21st Century Conservation Service Corps Champion of the Week Interview: Buzz Brown of the National Park Service


The Partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Corps has selected several partners who work with 21CSC programs to recognize as “21st Century Conservation Service Corps Champions of the Week.” This week, Buzz Brown, Trails and Campgrounds Supervisor at Isle Royale National Park is recognized.

Nominated by Eric Antonson of Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa, Eric wrote that “Over 100 corpsmembers who have worked with Buzz at Isle Royale National Park during the last 12 years has a story to tell about how the interaction shaped their perception of the park and of their own personal potential.” Buzz kindly agreed to answer our questions about working with youth programs via email. Thanks to Buzz for his efforts to support youth and cultivating them as stewards of our public lands.

Click here to meet our other 21CSC Champions of the Week.

Joel “Buzz” Brown works for the U.S. National Park Service as the Trails & Campgrounds Supervisor at Isle Royale National Park.

How long have you been working with the National Park Service and how did you get started?

This is my 33rd year working as part of trail crew, I learned of the Isle Royale from a friend who was working on the Island. I applied three years for different positions, and was hired on as part of the trail crew to Isle Royale National Park. I fell in love with the island and its ways.

When did you start working with young people, and specifically conservation corps?

My first experience was working with SCA Crew at Lake Richie in 1983 we were brushing trails and doing work in the campground.

Why do you think it’s important to connect young people to public lands and the conservation field?

The youth of today will be the stewards of our lands tomorrow. If the connection is not made between them we will lose what our fathers and forefathers had set aside for the use and enjoyment of all. We have way to much greed in the world, if we can show the youth that there is an opportunity to earn a living, do what you believe in and enjoy yourself they will find that going to work is not as hard as JUST WORKING FOR THE MONEY.

How do Corps better prepare Corpsmembers and crew leaders for natural resource and conservation careers, and how do you think land managers can help youth make the most of their experience?

The Corps offer the youth the chance to work hand and hand across the country helping to restore our lands and communities. I feel that we learn best from people we respect our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, our heroes and friends. By giving corps members and leaders the experience of working with others who believe in what they doing the work that gets done is of higher quality and quantity than if you just do the job.

As managers I feel the best way is to expose the leaders and youth to all the different avenues offered by the Service’s. I encourage them to apply for what they may want to do of course I push trails. I tell them you can be anyone you want to be but if you do not work hard and think about what you are about to do, the reaction of your action may jump up and bite you, and you will find that very little is just given to you.

From your experience, what are the most suitable projects to work on with Corpsmembers?

I think that youth projects are best when both the youth and managers can see the value and worth of the projects being accomplished.

What type of funding have you and your agency used to support partnering with a conservation corps?

PLC funding is what  Isle Royale uses for our partnering.

The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps has the potential to bring significant attention to the work young people can accomplish on public lands and in their communities. It also has the potential to bring more funding across federal, state, and local agencies to support conservation corps and other youth programs. Given that many initiatives and programs come and go, what do you think will give the 21CSC staying power, and help it leave behind a unified legacy that captures the American imagination like the Civilian Conservation Corps?

Do not grow too big to fast, keep good regional coordinators who also believe in what the youth are doing, and what they do, as well as who our youth will be tomorrow, the stewards of our lands and country.

Is there anything else you would tell land management agency employees interested in partnering with a local corps?

We should all spend the time to lay out projects of worth that will help youth see the value of the labor given. Give guidance when needed but let some mistakes happen and then help but let the youth make the correction. We all learn from our mistakes.

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