. Our mission is to create a healthy, reciprocal relationship between the earth and people.
Many wildland firefighters work tirelessly for six months of the year to protect our forests, homes and communities, and their demanding work can sometimes have negative impacts on physical, mental and emotional health. These men and women work sixteen hour days for fourteen days straight and have only two days to rest and recover before going back out on another assignment. Prolonged periods of arduous labor in smokey, dangerous environments, inadequate rest and nutrition, constant vigilance, prolonged stress and cumulative fatigue can all wreak havoc on the body’s natural equilibrium. Periodic intense, life threatening situations, near misses or tragic losses can result in trauma, grief and sometimes PTSD, and without the tools or the time to process these experiences some firefighters may turn to unhealthy coping strategies. Additionally, prolonged periods away from loved ones can strain relationships, eroding social connections and their sense of belonging outside the fire community. While many seasonal firefighters look forward to visiting family, traveling or engaging in other pursuits during the off-season, some, in the absence of their two of primary sources of support (meaningful work and the camaraderie of their peers) struggle during this time.
The Wildland Cooperative is a symbiotic relationship between Eco Era and Wildland firefighters intended to mutually support the needs of our respective communities. The program creates opportunity for firefighters to pursue meaningful work in forestry, personal development and leadership that directly supports our pressing need for experienced forest technicians to aid our rainforest conservation organization. Our intention is to provide a nurturing container where meditation practice, counseling, community, rest, and harmonious time spent with nature support their decompression and grounding after months of elevated stress and strain. In addition firefighters are doing daily work in trail maintenance, essential forest pruning, making lumber from fallen trees, and building structures that support our anti-poaching and habitat conservation goals.
Because Wildland firefighters possess first-rate forestry skills, we are granted an opportunity to create program branches that reach beyond the scope of just rainforest conservation. These program offshoots give the Wildland Cooperative a chance to be in service to other communities in need of support.