Author Archives: Hannah

21CSC Champion of the Year Finalists – 2019

The Partnership for the 21CSC would like to recognize the following finalists for the 2019
21st Century Conservation Service Corps Champion of the Year Award.
We sincerely appreciate all that you do to champion the engagement of young adults
and veterans on public lands.

Learn more about the Award
The winners of the 2019 Champion of the Year Award will be recognized in February in Washington, DC at the annual meeting of the Partnership for the 21CSC (P-21CSC). This meeting is part of The Corps Network National Conference.

Paul Gritten
Wyoming State Parks

“Paul has served his country in the military, and now serves his community in a very positive and calculable way. His effort shows in the trails the public uses, and in the faces of every Corpsmember he has the pleasure of working with.”

A military veteran, Paul Gritten now serves as the Non-Motorized Trails Program Coordinator for Wyoming State Parks. In this role, he has been an integral partner for the Wyoming Conservation Corps (WCC) over the past decade. Paul helps coordinate comprehensive trainings in trail construction techniques for WCC participants, and has gone above and beyond to find project opportunities for the Corps.

Paul’s leadership abilities have been noticed by everyone who serves in WCC’s program. Paul strives to have individual, meaningful connections with each and every Corpsmember. In addition to his connection with the WCC, Paul has also been a key player in the formation of the Wyoming Veterans Trail Crew (WyVTC). This program is run by the WCC for military veterans across the state. Paul’s leadership and council helped lift the program off the ground in 2017.

Paul is a dedicated steward of the land who strives to give Wyoming access to sustainable, usable, and inclusive trails. He takes it upon himself to understand the type of users that are using his parks and builds trail systems accordingly. In addition to his inclusive mentality, he is passionate about passing this style of trail building on to anyone he can.


Carlos S. Lovato III
USDA Forest Service

Santa Fe National Forest, Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District

If every district has a Carlos, there would be many more youth conservation programs and opportunities across the nation.”

For the past 18 years, Carlos S. Lovato III has been a dedicated employee of the Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District on the Santa Fe National Forest in New Mexico. His work focuses on natural resource management, primarily managing watershed and soils for the District, but he maintains an important role overseeing range and forestry resources across an area that includes short-grass prairie, pinon-juniper woodlands, ponderosa pine forests, mixed conifer forests, and sub-alpine and alpine ecosystems. The district also contains a wilderness area, several large burn scars, and the municipal drinking water watershed for the town of Las Vegas.

For the past 16 years, Carlos has served as a liaison to the Forest Stewards Youth Corps – a program of Forest Stewards Guild (a 21CSC Member Organization). He has helped hire each Corpsmember, assisted in project development, and provided administrative support. Even as staffing has fluctuated, Carlos has diligently worked year-round on the agency side to ensure the success of this nine-week program. In addition to working with 21CSC Corpsmembers, Carlos has partnered with numerous organizations to engage more youth and volunteers at the forest, and uses his spare time to coach youth sports and support local 4-H activities.


Lisa Norby
National Park Service

Geologic Resources Division, Mosaics in Science and Geoscientists-in-the-Parks Program

“Lisa should be recognized as a national leader in engaging the next generation of conservationists on public lands because of her hard work, dedication, and lifelong passion for youth programming.”

For 26 years, Lisa’s career with the National Park Service has spanned many different programs and projects including park planning, petroleum geology, and overseeing youth programs. In her current role with the Geologic Resources Division, Lisa oversees two large-scale internship programs. For the last 13 years, she has managed the largest NPS natural resource science internship program, Geoscientists-in-the-Parks (GIP). The GIP Program is managed in partnership with 21CSC organizations Conservation Legacy, Stewards Individual Placement Program, and The Geological Society of America. The GIP program provides internship opportunities to approximately 170 young adults in national parks each year, providing technical assistance to parks to complete critical natural resource science projects. In 2013, Lisa also helped create the Mosaics in Science Program, which, in partnership with Environment for the Americas and Greening Youth Foundation, provides meaningful, science-based internships to racially and ethnically diverse young adults.

Lisa has been a dedicated and enthusiastic advocate for youth programming for decades, and the partnerships developed through her creativity and efforts have provided priceless experiences for young adults and helped preserve public lands. Lisa recognizes the benefits of involving future generations in conserving public lands and seeks out opportunities to increase the visibility of environmentalism and youth programming.


Greg Sanders
USDA Forest Service
Veterans and Job Corps Fire Programs

“[Greg’s work] convening Corps and USFS leadership has helped the programs succeed, develop, continually improve, and has been instrumental in the placement of veterans in jobs with the USFS.”

Greg Sanders started his career in wildland fire working on an engine crew on the Malheur National Forest in Oregon where he worked for seven fire seasons. Since then, he has dedicated his career to forest fire management. He has been integral to the development and implementation of the Veteran Fire Corps programming operated nationwide by a variety of 21CSC member organizations including Conservation Legacy, California Conservation Corps, Student Conservation Association, Mt. Adams Institute and Montana Conservation Corps. With Greg’s support, the Veterans Fire Corps program expanded across the country and has continued to develop and grow in depth and breadth.

Greg champions and leads the efforts nationwide to engage veterans in fire programs and has worked to increase opportunities for alumni from these programs to successfully obtain jobs in wildland fire. He has convened federal and Corps partners to discuss best practices and opportunities for collaboration. Additionally, Greg developed a system to collect critical program data from across the country that demonstrates the success and impact of Veterans Fire Corps programs. His commitment to ensuring that all veterans who are interested in a job in wildland fire post-program is explicit and his investment has benefited veterans across the country.


Paul Smith
USDA Forest Service

Ochoco and Deschutes National Forests, Crooked River National Grasslands

“Paul consistently goes above and beyond, building and maintaining his certification and skills to take programs to the next level, encouraging new crew leaders and filling gaps – whenever and wherever they appear- so that Central Oregon can serve as many youth as possible in these programs and  help build bridges to the next steps in their lives.” 

After serving as a member of the Peace Corps in Gambia, West Africa for 2 years, Paul continued working in the field of forestry and restoration before joining the Forest Service 15 years ago. Paul coordinates the work of the Central Oregon Youth Conservation Corps. Working in coordination with 21CSC partners Heart of Oregon Corps and Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, Paul oversees projects that annually engage over 100 youth from four counties, with an emphasis on underserved populations. Paul also coordinates with both groups’ year-round Conservation Corps, serving an additional 100 youth annually. Paul has also partnered with such 21CSC organizations as Northwest Youth Corps, Mt. Adams Institute, and Discover Your Forest. He also facilitates, and builds partnership programs with a variety of other youth-serving organizations, including community justice programs and local schools.

Through projects as diverse as native seed collection and fence building, to heritage site surveys and riparian rehabilitation, Paul ensures that Corpsmembers experience a range of natural resource career paths, build concrete skills, and learn about themselves as they build relationships with mentors and peers. Paul’s efficiency and collaborative efforts have led to practical “next steps” for youth in the programs he oversees. For example, he coordinates job shadows and has led successful “Career Days” that connect youth with over a dozen different private companies and federal agencies to complete hands-on job training activities. Paul’s commitment to serving youth and creating high-quality educational experiences is apparent in everything he does.


Tate Thriffiley
USDA Forest Service

De Soto National Forest, De Soto Ranger District

“What makes Tate an incredible project partner is that he is equally passionate about the development of young people as he is about educating and inspiring the community around environmental and conservation stewardship.”

For the past 16 years, Tate Thriffiley has served in a diverse array of positions at De Soto National Forest, working in all aspects of rare, sensitive, threatened, and endangered plants. Recently, he has served as a primary contact for GulfCorps programs, particularly partnering with Community Training Works and CLIMB CDC Conservation Corps on numerous projects.

Tate understands what it means to nurture young adults and has consistently displayed patience, creativity, and caring. He also understands the importance of providing Corpsmembers with comprehensive training and certifications. He has brought in trainers to provide all Year-2 GulfCorps members with S-212 Sawyer A-level certification. Some Corpsmembers also received training in prescribed fire. These efforts have allowed the Corps to have a much larger impact than initially anticipated. Corpsmembers have participated in a range of projects, including felling trees, conducting prescribed burns, and mapping and monitoring habitats as part of a multi-year project to restore Pale-topped Pitcher Plant bogs at De Soto. Tate’s impact stretches across all five Gulf states, where over 55 projects are being undertaken by the 10 GulfCorps crews.


Dennis Vásquez
National Park Service

Petroglyph National Monument

“Dennis goes above and beyond to ensure that participants have a positive and lasting experience and make a life-long connection to public lands.”

Dennis Vásquez has worked for the National Park Service in a variety of capacities, including serving as Superintendent of four national park sites: Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, Bandelier National Monument and White Sands National Monument, and as Trustee of the Valles Caldera National Preserve. In addition, Dennis served as the Program Manager for the National Museum of the American Latino Commission from 2009 – 2011, guiding the Commission members in preparing and delivering a report to Congress and the White House on the potential creation of a national museum in Washington, DC. Over the years, he has served in leadership roles on boards, committees and work groups throughout the country. Since 1992, he has served in a number of consultative roles assisting protected area managers in Latin America. Vásquez is a native of El Paso, TX.

Dennis is an advocate for engaging communities who have traditionally not had as many opportunities to connect with our national parks. He helped foster partnerships and develop Southwest Conservation Corps’ Ancestral Lands program, which gives Native American youth the chance to explore their cultures through service. He also worked with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps – New Mexico to launch their Middle Rio Grande Urban Conservation Corps program. In addition, Dennis worked with RMYC to provide opportunities for the Corps’ American Sign Language Inclusion Crew. Dennis also served as facilitator for two sessions of the Student Conservation Association NPS Academy conducted at Grand Teton National Park.

Many individuals have transitioned from these Corps programs to employment in conservation positions. Dennis strives to serve as a mentor to young people in all these programs and encourages NPS staff and other program leaders to embrace this mentorship role.


Jennifer Wheeler
Bureau of Land Management

Arcata Field Office

“It is rare that one person helps provide so much for so many. The education and opportunity for such a diverse set of young adults only happens when someone thinks more about others than themselves.”

Jennifer Wheeler has worked with the California Conservation Corps (CCC) for over two decades, facilitating life-changing service experiences for rural and urban youth from almost every social and economic demographic within the state of California. She is a champion of Corpsmembers, helping thousands of CCC participants learn about science, nature, strong work ethic, how to communicate properly, how to push yourself through adversity, and most of all, how to be a better citizen and custodian of Mother Earth.

For years, Jennifer has been mentoring CCC members, as well as college graduates through BLM’s cooperative agreement with the Chicago Botanic Garden Conservation Land Management (CLM) internship program. She has provided training and practical experience in the fields of botany, range management, as well as land-use planning, NEPA and ESA regulatory compliance, GIS, and GPS.

Notably, Jennifer has worked with the CCC since 1994 on the recovery of coastal dunes and grasslands that provide important habitat for endemic plants, pollinators, and shorebirds. Over the years, these restoration efforts have engaged more than 10,000 CCC members and volunteers. Thanks to these efforts, a 2012 status review recommended the down-listing of the beach laiya – a coastal flowering plant – from endangered to threatened. She also worked with CCC members and other partners on eradicating over two dozen non-native species on over 200,000 acres of public land in northwestern California using manual regimes instead of herbicides. Jennifer is dedicated to providing meaningful, diverse experiences.


Craig Young
National Park Service

Heartland Inventory and Monitoring Network

“He has a passion for and recognizes the importance of providing training, education, and experience for the next generation of conservationists and natural resource managers.”

Craig Young is a strong advocate and voice for Conservation Corps and national service in the Midwest. He is a valuable project partner, host, and mentor for many young people interested in entering the natural resource field. Over the years, Craig has provided direct service opportunities and mentorship to nearly 200 AmeriCorps members. His dedication to conservation and training young people has led to a long-term partnership that has greatly enhanced Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa (CCMI)’s programs and work throughout the Midwest.

Craig’s leadership and guidance, grew from a few habitat restoration projects each year to a much larger partnership between CCMI and the NPS-Heartland Network. Craig and his staff take part in CCMI’s training and orientation to provide expert teaching to over 36 AmeriCorps members each year in topics ranging from GIS/GPS data collection, chemical application best practices and invasive species management. Craig and his staff also lead a discussion with members on how to pursue employment with federal resource agencies, offering career advice and guidance in résumé writing and USAJobs applications.

Craig has specifically chosen to use his limited program funds to partner with Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa and has persuaded the individual parks within the Heartland Network to do so as well.


Jim Ziolkowski
National Park Service

Mount Rainier National Park

“Jim’s normally quiet, low key demeanor melts away as he talks passionately about the importance of service, the value of hard work well done, and the impact that working on public land has on the larger community. He works out of the spotlight, but by his own example is inspiring a generation of NPS professionals and now thousands of youth who have the amazing opportunity to work on his team.”

Jim Ziolkowski’s career in public lands management started in college when he served as a summer intern with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) at Mount Rainier National Park. Through that experience, Jim realized he wanted to work for the National Park Service (NPS). Since then, Jim has worked with, supported, developed funding for, and nurtured many Corps programs at Mount Rainier, including SCA, EarthCorps, Washington Conservation Corps, and Northwest Youth Corps. In his role as Trails and Roads Foreman, he has been a tireless advocate and mentor for Corpsmembers at Mount Rainier, providing advice, guidance, and hands-on work experience to Corpsmembers from throughout the region, across the country, and from diverse life experiences. He is committed to supporting initiatives led by partner Corps, such as Northwest Youth Corps, to engage young people from underrepresented groups in the outdoors, including those from the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community and from the LGBTQ+ community.

Thanks to Jim, the trails program at Mount Rainier is extraordinarily welcoming of youth conservation service partnerships. Jim regularly prioritizes Corps in the park’s roads and trails budget, making sure trail projects can serve two purposes: getting important work done to ensure the resources of the park are protected and available to the public, and investing in the next generation of park stewards.

Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Passes the Late Sen. John McCain’s 21CSC Act

Bill would help expand national service opportunities that engage young adults and post-9/11 veterans in maintaining and improving public lands and waters

Hannah Traverse
Communications Manager
The Corps Network  |  202-737-6272

[WASHINGTON, DC] – A version of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act, or 21CSC Act (S.1403), passed by voice vote October 2 in the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources with bipartisan support. Originally introduced by the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the bill can now move forward for consideration by the full Senate.

“The 21st Century Conservation Corps will create a much-needed pathway to meaningful careers in conservation for America’s youth and veterans,” said Sen. Michael Bennet. “It was a privilege to work with Senator McCain on this legislation, which will honor his legacy of service by developing the next generation of leaders to protect and enhance our public lands.”

The Partnership for the 21CSC (P-21CSC) applauds movement on the 21CSC Act and extends appreciation to the original co-sponsors – Sens. Michael Bennet, Lamar Alexander and Tom Udall – as well as to Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell for their leadership in advancing the legislation. The P-21CSC also thanks the co-sponsors and supporters of S.1403: Sens. Roger Wicker, Steve Daines, Jon Tester, Angus King, Patty Murray, Mazie Hirono, and Martin Heinrich.

The P-21CSC urges the full Senate to pass the 21CSC Act in honor of Sen. McCain, a lifelong advocate of military, national, and public service. As the bill progresses, the P-21CSC encourages lawmakers to consider a Sense of Congress within the bill that honors the late Senator’s legacy and renames the bill appropriately. Additionally, the P-21CSC supports efforts to reconcile the Senate and House versions of the bill. We urge that the final bill include provisions from the original version that would expand national service and AmeriCorps opportunities for young adults and veterans, and enable Corps to better address unmet community and national needs. In June of this year, the House Committee on Natural Resources passed the full 21CSC Act (H.R.2987) with unanimous bipartisan support.

“On behalf of the Corps community, thank you Chairwoman Murkowski, Ranking Member Cantwell, and all the co-sponsors of the 21CSC Act. We look forward to seeing a version of the 21CSC Act signed into law that supports expanding national service opportunities that engage young adults and post-9/11 veterans in maintaining and improving public lands and waters,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO of The Corps Network and Co-Chair of the Partnership for the 21CSC. “As the late Sen. John McCain wrote with Gen. Stanley McChrystal, ‘We are convinced that, if [national service] experiences are made available to young people, they will embrace them for what they are — occasions to elevate the nation while elevating themselves.’ It is our hope to see a strong 21CSC Act signed into law in honor of Sen. McCain’s commitment to expand opportunities for military, national, and public service.”

Corps are community-based programs that provide young adults and recent veterans the opportunity to serve our country, advance their education and obtain in-demand skills. Serving in crews or individual positions, Corpsmembers complete meaningful terms of service working on projects that address conservation and infrastructure concerns, wildfires and natural disasters, outdoor recreation access, and a range of other issues. During their service, Corps participants gain hands-on work experience and prepare for careers in the growing recreation, natural resource and restoration economies.

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Recreation Not Red Tape Act Passes House Committee on Natural Resources with 21CSC Act Included

Legislation encourages development of new recreation areas, as well as increased engagement of veterans in Corps and outdoor recreation through 21CSC Act

Hannah Traverse
The Corps Network
1275 K St NW – Suite 1050
Washington, DC 20005


[WASHINGTON, DC] The Partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Corps (P-21CSC) applauds passage of the bipartisan Recreation Not Red Tape Act in the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources today and thanks Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) and the Committee for including the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act (21CSC Act) as a provision of the bill. Following passage of the 21CSC Act in the Committee by unanimous consent in January of this year, this movement represents another important step towards the 21CSC Act being signed into law, and provides another avenue for its advancement.

Introduced in July 2017 by Chairman Bishop, the Recreation Not Red Tape Act (H.R.3400) seeks to increase access to public lands and outdoor recreation opportunities by streamlining permitting processes and encouraging collaboration between federal agencies and the private sector to support volunteer maintenance of public lands and the engagement of military veterans in recreation and outdoor work in Corps. The bipartisan 21CSC Act (H.R.2987) aligns with these goals in that the bill would make it easier for federal agencies to enter into public-private agreements with Corps and partner on projects to meet agency objectives. The 21CSC Act also prioritizes engaging veterans in the job training and meaningful experiences on public lands that Corps offer.

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Spring 2018: Where does the 21CSC Act stand?

By the Partnership for the 21CSC

The 21CSC Act would allow federal land and water management agencies – like the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service –  to create formal, more flexible partnerships with 21CSC member organizations. It would also enable additional federal agencies to more easily partner with 21CSC organizations to accomplish their goals. Among other provisions, it would expand the number of federal agencies that can work with 21CSC programs and establish standards for data collection and measuring the effectiveness of 21CSC programs.

A bipartisan 21CSC Act was initially introduced in the U.S. Senate in August 2015 and in the U.S. House of Representatives in April 2016. In June 2017, a new bipartisan version of the 21CSC Act was introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate, combining the previous version of the bill with the Public Lands Service Corps Act (similar proposed legislation). This updated version of the 21CSC Act represents a bipartisan effort among sponsors and cosponsors of both bills to work together for the advancement of Corps as a public-private strategy to meet the needs of America’s resource management agencies and provide work opportunities for young adults and veterans.

Please check out this one pager on the 21CSC Act and share it with your House and Senate members and ask them to cosponsor the bill!

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Recap: 2018 Partnership for the 21CSC Meeting

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke gives keynote at 2018 Partnership for the 21CSC Meeting, part of The Corps Network National Conference.

From the Partnership for the 21CSC (P-21CSC)

The Partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (P-21CSC) is a collective of key federal, state, local and non-profit leaders that supports the development and implementation of the 21CSC. In conjunction with The Corps Network National Conference in Washington, DC, the P-21CSC holds an annual meeting to honor important leaders in the Corps movement, review 21CSC accomplishments and goals, and discuss priority issues.

During the 2018 P-21SC Meeting, which took place February 12, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke delivered the keynote address and covered a range of topics, including his priorities for the Department of the Interior (DOI), how he is influenced by the legacy of President Theodore Roosevelt, and his vision for the future of the national park visitor experience. We heard details of his plans to create consistent “regions” across the various DOI agencies to ensure more efficient resource management that’s based on landscape features, like watersheds, wildlife corridors, and trail systems. Sec. Zinke also shared the Administration’s infrastructure plans, which prioritize addressing the National Park Service backlog and modernizing our parks. He emphasized that Corps have a role to play in partnership with the Department, and that there will be opportunities for young people who want to learn skills and a vocation.  Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Q and A with Lonnie Pilkington: 2018 Champion of the Year

Lonnie Pilkington is the Natural Resource Manager at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Lonnie is a 21CSC Champion of the Year for 2018. This Award recognizes individuals from agencies and organizations that partner with 21CSC programs to help engage the next generation of conservation and community leaders in service, education and training.

The 2018 Champions of the Year will be recognized at the annual Partnership for the 21CSC Meeting, happening February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. This event is part of The Corps Network National Conference.

  • Learn more about Lonnie – Click here.
  • Learn more about the 21CSC Champion of the Year Award – Click here.

  1. Tell us about your current role.

    As the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (GLCA) and Rainbow Bridge National Monument (RABR) Natural Resources Program Manager, my focus areas are:          invasive non-native plant control, ecological restoration, wildlife surveys, and endangered species monitoring. I am very fortunate to work for a park and a supervisor that encourage me to connect youth to their National Parks through conservation and education activities.

  2. Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get started in conservation/land and water management?

    From an early age I developed a strong connection with the great outdoors. This connection was enhanced in the early 1990s while working at the YMCA of the Rockies in Northern Colorado. During this time, I spent weekends recreating in Rocky Mountain National Park and began to develop a strong interest in the local flora and a love for public lands.

    In 1999, I was hired into my first position (i.e. Laborer) with the National Park Service (NPS) at Rocky Mountain National Park. In 2000, I began working for the Science and Resource Stewardship Division, where I was introduced to disturbed lands restoration. In the early 2000s I served as a Prescribed Burn Crew Technician for The Nature Conservancy (TNC), which sparked an interest in conserving rare species. In the mid-2000s, Colorado State University (CSU) provided me with an opportunity to strengthen my understanding of the environment through conducting habitat restoration research. Through these experiences, I developed a strong interest in habitat conservation efforts and public lands management, which provided a path to where I am today. Along the way, I have been fortunate to work with a number of great supervisors, mentors, and co-workers and for that I am thankful.

  3. Tell us about how you have engaged with Service and Conservation Corps.

    Early in my NPS career, I was fortunate to work alongside youth from Larimer County Conservation Corps, Rocky Mountain Conservancy Conservation Corps, and Colorado Mountain Club Shining Mountains Group.  These partnerships enabled us to             collectively complete critical conservation projects, and personally sparked an interest within me to engage youth and adults in conservation efforts. In 2010, I began working at GLCA and RABR and was encouraged to connect youth to their National Parks through resource stewardship, citizen science, and education. I am fortunate to work at a location where numerous federal and non-federal organizations are interested in partnering to engage youth in conservation work on public lands. Over the past several years multiple Service and Conservation Corps have learned about and contributed to: invasive non-native plant control efforts along the Colorado, San Juan, and Escalante Rivers; native plant restoration efforts along hiking trails at RABR; citizen science based acoustic bat monitoring and bird survey efforts along the Colorado and San Juan Rivers; and aquatic invasive species education and containment.

  4. What advice would you offer to other employees from land/water management agencies and nonprofits that are interested in partnering with 21CSC programs (What to expect, etc.)?

    I encourage land managers to develop and foster partnerships with multiple local, regional, and national organizations that engage youth in conservation efforts.  I also recommend reaching out to your national and regional youth and volunteer program managers. These support staff will assist you in locating 21CSC programs, provide information on federal and non-federal fund sources, and assist with partnership and program development. I encourage land managers to provide Service and Conservation Corps a well-rounded experience that includes service, training, education, and outdoor recreation.

  5. What are the most beneficial aspects of partnering with a 21CSC Program?

    Partnering with 21CSC programs provide numerous benefits and enables partners to collectively connect youth to their public lands through engagement in resource stewardship, citizen science, outdoor recreation, and career development opportunities. These experiences can and will change lives and are integral in cultivating the next generation of NPS Ambassadors.

  6. What advice would you offer to young people in 21CSC programs who are interested in careers in conservation and land/water management?

    I encourage youth to find a discipline they are passionate about and chase their dreams.  Serving in a 21CSC organization is a great way to obtain a wide variety of experiences, acquire valuable training, develop skills, contribute to public lands conservation efforts, and meet the players in your field of interest.  I encourage youth to develop the qualities (i.e. self-starter, team player, strong work ethic) and skills (i.e. communication [oral and written], leadership, education) that catch the eye of managers and potential employers. I urge youth to apply for numerous positions at a variety of locations to ensure they have options. I recommend actively working with your supervisor to seek out training and career advancement opportunities. I advise finding a mentor and working together to develop and carry out a path to permanent employment. Thank you to all the great Service and Conservation Corps that have played an integral role in restoring and protecting our national treasures!

Q and A with Kelly Pearson: 2018 Champion of the Year

Kelly Pearson is the District Wilderness Technician and Volunteer Coordinator at Shawnee National Forest. Kelly is a 21CSC Champion of the Year for 2018. This Award recognizes individuals from agencies and organizations that partner with 21CSC programs to help engage the next generation of conservation and community leaders in service, education and training.

The 2018 Champions of the Year will be recognized at the annual Partnership for the 21CSC Meeting, happening February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. This event is part of The Corps Network National Conference.

  • Learn more about Kelly – Click here.
  • Learn more about the 21CSC Champion of the Year Award – Click here.

  1. Tell us about your current role.

    I am the District Wilderness Technician and Youth, Hosted and Volunteer Coordinator for the Hidden Springs/Mississippi Bluffs Ranger District of the Shawnee National Forest.  I manage seven Congressionally-designated wilderness areas to ensure the Forest is following the mandate of the 1964 Wilderness Act and the 1990 Illinois Wilderness Act to protect the character of each space.

    As the Youth, Hosted and Volunteer Coordinator, I am responsible for recruiting volunteers for service projects, developing short and long-term service projects, and developing and nurturing partnerships. In 2017, 604 volunteers contributed 12,457 hours of service towards wilderness stewardship, conservation education, wildlife habitat management, customer service and archeology.

  2. Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get started in conservation/land and water management?

    As a student in high school, my first “real” job was an enrollee in the Youth Conservation Corps for the Shawnee National Forest, stationed in the exact ranger station where I currently work.  My experiences that summer solidified my passion for natural resource management and land stewardship.  Most importantly, it taught me the values of teamwork, self-confidence, and a good work ethic.  I continued for the next few summers in the Youth Conservation Corps as a Crew Leader, eventually transitioning to the Young Adult Conservation Corps.  These positions were important in forming my leadership skills and helping to connect others to the natural world. After a 10 year period away from the Forest Service, I was recruited for a seasonal position. Now, 26 years later, I feel very fortunate to have a job that I am so passionate about.

  3. Tell us about how you have engaged with Service and Conservation Corps.

    The volunteer program on the Shawnee NF, also known as the Shawnee Volunteer Corps, is built on the foundation of teamwork, leadership, stewardship, partnership and education. This foundation is a solid match for the different Corps that we have hosted. The Shawnee Volunteer Corps provides experiential service where, no matter if you are providing four hours or four months of service, you are guaranteed to learn something about yourself, the local natural and cultural history, and feel great at the end of the day. Since 2005, we have hosted St. Louis AmeriCorps Emergency Response Teams; AmeriCorps NCCC teams, who are immersed in the wilderness for a week; AmeriCorps VISTA participants; and VetsWork participants from Mt. Adams Institute.

  4. What advice would you offer to other employees from land/water management agencies and nonprofits that are interested in partnering with 21CSC programs (What to expect, etc.)?

    Through my experiences working with different Corps, I have found that it is always important to make sure you are ready before you begin hosting teams.  Do you have the projects, the leadership, the tools, etc.  With that said, you must also remain flexible. The Corpsmembers arrive with all levels of skills and abilities and backgrounds.  Keeping your expectations real is important, but what is most important is that everyone on the team feels valued and can connect with the project.  I like to focus on the outcomes more than the outputs.

  5. What are the most beneficial aspects of partnering with a 21CSC Program?

    For the Shawnee NF, partnering with 21CSC organizations is integral to increasing capacity. Many hands make light work, as they say. In addition, it is our chance as an agency to connect with potential future leaders in the conservation community.

  6. What advice would you offer to young people in 21CSC programs who are interested in careers in conservation and land/water management?

    I highly recommend a four-year degree as a great starting point. In addition, volunteering is very important to potential employers. Being willing to spend your own personal time doing conservation service, or any service, says a lot about a person.

Q and A with Ben Baldwin: 2018 Champion of the Year

Ben Baldwin is the Youth and Volunteer Programs Manager for the National Park Service Intermountain Region. Ben is a 21CSC Champion of the Year for 2018. This Award recognizes individuals from agencies and organizations that partner with 21CSC programs to help engage the next generation of conservation and community leaders in service, education and training.

The 2018 Champions of the Year will be recognized at the annual Partnership for the 21CSC Meeting, happening February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. This event is part of The Corps Network National Conference.

  • Learn more about Ben– Click here.
  • Learn more about the 21CSC Champion of the Year Award – Click here.


  1. Tell us about your current role.

    I am the NPS Intermountain Region (IMR) Youth and Volunteer Programs Manager.  In this role I support the 85+ parks across this eight state region. My job is never the same each day; it includes providing policy interpretation, assisting with reporting, advocating for park issues, highlighting successful programs and projects, maintaining relationships and managing fund sources. It is a very rewarding and challenging job.  The IMR has a strong and active youth culture which provides a great foundation for the work that we do.

  2. Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get started in conservation/land and water management?

    I grew up as a ranch kid in Southern Utah.  Most of my childhood was spend recreating and working on public lands and I developed my love of rangelands, red rocks and wide-open spaces. This pragmatic personal relationship with land management grew into undergraduate and graduate degrees that provided the technical content and context for conservation.

  3. Tell us about how you have engaged with Service and Conservation Corps.

    In my position I had the great opportunity to work with Harry Bruell, former CEO of Conservation Legacy (a Co-Chair organization of the Partnership for the 21CSC).  Harry provided me with a great introduction to the inner workings of Corps, what is possible, and the opportunities for the future.  Under Harry’s mentorship, I focused on Corps as an important piece of the youth culture in IMR.  I continue to invest in the NPS IMR relationships with all of the Corps in our region and consider them a critical part of our workforce and how we do our work in the future.

  4. What advice would you offer to other employees from land/water management agencies and nonprofits that are interested in partnering with 21CSC programs (What to expect, etc.)

    The best advice I can give is to communicate.  The 21CSC programs are our partners with service-wide master agreements.  This allows a different relationship than with contractors or other partners. More importantly they share common goals and objectives to engage and employ youth and conserve public lands.  They are part of our workforce and provide an adaptive, creative, and flexible way to achieve our important work.

  5. What are the most beneficial aspects of partnering with a 21CSC Program?

    21CSC is an effective, creative, flexible and important partner.  They provide us new tools and programs to focus on the conservation mission.  They get work done on the ground, provide youth with great opportunities, and respond quickly to changing challenges.  Because of the large amount of Corps that are geographically distributed, there are many options and tools available. Corps provide local solutions built on local relationships, technical knowledge and passion for conservation.

  6. What advice would you offer to young people in 21CSC programs who are interested in careers in conservation and land/water management?

    Connect your passion to proactive management of your career.  Often NPS and other federal jobs are the focus for careers in conservation.  If conservation of public lands is your goal, widen your perspective of what positions and organizations can help you achieve that goal. Align what is best for you and best for conservation; personal sacrifice is not the key to a successful career. Taking care of yourself allows you to take care of conservation. Alignment of helping people and public lands will provide fuel for your passion and lead to a much more productive and enjoyable career.


Q and A with Betsy Wooster: 2018 Champion of the Year – National Distinction Awardee

Betsy Wooster recently retired from her position as Youth Program Lead at the Bureau of Land Management. Betsy is a 21CSC Champion of the Year – National Distinction Awardee for 2018. This Award recognizes individuals from agencies and organizations that partner with 21CSC programs to help engage the next generation of conservation and community leaders in service, education and training.

The 2018 Champions of the Year will be recognized at the annual Partnership for the 21CSC Meeting, happening February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. This event is part of The Corps Network National Conference.

  • Learn more about Betsy – Click here.
  • Learn more about the 21CSC Champion of the Year Award – Click here.

  1. Tell us about your current role.

    Until I retired at the end of December 2017, I was the Youth Program Lead for the Bureau of Land Management. BLM has a strong education team at the national level, so most of my efforts focused on facilitating partnerships with Service and Conservation Corps and other youth-serving organizations. These partnerships not only provide jobs and job training opportunities for young people and Veterans, they also help the BLM accomplish important management objectives across a wide range of resource programs. The BLM has always been a decentralized organization, so I was responsible for managing only a few national agreements. I worked closely with BLM’s grants policy team to develop clear policy and consistent approaches that, I hope, strengthened partnerships with Corps across the bureau.

  2. Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get started in conservation/land and water management?

    My path to conservation/land and water management was definitely circuitous. I spent most of my career working for non-profit organizations, including the National Geographic Society and National Wildlife Federation. I developed educational materials for kids and teachers on a wide range of topics, gradually narrowing my focus to environmental topics. That’s what I was doing at BLM when our division was designated to take the lead on a more comprehensive Youth Program – one that involved not only educating youth about natural and cultural resources and engaging them in outdoor activities, but also providing pathways to careers. While BLM’s Human Capital Management Program had numerous programs designed to create those pathways, we knew that partnerships with Corps would enable us to engage so many more young people. We recognized that strengthening partnerships with Corps would, in a sense, “bridge the gap” in our programs, creating a continuum of experiences from classroom to career.

  3. Tell us about how you have engaged with Service and Conservation Corps.

    Most of my engagement with Service and Conservation Corps occurred in Washington, so I was somewhat removed from the actual on-the-ground work that occurs across the 245 million acres that BLM manages. But I talked and met regularly with Corps representatives from around the country, and with BLM employees in state and field offices, about how we could work together more effectively to accomplish mutual goals.

    I will admit that I had something of a learning curve when I first became involved in partnership development with the Corps. When the Federal Advisory Committee on the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps was created, I was designated as the BLM representative on the 21CSC working group, an interagency team that worked with the committee. That experience helped me understand and appreciate the contributions that the Corps make to young people, their communities, and their federal partners.

  4. What advice would you offer to other employees from land/water management agencies and nonprofits that are interested in partnering with 21CSC programs (What to expect, etc.)?

    See the relationship as a true partnership. I think sometimes agency staff look at 21CSC programs as a way to accomplish work inexpensively, and there have certainly been studies demonstrating the cost-effectiveness of working with Corps. Others see these partnerships almost as if the agencies are doing the 21CSC programs a favor by letting them pursue their mission on our lands. They see working with Corps as something nice to do if they have the time, but sometimes consider it too much trouble. The Corps do have a valuable mission that benefits society and our public lands. Agencies can and should play a vital role in that mission.

    I would encourage agency employees to look at the work they need to accomplish and consider ways in which young people and Veterans engaged through Corps can participate in that work. Corps crews and their experienced leaders bring a great deal of expertise to a wide range of projects. In addition, agency employees who work directly with the Corps should look at how they can serve as mentors to program participants.

    Whether or not Corpsmembers decide to pursue careers in natural resource management, agency staff can help ensure Corps participants develop an understanding and appreciation for the work they are doing and the mission of the agency.

  5. What are the most beneficial aspects of partnering with a 21CSC Program?

    Crews and interns accomplish important work efficiently and cost-effectively. Crew leaders provide participants with skills needed to get the job done, freeing agency staff to pursue other priorities. Working together, 21CSC programs and agencies are nurturing the “next generation” of conservation stewards. These programs help agencies strengthen community connections and build rural economies by training young people and Veterans for local jobs.

  6. What advice would you offer to young people in 21CSC programs who are interested in careers in conservation and land/water management?

    Let your interests be known to your crew leaders and to agency staff you come in contact with. Seek out mentors. Be open to opportunities that allow you to build your résumé and gain a breadth of experience. While the non-competitive hiring status and direct hire authority are valuable benefits of service in 21CSC programs, federal jobs are not always going to be available. There are many ways to pursue your passion!