By Fenner Canyon Conservation Camp staff
Fenner Canyon Conservation Camp #41, located in the mountain range above Valyermo, has initiated a volunteer partnership with the Exotic Feline Breeding Compound – Feline Conservation Center, located in Rosamond.
The camp is refurbishing the various cat enclosures and constructed dwelling boxes, stairs and platforms for the cats, including large animals such as tigers and leopards. Some painting and cement work was also provided.
Fenner Canyon is one of the 39 Conservation Camps located throughout California which are jointly operated by CDCR and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, providing approximately 196 wild land firefighting crews. When not on emergency assignments, these crews are utilized on work projects which benefit federal, state, county and city programs such as parks, wilderness hiking trails and general clean-up, brush removal and fire threat reduction.
Fenner Canyon CC is a 136-bed, minimum-security facility. Inmates volunteer for the camp program, and by participating in the program, gain self-esteem, work ethic and training opportunities. To enhance these positive experiences and aid in the rehabilitative process, Fenner Canyon has expanded opportunities to include a Certificate Course through Antelope Valley College, specifically, the North America’s Building Trades Unions – Apprenticeship Readiness Program, which is a standardized Multi Craft Core Curriculum (MC3) consisting of a minimum of 160 hours of academic training to assist in the various construction trades.
“When I first visited the Feline Conservation Center, I was impressed with their mission and goals. Home to over 70 of the world’s most endangered felines; the Feline Conservation Center is a breeding and zoo research facility,” said Lt. W. Mock, Camp Commander for Fenner CC. “As I talked with the staff, I realized that inmate crews could be utilized to assist in the more labor intensive tasks, and, with the Center providing the materials, the Pre-Apprentice participants could get hands on experience in fabricating boxes, platforms and stairs for use inside the individual enclosures, along with some painting and maintenance tasks.
“When I offered this possibility to Christy Cregut, Operations Manager, she was immediately receptive to the idea. I researched this facility for a possible work assignment for the camp inmates, and was further impressed with the organizations status as an Accredited Facility with the Zoological Association of America, and confirmed their status as a (registered) non-profit. I then met with MC3 Instructor Vince Dino, who agreed this would be an excellent opportunity to build upon the classroom academics,” Mock said.
“He quickly agreed to meet at the Feline Conservation Center and walk his inmate students through the various construction tasks, stating ‘This is another great opportunity to make a difference, and is clearly a win – win for all concerned.'”
On Oct. 8, Fenner Canyon sent a crew for a trial run, providing manual labor for the restoration of the dirt flooring inside the animal enclosures. While the work was labor intensive, the project was very rewarding. The fire crew was utilized for heavy lifting and refurbishing of animal enclosures, while additional projects suitable for the inmate participants of the MC3 Pre-Apprentice Program were identified.
“It is amazing how well these men work together, and what they were able to accomplish. What you have done in a few hours, would have taken my staff weeks to complete,” said Cregut.
On Nov. 9, Fenner Canyon again provided inmate labor and semi-skilled Core Curriculum students. The work assignments were quickly identified, and undertaken. Dino was continually on the move as he provided one-on-one instruction and overall quality control for the various builds, such as the animal boxes, platforms and stairs.
Cregut was again complimentary for the team work, work effort and overall accomplishment, saying, “I am simply amazed at what has gotten done. The construction materials that I provided have been carefully crafted into usable features for our cat enclosures, providing safety and comfort to the cats. This experience has definitely been a win-win-win. I cannot express the appreciation that we have for your assistance in maintaining our enclosures to the highest possible standards. You and your crews will always be welcome. Thank you, thank you.”