Giving Guide: Landforce

Landforce provides transitional environmental job opportunities for people who have been excluded from employment because of criminal backgrounds, mental health or substance use disease, or other life experiences. Restoring urban ecosystems provides the opportunity to help a formerly neglected space become a much-loved natural oasis. It also enables Landforce crew members to get paid for their labor, practice their skills training, and work with a career coach while at Landforce before moving onto other employment.

Since 2016 Landforce has contributed over 50,000 hours towards repairing our region’s environment. Their work at Hazelwood Greenway, while only one of approximately 30 projects they work on per year, is one example of the organization’s effectiveness. Since 2021, Landforce has been working in partnership with Hazelwood Initiative, Allegheny Goatscape, Tree Pittsburgh, and the City of Pittsburgh, to restore the Hazelwood Greenway and aid in its transition to a Park. Landforce crews have constructed and repaired trails, created a more welcoming trailhead, removed invasive vines and shrubs, and planted native trees as part of this effort.

They have also become very connected to the Hazelwood Greenway. Throughout the summer of 2022, Landforce crew members prepared the Hazelwood Greenway Trail for theplanting of native trees. This included removing dead and fallen trees, garbage, vines, and invasive plant species from the area. During this time, crew members collaborated with the two-and four-legged workers of Allegheny Goatscape. By using goats to assist with landscaping projects -known as “goatscaping” -the goats maintained the natural environment quickly, allowing invasive and dense understory to be controlled without using machinery or pesticides. In addition to manually removing vegetation through typical trail maintenance, crew members cleared out large areas to prepare for the tree plantings by removing stumps and other debris left behind by the goats, giving the trees plenty of room to grow and mature.

This year, at the end of October, Landforce crew members, under the guidance of Tree Pittsburgh and the Hazelwood Initiative, worked together to plant nearly 100 new trees in the Hazelwood Greenway, adding to the 150 they helped plant in 2021. Pittsburgh is an urban landscape that faces deforestation and air quality issues, and planting trees is one way to combat these problems. In fact, trees have restorative properties for crew members as well. As a 2019 crew member said, “Being through the trees, there’s not a lot of sound from the outside world. People are positive, they say hi. The air is different. There’s a peace of mind.” Eventually, Landforce crew members will leave their Landforce jobs for family sustaining employment outside of Landforce, but they will always take their pride and their part in restoring places like Hazelwood Greenway with them as they find success in the next leg of their journeys.

Visit landforcepgh.org to learn more.

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY LANDFORCE

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