Leslie Weldon, Deputy Chief of National Forest System, Speaks Out About the Value of Shared Stewardship

Submitted by the U.S. Forest Service

“Expanding our capacity for increased volunteerism and service is critical to the long-term sustainability of the Forest Service and the public lands legacy.”
Leslie Weldon, Deputy Chief, National Forest System

What do Forest Service units gain by working with 21CSC partners?
Working with community organizations through the 21CSC not only adds value to the mission of the Forest Service by helping us get things done now, it invests in the future of the agency by reaching and engaging new and/or traditionally underserved populations and communities. The Forest Service also gains by increased connections with communities and citizens in conserving public lands by nurturing a personal commitment by 21CSC participants who gain valuable work skills, healthier lifestyles and deeper appreciation for public lands.

Why are volunteerism and service critical to the sustainability of the Forest Service, and to the legacy of America’s public lands as a whole?
Through service projects such as those undertaken in partnership with 21CSC organizations, the next generation of Americans can not only help maintain national forests, but foster ownership and pride in their national public lands. This ensures a robust population of public lands supporters in the years to come, which is crucial for sustainability and long-term growth. The 21CSC facilitates essential partnerships with and opportunities for the public we serve to be an active participant in the stewardship of their lands

Why should community organizations partner with the Forest Service?
With volunteers and 21CSC partners the Forest Service is sharing stewardship to care for the nation’s forests, watersheds and grasslands, and to deliver jobs, recreation, community protection and much more!  In the words of Chief Tooke “Strengthening and expanding partners and volunteer programs around shared values is critical for a sustainable future.”  The Forest Service wants to connect with as many people as possible and increase public engagement in all facets of program and service delivery and expand access. We are dependent on partnerships and stakeholder participation to implement the Forest Service purpose to ensure: 1) America’s forests and grasslands are in the healthiest condition they can be; and 2) you have lots of opportunities to use, enjoy, and care for the lands and waters that sustain us all. Community partnerships help us accomplish these goals and more. They promote economic growth and job opportunities in rural areas by transferring government resource to local organizations and groups. Our partners help us provide job training and skills development for individuals who are under skill. They enable the public to be actively involved in helping the Forest Service deliver the best services for all stakeholders and promote good neighbor relationships. The 220 plus 21CSC member organizations and others are critical drivers of stakeholder engagement and highly valued by the Forest Service.