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Associate Director of Southwest Conservation Corps Testifies on Benefits of Veterans Conservation Corps During House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands Hearing on Recreation Not Red Tape Act”

Click here to watch a recording of the hearing
Click here to read Mr. Heiner’s full testimony

WASHINGTON, DC (October 3, 2017) – Kevin Heiner, Associate Director of Southwest Conservation Corps, a member organization of the 21CSC, testified today about the benefits of Veterans Conservation Corps during a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands hearing about H.R.3400 – the “Recreation Not Red Tape Act.”

Introduced in July by House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT), H.R.3400 aims to, as stated in a memo on the hearing, “increase access to recreational opportunities for Americans nation-wide by 1) modernizing and streamlining the special recreation permitting process; 2) holding land managers accountable for recreation outcomes; 3) establishing a new National Recreation Area System; 4) increasing veteran participation in outdoor stewardship and rehabilitation programs; and by 5) facilitating private-sector volunteer maintenance programs on our nation’s public lands. Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate (S.1633) by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Kevin Heiner, a U.S. Air Force Veteran who began working with Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) in 2008, spoke about the benefits of the Veterans Fire Corps programs operated by SCC and its parent organization, Conservation Legacy.

Veterans Corps, such as those run by Conservation Legacy, are designed to give participants the opportunity to build on their military experience and ethic for service by training for careers in resource management. The Corps model benefits veterans in a range of ways: it provides a similar structure and sense of purpose as the military; offers the therapeutic benefits of getting outdoors and working with fellow veterans; and helps participants transition back to civilian life through skills development and other supportive services.

Since 2009, Veterans Conservation Corps programs across the country have engaged more than 1,600 veterans in conservation service and job training through partnerships with such agencies as the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In his testimony, Mr. Heiner spoke appreciatively of the provisions in H.R.3400 that would expand opportunities for veterans to engage in outdoor stewardship. He also encouraged the committee to consider the 21CSC Act (H.R.2987), which would also help support and create opportunities for veterans and young adults to serve on public lands and gain in-demand skills.

An excerpt from Mr. Heiner’s testimony:

We are appreciative of the provisions in HR 3400, the Recreation Not Red-Tape Act, that would encourage information be provided on Corps opportunities to veterans and service members, expand volunteer and outdoor engagement, and opportunities for veterans and the public to recreate in new areas. We see significant potential to expand Corps’ engagement with veterans through enhanced partnerships with other Department of Interior agencies, and additional focus on recruiting with Department of Veterans Affairs, DOD and the Department of Labor. 

We also support the focus in the RNR Act on hiring veterans in land management positions. In addition to their veterans hiring preference, they can earn non-competitive hiring eligibility for two years from service in a Corps as well. Veterans Corps programs can offer an important bridge to civilian life and job skills, but also a way for veterans and their families to engage more with the outdoors, recreation, and America’s public lands. 

That is why in addition to the importance of the RNR Act provisions around veterans, we hope the committee will give additional attention to expanding the opportunity for veterans to serve in Corps, gain in-demand skills, and address high-priority projects, like would be accomplished through the bipartisan 21ST Century Conservation Service Corps Act – HR 2987 – introduced by Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) a veteran herself. We also thank Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) of this committee who is an original co-sponsor.

 

Click here to watch a recording of the hearing
Click here to read Mr. Heiner’s full testimony

 

21CSC – Partners in Improving Public Lands and Waters: Montana Conservation Corps Enhances Access to Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring


National parks an important part of local economies, particularly in rural areas. Last year, a record 331 million visitors spent over $18 billion at national parks and their surrounding communities. Yellowstone, one of the top ten national parks by visitor spending, attracted more than 4.2 million visitors and generated $524.3 million.

Described as the world’s first national park, Yellowstone has many attractions for thrill-seekers and explorer’s alike. Visitors can go camping, view wildlife, enjoy horseback riding, and take the Yellowstone Pledge: To be a steward and help protect myself and the park. What most people come for, however, are the hot springs.

Spread across Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, Yellowstone offers 3,500 square miles of wilderness recreation area, sitting atop a volcanic hot spring. Geothermal attractions include Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring.

To address surging visitation, and growing concerns for visitor safety and resource preservation, the park’s Yellowstone Conservation Corps partnered with Montana Conservation Corps (MCC) – a 21CSC Member Organization – to create a trail to an overlook above the Grand Prismatic Spring, one of Yellowstone’s most visited thermal treasures.

The 0.6-mile-long boardwalk trail was constructed over a 10-week timeframe: July 9 – September 16. The main goals of this project were to enhance the visitor experience and protect the site. In the past, visitors frequented off-limit areas, creating “social trails.” Foot traffic from these informal trails caused erosion, putting visitors and the ecosystem in danger. The new trail offers Park visitors a sensational, safe view of the spring, while also protecting the thermal treasure and surrounding ecosystem.

In a comment to the media, Yellowstone National Park’s superintendent, Dan Wenk, applauded construction of the trail and overlook, stating new construction will “provide a different view of Grand Prismatic Spring and minimize the growth of unsightly, unofficial social trails in the process.”


Because the project took place in one of the most visited national parks, the crews frequently interacted with the public. This enabled the crews to see firsthand the relationship between the park and visitors. Crews learned how to convey the importance of ensuring fragile ecosystems remain undisturbed: “look, but don’t touch” is an essential practice for the safety of the environment and public.

“When doing conservation work on our public lands, especially in a national park, understanding how to navigate the relationship with the public is critical,” said Kelly Moorman, Communications Manager at MCC. “The crew also developed their trail construction and habitat restoration skills.”

In addition to constructing the boardwalk trail, the MCC crews also installed erosion control structures, rehabilitated old social trails, and partook in slash-piling and bridge construction. Throughout the course of the summer, the project engaged 18 MCC AmeriCorps members, ranging in age from 18 – 27.

“On this project, my crew and I gained a lot of pride for the work we do. We enjoy the trail work, but this project gave us a lot of perspective on why our job is so important,” said David Chaman, Field Crew Leader. “The hot days, dirt stained clothes, and the blood and sweat we put into making the Grand Prismatic overlook trail won’t be seen by the public. But the result of those things will. We had the privilege of making a trail that we know will be paved with millions of footsteps every year. Plus, when dealing with the aforementioned repercussions of our work, all we had to do was turn around and take in that incredible view of the Grand Prismatic to realize that it is all worth it.”

— Did you know?

What sets Yellowstone apart from other parks is its rich history. Established in 1872, Yellowstone has seen over 11,000 years of human presence, including the activity of several historic tribes, the arrival of European Americans, and formal expeditions. This history drove the National Park Service’s mission to preserve natural and cultural resources.

Thank you to Kelly Moorman, Communications Manager at Montana Conservation Corps, for providing information for this story.

21st Century Conservation Service Corps Initiative Touted as Strategy for Engaging Next Generation of Park Visitors During Senate Hearing by Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks

On the invitation of Ranking Member Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), John Leong – CEO of Kupu, which operates Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps – testified on benefits of Corps for participants and public lands, and how the Corps model helps create the next generation of outdoor stewards, recreationists, and entrepreneurs

Chairman Steve Daines (R-MT), Ranking Member Mazie Hirono (D-HI), John Leong, CEO of Kupu

Click here for a press release from the office of Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI)

Click here to watch a recording of the hearing

Click here for Mr. Leong’s full written testimony

WASHINGTON, DC (Sept. 27, 2017) – In a hearing organized by Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) on “Encouraging the Next Generation to Visit National Parks,” John Leong, CEO of Kupu – a member organization of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) – testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks about how the Corps model is an effective way to engage the next generation of outdoor stewards, recreationists, and entrepreneurs.

“While America is growing more diverse and urban, and younger generations are making up a greater share of the population, these trends are not reflected in visitors to our national parks,” said Senator Hirono. “Kupu and programs like it are helping to fill this gap by training our ‘keiki’ [youth] to become stewards of the ‘aina’ [land] and serve our communities as Hawaii’s future conservationists.”

The National Park Service (NPS) celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2016 and saw a record high of nearly 331 million visitors. Today’s hearing was an opportunity for Senators to receive testimony on ways to address barriers to visitation and attract younger, more diverse users. The most recent comprehensive surveys show a marked underrepresentation of non-whitesand young adults among both park visitors and employees.

Service and Conservation Corps are locally-based organizations that provide young adults and veterans the opportunity to serve our country, advance their education and obtain in-demand job skills. Kupu is one of more than 130 Corps represented by The Corps Network. Collectively, these programs annually enroll over 25,000 youth and veterans across all 50 states, DC, Puerto Rico, and American Samoa. Additionally, Corps organize service events that generate hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours every year on public lands and in communities.

During defined terms of service in crews or individual placement positions, Corps participants – or “Corpsmembers” – gain work experience by performing important conservation, recreation, infrastructure, disaster response, and community development projects on public lands and in rural and urban communities. Through public-private partnerships, Corps work with the National Park Service and other federal, state and local agencies to complete mission-critical projects, including removing invasive species, building trails, preserving historic structures, and managing wildfires and responding to disasters. Corpsmembers have the chance to develop leadership skills and an appreciation for public lands and waters by working side-by-side with resource management professionals at America’s iconic parks, forests and refuges.

The National Park Service Centennial Act, signed into law in December 2016, included provisions that amended the Public Lands Corps Act of 1993 to help strengthen the pathway to resource management careers for Corps alumni. Specifically, the legislation raised the maximum allowable age of Public Lands Corps participants from 25 to 30, and granted two years of noncompetitive hiring authority with federal agencies to Corps alumni who served at least 640 hours.

The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act (S.1403, H.R.2987), a bipartisan bill reintroduced in the House and Senate this past June, would also enhance the connection between public lands and the diverse young adults and veterans who serve in Corps. Among other provisions, the 21CSC Act would make it easier for more federal agencies to enter partnerships with Corps to complete cost-effectivd mission-critical projects and engage the next generation.

“We thank the Chairman Daines, Ranking Member Hirono and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks for holding this hearing, and extend our appreciation to Sen. Hirono for inviting Mr. Leong to testify on the value of Corps as a tool in engaging new park enthusiasts,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO of The Corps Network and Co-Chair of the Partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps. “Kupu and other Corps programs are important partners in helping the National Park Service conserve America’s most treasured natural, historical and cultural sites and leveraging their funds and capacity. Through service on public lands, Corpsmembers develop a sense of responsibility for these places, and gain the hard skills and professional experience to succeed in careers at NPS and other resource management agencies. Corps give NPS an opportunity to engage with passionate future visitors and employees from the local community.”

“I thank Sen. Hirono for inviting my testimony on this important topic, and for her consistent support of Kupu and the Corps model,” said Mr. Leong. “Since 2007, KUPU has risen to meet the increasing demands of natural resource jobs by training over 3,500 youth. Last year, Kupuʻs 300+ corps members helped remove over 20,000 acres of invasive species and plant over 210,000 native species. While the conservation work is important, our Corpsmembers are being shaped into responsible, hard-working, and effective individuals. The ability for NPS to hire local, well-trained former Corpsmembers is a huge competitive advantage both for the park and for the young adults, many of whom come from underserved, rural communities. Corps add diversity to the National Parks in age, ethnic heritage, and socio-economic capacities.”

In addition to Mr. Leong, the witness panel at the hearing included, as listed, Ms. Lena McDowall, Deputy Director for Management and Administration, NPS; Ms. Yennie Fuller, Civil and Social Impact Manager, Niantic, Inc.; Ms. Angela Fultz Nordstrom, Vice President, NIC, Inc.; Mr. Tim Rout, CEO, AccessParks; and Mr. Will Shafroth, President and CEO, National Park Foundation.

21CSC – Partners in Improving Public Lands & Waters: Anchorage Park Foundation at Anchorage’s Kincaid Park

 

Kincaid Park in Anchorage, AK is an easily-accessible wilderness retreat for city-dwellers. Located just south of the airport, the 1,400+ acre site offers spectacular views, designated areas for motocross and archery, and scenic year-round multi-use trails that wind through forested hills and along the coast.

In June 2017, a Youth Employment in Parks (YEP) crew with the Anchorage Park Foundation – a member organization of the 21CSC – and Anchorage Parks and Recreation worked to help stabilize and reroute a popular bluff trail from Kincaid Park to the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge.

“The trail is used by many people accessing the refuge for outdoor and wildlife-related activities and was subject to erosion. The trail erosion threatened to destabilize the bluff. The trail descended steeply and caused debris slides into the wetlands below,” said Joe Meehan, Land and Refuges Program Coordinator for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “This project made access to the refuge easier for park and refuge users, and it assured protection of the wetlands.”

From June 12 – 15, a crew of 24 YEP members helped restore the trail using a practice known as “sidehilling” or “bench cutting.” The crew cut into the sandy hillside, creating a relatively flat surface for the trail.

 

Additionally, to prevent any further erosion, the crew installed 65 posts connected by 700 feet of rope railing. This new fence closes off an old “social trail” and encourages visitors to stay on the more sustainable sanctioned trail. The crew also installed over 300 plants, revegetating the slopes along the trail. The roots from these plants will help keep sand and soil from falling into the wetland.

“[This park] provides important wildlife habitat which is important to the community…this area is used for a variety of wildlife and outdoor activities, including wildlife viewing, waterfowl hunting, photography, nature study, and general outdoor activities, such as hiking and winter skiing,” said Meehan. “[Partnerships like this] help protect the wildlife and habitat resources we manage by directly conducting these types of projects, and also by developing community stewardship…[This partnership] puts local youth to work in the parks and refuge to develop their skills, and to promote their community stewardship ethic to help manage and protect park and refuge lands.”

Brad Fidel, Field Educator for Anchorage Parks and Recreation, stated that the YEP crew members walked away from this project not only with skills to prevent erosion, but knowledge about why controlling erosion is important.

“They learned trail building techniques and teamwork,” said Fidel. “They also learned about the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge and the importance of wildlife habitat.”

“I really love that I’m outside and I really like that I’m making the community a better place,” said Henry Joling, an 18-year-old crewmember. “We’re making Alaska even more beautiful than it already is.”

News reports on this project:

Veterans Corps Discussed at Capitol Hill Briefing Hosted by House Outdoor Recreation Caucus and Outdoor Industry Association on Veterans and the Outdoors

Amy Sovocool, Co-CEO of Conservation Legacy & Co-Chair of Partnership for 21CSC, joined panelists from several outdoor and veteran-related organizations to discuss model and benefits of Veterans Conservation Corps programs.


WASHINGTON, DC (Sept. 22, 2017)
– Amy Sovocool, Co-CEO of Conservation Legacy and Co-Chair of the Partnership for the 21CSC, discussed the model and benefits of Veterans Conservation Corps at a September 14 Capitol Hill briefing on Veterans and the Outdoors. The event was hosted by the House Outdoor Recreation Caucus and supported by the Outdoor Industry Association.

The briefing focused on exploring how nature is used to help veterans heal, develop a sense of community, reintegrate into civilian life, and connect with the people and places they fought to protect.

Since 2009, Veterans Conservation Corps programs across the country have engaged more than 1,600 veterans in conservation service and job training through partnerships with such agencies as the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Veterans Corps are designed to give participants the opportunity to build on their military experience and ethic for service by training for careers in resource management. The Corps model benefits veterans in a range of ways: it provides a similar structure and sense of purpose as the military; offers the therapeutic benefits of getting outdoors and working with fellow veterans; and helps participants transition back to civilian life through skills development and other supportive services.

In a 2016, 90 percent of veterans surveyed indicated that Corps opportunities helped them transition from military to civilian life. The Veterans Corps model also benefits public lands and the outdoor economy by completing important maintenance and improvement projects that increase access to recreation opportunities.

The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) is an initiative to expand public-private partnerships to annually engage 100,000 young adults and veterans in Corps. The 21CSC Act (S.1403, H.R.2987) – a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would help support this goal – was introduced by several former service members, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a U.S. Navy veteran; Rep. Marth McSally (R-AZ), a U.S. Air Force veteran; and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. The 21CSC initiative also has the backing of retired four-star U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal.

With crews based in Colorado and Arizona, Conservation Legacy’s Veterans Fire Corps (VFC) program offers post-9/11 veterans the opportunity to gain training and work experience in forestry and wildland firefighting through an AmeriCorps term of service. During a three to five-month-long term, VFC participants serve alongside fellow former military members on fuels mitigation and wildland firefighting projects. Corpsmembers spend up to eight days at a time living and working outdoors.

“Outdoor Industry Association was honored to be part of the House Outdoor Recreation Caucus briefing on veterans and the outdoors” said Jessica Wahl, Government Affairs Manager for the Outdoor Industry Association.  “There is a deep connection between the outdoors and our country’s veterans and OIA thanks the caucus co-chairs Congressman Simpson and Congressman Polis for shining a light on this important issue. W.L. Gore & Associates and other outdoor businesses are committed to supporting veterans and active military through their products and programs and we hope to continue engaging OIA members on this issue.”

“We thank Rep. Mike Simpson, Rep. Jared Polis, the members of the House Outdoor Recreation Caucus, and the Outdoor Industry Association for hosting this important conversation on the intersection of America’s veterans and the great outdoors,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO of The Corps Network and Co-Chair of the Partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps. “Veterans Conservation Corps programs address several issues faced by returning military. In addition to offering former service members the healing experience of spending time outdoors among fellow veterans, Corps help veterans leverage skills learned in the military to extend their ethic of service into careers in service to our public lands. The bipartisan, bicameral 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act would help create even more opportunities for post-9/11 veterans to benefit from programs like the VFC.”

“Service to our public lands helps veterans re-establish themselves,” said Sovocool. “Many veterans exit the military hoping to find a new mission and sense of purpose, but they are unsure where to turn. Through programs like the Veterans Fire Corps, former service members find a new mission protecting and maintaining access to some of our country’s most treasured national parks and forests. Public lands are more than a place for recreation; they are a point of national pride. Pride in our country is important to our veterans. I thank the House Outdoor Recreation Caucus, the Outdoor Industry Association, and my fellow panelists for helping shed light on the important role the outdoor community can play in assisting America’s veterans in their transition back to civilian life.”

The bipartisan House Outdoor Recreation Caucus was created in April 2017 with the goal of “encourage[ing] healthy, active lifestyles that foster an appreciation of America’s lands and waters and support local communities through outdoor recreation. The caucus is chaired by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO).

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About the 21CSC
The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) is a bipartisan, national initiative to leverage public-private relationships for cost-effective maintenance and improvement of America’s infrastructure, lands and waters. The 21CSC envisions partnerships between resource management agencies and Corps: organizations that engage America’s young adults and veterans in work-based national service projects that restore, conserve and enhance infrastructure and public lands and waters.

The 21CSC is an easy-to-implement solution to America’s aging infrastructure that also develops the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts, recreationists, sportsmen and women, and resource managers. While gaining in-demand skills through their service, Corps participants also build respect and appreciation for our country, hard work, and the outdoors. To learn more about the 21CSC, please visit www.21csc.org.

 

About Conservation Legacy
Conservation Legacy is a national organization that cultivates local action to produce enduring widespread impact in communities, ecosystems and people. Conservation Legacy operates locally-based programs that provide service and work opportunities for a diverse group of individuals to complete important conservation and community projects for the public benefit. Founded in 1998 to continue the legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, Conservation Legacy programs include Arizona Conservation Corps, BRIDGE Network, Great Appalachian Valley Conservation Corps, Southwest Conservation Corps, Southeast Conservation Corps and Preserve America Youth Summits. For more information, please visit www. conservationlegacy.org.

 

About The Corps Network
The Corps Network, the national association of Service and Conservation Corps, provides leadership and support to over 130 Corps across the United States. Through advocacy, and providing Corps access to funding opportunities and expert guidance, The Corps Network annually enables more than 25,000 Corpsmembers to strengthen communities, improve the environment and transform their lives through service. To learn more about The Corps Network, please visit www.corpsnetwork.org.

 

 

 

21CSC – Partners in Improving Public Lands & Waters: Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Established in 1976, The 14,000-acre Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is one of fourteen Regional Priority Urban Wildlife Refuges in the United States. With trailheads located just blocks from the Mall of America, the site is an easily-accessible wilderness escape for residents of the Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs.

Visitors come to explore wetlands, forests and prairies; view wildlife; and partake in hunting, fishing and other recreational activities. The refuge is an important habitat for fish, reptiles, insects and migratory birds. To maintain healthy wildlife populations, and preserve the habitats on which these species depend, the U.S. Fish and Wild Service (USFWS) must collect and analyze a great deal of data. Regular surveys of habitats and wildlife populations help USFWS know where to focus conservation efforts, and document the effectiveness of management actions.

To help collect this vital data, USFWS partners with Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa (CCMI) – a 21CSC Member Organization – to place interns at the refuge.

“The Conservation Corps is where students and recent graduates can look for internships and seasonal jobs,” said Vicki Sherry, a Wildlife Biologist at the refuge. “It is a great place to advertise our positons since we know we can get confident applicants that apply through the Corps.”

This summer, 24-year-old Corrie Nyquist of Cokato, MN served as a CCMI AmeriCorps intern at the refuge. A graduate student in the Entomology Department at the University of Minnesota, Nyquist studied aquatic insects and trout food webs. Among other activities, her internship at the refuge involved a trout stream monitoring project, as well as surveys of various plant, insect and reptile populations.

Specifically, Nyquist studied how air and ground water temperatures affect when and which types of aquatic insects emerge. These insects are a critical food source for trout, so their abundance and diversity are essential to trout survival.
Nyquist was also involved in surveying for the endangered rusty-patched bumblebee. This involves catching live bumblebees as they forage, then releasing them after identification can be made. As pollinators, bees are critically important to many other species in the ecosystem.

Additionally, Nyquist helped the refuge restore several oak savannas. Following prescribed burns and clearing efforts, Nyquist monitored which plant species grew in the understory, and gathered data on the canopy cover.

“These surveys benefit the refuge by helping us identify where species of concern are located,” said Sherry. “They also help us document the response of our management actions, which is often required when receiving restoration grants…Through this partnership, we are able to complete our mission critical biological surveys and restoration monitoring. It enables us to provide quality internships that help our field station, but also give the intern the job experience to enhance their resume.”

After completing her master’s degree, Nyquist hopes to pursue a career in conservation, preferably working in aquatic environments.

As Sherry says to other resource management units considering partnering with a 21CSC organization:

“The Corps was easy to work with in partnering to provide internships to college students and recent graduates. They took care of the recruiting and administrative details, which enabled us to concentrate on providing a good field experience for the intern. It is a great program that provides a lot of support and training to the student. It is a real plus that the students can be eligible for an AmeriCorps award to go towards their education.”

 


Corrie Nyquist – reflection on interning at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

 It was a beautiful warm June day and the little stream was running crystal clear along its winding, cobbled channel. Brook trout darted into the shadows offered by a low bank of tangled tree roots and watercress. Meanwhile, an airplane flew noisily overhead, and for a moment, the lush, green silence of the ravine was split by the roar of the engine.

 This is the uniquely urban setting of Ike’s Creek, a small trout stream on the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. I am privileged to be able to study this stream for my master’s degree in Entomology. During the last week if June, I was able to go out on the stream and officially begin my master’s project by placing temperature loggers. These loggers will stay out on the stream until April, documenting the seasonal temperature changes of the water, from the headwaters to the mouth.

The data from the temperature loggers will aid me in studying how the ground water inputs may buffer the stream’s water temperatures as the seasons change and allow for seasonal insect emergence. Placing the temperature loggers was a great step in my project. I have been planning the project and working with various partners on it since last March, so it is very exciting to see it starting to come together!

While most of the creek is on National Wildlife Refuge land, parts of it run through private property and land owned by the City of Bloomington. To begin studying this stream, I had to obtain permits from the city, private owners, and the refuge. It has been challenging and exciting to work with the different groups and see them come together on the common ground of wanting to know more about the stream. My work with the temperature loggers was also facilitated by the Minnesota DNR, which has historically collected data on the water temperatures and trout in the creek. Collaborating with the Minnesota DNR on this project has offered me the opportunity to work with another natural resource agency and broaden the scope of my study since I will also be able to participate in their annual Ike’s Creek trout survey.

Although my study has just been officially running for a month, there have been numerous opportunities for collaborative work at the local, regional, and federal level.  I am learning how to organize my work with the different partners and how to strategically plan data collection and sharing. So far, it is an exciting opportunity! Similar to the creek, it hasn’t always followed a straight course, but that has made the journey all the more engaging.

The Partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (P-21CSC) Applauds Bipartisan Introduction of New 21CSC Act in United States House and Senate

MEDIA CONTACT
Hannah Traverse
Communications Manager 
The Corps Network
202-737-6272  |  htraverse@corpsnetwork.org

June 22, 2017

A merger of the previously-introduced Public Lands Service Corps Act and 21CSC Act, the bill would advance the 21CSC’s goal of engaging 100,000 young adults and veterans in Corps through addressing backlogged maintenance and other mission-critical projects on America’s public lands and waters.

WASHINTON, DC – The Partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (P-21CSC) – a collective of federal, state, local and non-profit stakeholders that support the growth and development of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) –  applauds bipartisan introduction of a new 21CSC Act in the United States House of Representatives (H.R.2987) and Senate (S.1403) on June 21, 2017. The bill was introduced in the Senate by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Tom Udall (D-NM). It was introduced in the House by Reps. Martha McSally (R-AZ), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Scott Tipton (R-CO), and Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ).

“In Arizona and across the country, young people are growing increasingly interested in service programs focused on bettering our national parks and public lands,” said Senator McCain. “However, while more people each year are applying for service opportunities, they are being turned away – even though our federal agencies need their help to complete a growing backlog of critical projects. Our legislation would solve this problem by creating more opportunities for young people and returning veterans to serve their community while spending no additional taxpayer dollars.”

“Arizona’s breathtaking scenic scopes are renown throughout the country and the world— but our state also has one of the largest backlogs in park maintenance projects,” said Congresswoman McSally (R-AZ). “This backlog is restricting access for Arizonans and tourists at our parks and public areas. This isn’t a problem that money alone can fix, we need to think innovatively and pragmatically to address this growing problem. My bipartisan bill leverages existing resources in a smarter way to get these projects moving. This would be a win for veterans, youth, local communities, and our national parks.”

The 21CSC is a national initiative to annually engage 100,000 young adults and veterans in outdoor work and national service opportunities – such as those offered through AmeriCorps – that address mission-critical maintenance and improvement projects on America’s public lands and waters. Currently, the more than 200 official 21CSC member organizations across the country annually enroll more than 25,000 participants in up to year-long terms of service, during which participants gain hands-on work experience, in-demand skills, and prepare for careers in the growing recreation, natural resource and restoration economies.

Through public-private partnerships among 21CSC programs, resource management agencies, and the private sector, the 21CSC builds rural and urban economies by engaging young adults and veterans in projects that increase access to public lands and enhance the natural resource infrastructure that supports our country’s $887 billion outdoor economy.

America’s main resource management agencies have a maintenance backlog totaling over $18.6 billion. By partnering with 21CSC programs, these agencies can further leverage their funding to cost-effectively engage Corps in building trails, fighting wildfires, maintaining productive fish and wildlife habitat and generally maintaining parks for public access. Along with completing projects, 21CSC also develops the next generation of outdoor stewards, recreationists, sportsmen and women, and resource managers. While gaining in-demand skills, Corpsmembers build respect and appreciation for our country, hard work, and the outdoors.

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. Specifically, the 21CSC Act would:

  • Expand the number of federal agencies that can work with 21CSC programs. Enlisting Conservation Corps to do priority work has often proven to be more cost-effective for federal agencies.
  • Encourage federal agencies to collaborate, and require that they use only existing resources to work with 21CSC programs, meaning there would be no additional cost to tax-payers.
  • Establish coordinators at participating agencies to ensure the efficient functioning of the 21CSC.
  • Prioritize the engagement of recent veterans, native, and disadvantaged youth in 21CSC programs, and establish a new Indian Youth Corps program.
  • Establish standards for data collection and measuring the effectiveness of 21CSC programs.
  • Provide two years of non-competitive hiring eligibility with federal agencies for young people and veterans who gain valuable skills through service in 21CSC programs.
  • Provide new Internship and Resource Assistant opportunities for Corpsmembers, along with direct hiring authority.

The 21CSC Act was originally introduced in the Senate in August 2015 (S.1993) by Senators McCain and Bennet, and in the House in April 2016 (H.R.5114) by Representatives McSally and Moulton. The Public Lands Service Corps Act (PLSCA) – a similar bill – was most recently introduced in the House in April 2015 (H.R.2167) by Rep. Grijalva and in the Senate (S. 1160) by Sen. Udall. Rep. Grijlava has been a long-standing champion of Corps and the PLSCA. The legislation introduced yesterday is a combination of previously introduced versions of the 21CSC and PLSC Acts. It 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.

“The Partnership for the 21CSC is deeply grateful to Senators McCain, Bennet, and Udall, and Representatives McSally, Moulton and Grijalva, and all of the cosponsors of this legislation for collaborating to promote the vision of the 21CSC,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, CEO of The Corps Network and Chair of the Partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps. “As this legislation merges two bills, we want to especially thank Rep. Grijalva for his longstanding support of Corps through promotion of the PLSC Act. The 21CSC is a win-win: our public lands agencies can address the maintenance backlog and meet their missions through cost-effective public-private partnerships; and young adults and returning veterans gain valuable, in-demand skills for the growing outdoor economy through work and national service opportunities. We look forward to working with the congressional offices involved to help see the 21CSC Act passed.”

The 21CSC initiative was launched as a partnership between America’s Corps and a number of federal agencies to promote the idea of a 21st-Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) to provide job training and to maintain and preserve public lands. The 21CSC is supported by the past five Secretaries of Interior (two republicans and three Democrats) and has received investments from private businesses like American Eagle Outfitters, The Coca-Cola Foundation, the REI Foundation, The North Face, the Campion Foundation, Camelbak, the Youth Outdoor Legacy fund, KEEN Utility and others. Current Secretary of Interior Zinke was a co-sponsor of the 21CSC Act when he was in Congress.

 

About the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps
The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) is a bipartisan, national initiative to leverage public-private relationships for cost-effective maintenance and improvement of America’s infrastructure, lands and waters. The 21CSC envisions partnerships between resource management agencies and Corps: organizations that engage America’s young adults and veterans in work-based national service projects that restore, conserve and enhance infrastructure and public lands and waters.

The 21CSC is an easy-to-implement solution to America’s aging infrastructure that also develops the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts, recreationists, sportsmen and women, and resource managers. While gaining in-demand skills through their service, Corps participants also build respect and appreciation for our country, hard work, and the outdoors. To learn more about the 21CSC, please visit www.21csc.org.

 

About The Partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (P-21CSC)
The Partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (P-21CSC) supports the development and implementation of the 21CSC to reach its goal of engaging 100,000 young people and veterans per year in conservation service. The Partnership’s members include key federal, state, local and non-profit leaders and stakeholders of the 21CSC. To learn more about the P-21CSC, please visit 21csc.org/about-partnership/.

Calvert Curley, 21CSC Champion of the Year

CCurleyCalvert Curley is a 21CSC Champion of the Year for 2017.

 

Calvert Curley
Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) – Natural Resources Department, Navajo Regional Office

Dr. Calvert Curley is a Natural Resource Manager for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Navajo Regional office. He has also worked as a Natural Resource Manager for BIA Navajo Ft. Defiance Agency and as an Air Toxics Department Manager for the Navajo Nation EPA. He is Navajo (Dine) from Ganado, AZ. Dr. Curley has worked with 21CSC youth programs in his former capacity with the BIA Ft. Defiance Agency, as well as in his current capacity. He was one of the first BIA Managers to partner with Southwest Conservation Corps to field Ancestral Lands crews on the Navajo Nation. Ancestral Lands is a SCC program that specifically engages Native American youth in meaningful conservation projects on Tribal lands. Thanks to Dr. Curley’s support, the Ancestral Lands Navajo Program has grown and thrived, demonstrating to other BIA offices that partnerships with Corps can be an effective way to complete agency work while also empowering local youth. Dr. Curley has become a national leader for the engagement of Native youth in 21CSC programs.


Q&A with Calvert Curley

Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get started in conservation and preservation?

Growing up in a ranching family, my father continues to improve his ranch by re-seeding, water development and addressing erosion on his ranch.  He implemented an erosion control structure such running silt fence lines and using straw bales.  He did this to protect the grass field which produces over 1,000 bales of hay annually.

This basically gave me the motivation to work in the field of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

I was fortunate to receive a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Agriculture, and a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) and a Doctoral in Business Administration (DBA).

My Dissertation study is available on the website titled: “Mixed Method Research Study on the Navajo Nation Grazing and the Correlation of Quantitative Data Analysis”.

What advice would you offer to resource management agency units and nonprofits interested in partnering with 21CSC programs?

  • What should one expect when partnering with a 21CSC program?

The partnership is a valuable experience for our local youth and that it is important to tap into the youth when they are still in high school so they can build upon the experience from the conservation service corps.

  • Where can those interested in working with the 21CSC turn for resources?

Individuals interested in working with the 21CSC can receive resource information from the local 21CSC conveniently located in Gallup, NM.

What advice do you offer to young people in 21CSC programs who are interested in careers in preservation and land/water management?

I usually let them know that it is important that as Native American Indian, our traditional way of life is embedded with Natural Resources. Protection of water and traditional medicinal plants is vitally important.

What drives you to support the 21CSC and youth engagement on public lands?

Being in the Natural Resource Management, I have seen there is a need to get more young individuals into the Natural Resource arena.  Universities are not producing as many Soil scientist and Range Management Specialist any more.

What do you see as the future of Service and Conservation Corps?

I believe the future outlook for Conservation Corps will continue to impact the Natural Resource Conservation in a positive way.  Being able to tap into the youth at an early stage will positively impact the youth and will be able to succeed in their education.

  

Carter Smith, 21CSC Champion of the Year – 2017


Carter 2012
Carter Smith is a 21CSC Champion of the Year for 2017.

Carter Smith
Director – Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

As the Executive Director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), Carter Smith oversees 3,100 professionals across 11 divisions. In this role, he has been a significant proponent of the Texas Children in Nature initiative, created in 2010 to combat the disconnect between children and the natural world. Smith helped form public-private partnerships uniting natural resource agencies with the non-profit, health, education and business communities. Thanks to Smith and TPWD, the initiative is today comprised of nearly 400 partner organizations across the state that annually help 4 million kids get outside to play, learn and grow in nature. Additionally, Smith has developed a longstanding partnership with the Texas Conservation Corps at American YouthWorks to connect youth with conservation work on TPWD lands. Under his tenure, a dedicated year-round trail crew was created to engage Corpsmembers in full-time trail building and maintenance in parks across the state. Smith has also leveraged private funding to involve additional crews in wildfire recovery and restoration work.


Q&A with Carter Smith

Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get started in conservation and preservation?

I grew up with one foot in the city and one foot in the country and always thought I had the best of both worlds in terms of exposure to recreation and conservation issues in both rural and urban settings.  My family farmed and ranched in central and south Texas, so I spent much of my youth outdoors working, hunting, fishing, and playing, as did most all of my friends.  That interest in conservation was undoubtedly influenced by my parents and grandparents, who were strongly connected to and interested in the land, wildlife, and nature.  I was first inspired to think about a career in conservation by a state wildlife biologist and game warden.  Both men were consummate professionals and teachers, and it was obvious to me, even at a young age, how much they loved what they did for a living.  Ultimately, I elected to pursue a degree in wildlife biology in college, and after a series of technician related jobs assisting with research projects involving desert mule deer and pronghorn antelope, I was forever hooked.

How did you become involved with the 21 CSC/with Service and Conservation Corps?

I had my first exposure to the Service and Conservation Corps through my friend Parc Smith, the director of American Youthworks and the Texas Conservation Corps.  Parc approached me about them partnering with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to help build trails on various state parks.  Money at the time was tight, but the demand and needs were huge, so we figured out a way to get started.  We launched a series of relatively small trail building projects at select state parks around Texas, and Parc and his eminently capable and motivated team of budding professionals vastly exceeded our expectations.  Today, the Texas Conservation Corps has full time crews working all across our state parks system on projects ranging from habitat restoration to invasive species control to trail and bridge building to disaster response and a whole lot more.  Looking ahead, we have great ambitions for additional projects involving larger capital infrastructure projects, as well as restoration projects helping to mitigate long term impacts from the Deepwater Horizon spill.  All of these initiatives are being developed with an eye to engaging and developing the next generation of land and water stewards.

What advice would you offer to resource management agency units and nonprofits interested in partnering with 21CSC programs?

First, get familiar with the programs and services that your area Conservation and Service Corps offers.  They are undoubtedly offering something that you need, whether one is working for a federal, state, local, or non-profit entity.  The quality of work is exceptional.  The fee for services is inherently affordable and competitive.  The young professionals and their supervisors are talented, motivated, and deeply committed to what they do.  And, it is a great opportunity to identify new talent and prospective employees for one’s agency.  I simply can’t say enough good about them and what they do.

What advice do you offer to young people in 21CSC programs who are interested in careers in preservation and land/water management?

I have a couple of guiding principles that have served me well and which I have always imparted to others seeking advice about whether to pursue a career in conservation.  At the top of the list is a reminder that the work we get to do in this realm is measured in generational terms and benefits, not large paychecks.  For the most part, our proverbial paychecks come in the forms of pretty sunrises and pretty sunsets, along with a deep satisfaction in giving back to the lands and waters and communities of our Home Ground.  If ever there was a vocation that planted trees so that others could enjoy shade, this field is it.  Second, whatever you are out there looking for is also out there looking for you.  Don’t settle and be persistent following your ambitions and desires to work in conservation.  Last, but not least, find an experienced mentor or mentors who you trust, look up to, and have confidence in.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help, advice, and counsel.  Pursue and engage with networks of other experienced professionals who can assist you in identifying, recommending, and vetting job opportunities that may be of interest to you.  All of us have been given a helping hand along the way and “giving back” to the next generation of conservation leaders is something most of us take great pride and pleasure in doing.

What drives you to support the 21CSC and youth engagement on public lands?

What I have appreciated most about our partnership with American Youthworks and the Texas Conservation Corps is the tangible nature of their contributions.  As a body, the Conservation Corps are all action, and the fruits of their work and contributions on State Parks are readily apparent for everyone to see.  Not only can they mobilize quickly, but they get things done right.  New hiking trails and bridges.  Erosion control structures.  Restored habitats–More wildlife.  Fewer invasive species–More native plants.  All of these things take dedicated, committed, talented professionals to accomplish.  And, the CSC Programs accomplish these kinds of projects in very timely, affordable, and high quality ways.  In addition, the Conservation Corps attracts a very diverse, inclusive, and talented demographic of young people interested in conservation and environmental careers.  As such, they are a great fit for prospective jobs within our agency.  Suffice to say, we get our investment back many times over.

What do you see as the future of Service and Conservation Corps?

I have always thought of the Service and Conservation Corps in the same positive light of the historic Civilian Conservation Corps that were responsible for building and developing many of the state and national parks across the United States.  They are just a contemporary version of them, bringing the same kinds of high quality projects, innovations, and contributions to these extraordinary public places and landscapes across America.  Today’s Corps members are the stewards of tomorrow.  They bring talent, motivation, and a bright, bright future to the conservation arena.  Their land and work ethic gives me great hope about our future and the collective heritage we will pass along to future generations.

 

Lamar Gore, 21CSC Champion of the Year Award – 2017

Lamar GoreLamar Gore is a 21CSC Champion of the Year for 2017.

Lamar Gore
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) – John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge

As the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge Manager, Lamar Gore strives to work with partners, the community, and schools to meet both refuge and community goals in Philadelphia, PA. He began his career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as a biological technician at the Montpelier Office of Fishery Assistance, later working with several National Wildlife Refuges, other USFWS programs, and the Northeast Regional Office. At John Heinz, Gore helped develop environmental education programs at three local schools. Additionally, working with Audubon Pennsylvania and the Student Conservation Association (SCA), Gore has developed relationships with the public to create green space (habitat, gardens, learning spaces, etc.) in Philadelphia neighborhoods. He has also worked in partnership with the Clean Air Council, the city and others to improve multi-use trail connections from John Heinz to the community. Gore is an advocate for SCA programs, and has attained support to get more youth involved in local projects. He has a vision to make seamless connections between John Heinz and the surrounding community. The result of Gore’s work has generated new funding to create a youth community restoration program, putting youth to work on conservation projects during the school year.


Q&A with Lamar Gore

Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get started in conservation and preservation?

Since childhood, I’ve had an interest/fear in the natural world, which sounds odd. There was the desire to discover, but fear to touch.  I had some key areas that sparked me including an uncle who was a fisherman and a 7th grade science teacher who introduced me to fly fishing.  A trip he took our class to, in which we stayed in cabins for a week in Stokes State Forest was the trip that lit the torch for me.  As a Freshman in college, I stumbled onto the USFWS with a program called the Career Awareness Institute, based in Tennessee, and it was this program that launched me into the fisheries program as a Cooperative education program student.  The opportunities and challenges were rewarding along the way, and I wouldn’t change a bit of it.

What advice would you offer to resource management agency units and nonprofits interested in partnering with 21CSC programs?

I look at this partnership as an opportunity to give back to our target communities. You can engage youth in conservation careers and teach important work skills to those youth.  It’s difficult to understand the full value of this type of programming until you realize even one of those youth sinking their teeth into a career in the conservation field and becoming a leader.

What should one expect when partnering with a 21CSC program?

Expectations range from a member network that can recruit and manage the administrative function of interns assigned to your site. The ability to recruit in target communities, and vetted candidates.

Where can those interested in working with the 21CSC turn for resources?

There is a lot of knowledge and experience in partners who have worked with Corps Network member organizations, so talking with us can shed a great deal of light on the benefits, however, you can also visit the networks webpage to fill in the gaps.

What advice do you offer to young people in 21CSC programs who are interested in careers in preservation and land/water management?

I would first say that as you enter the program, empty your cup and let your supervisors and mentors refill it. They will prepare you for a road to success.  Second, make your first, middle, and last impression count with those you work with and for.  Those impressions can and often do follow you around.  Be sure to network with the agencies you work for and do not be afraid to try things outside your comfort zone, as it’s in those places that you will be sure to grow and learn.

What drives you to support the 21CSC and youth engagement on public lands?

For me being a part of youth engagement on public lands is about land stewardship. The conservation world has been fighting a losing battle for years, because we have not put enough emphasis on both youth and community engagement on and off public lands, making a connection between each.  The ambassadors developed by engaging people on and off public lands are invaluable to the youth, the community, and the public agency.

What do you see as the future of Service and Conservation Corps? 

I expect to see service and partnerships increasing, but the work of communicating through our youth will be of the utmost importance. Youth communicating with you and community communicating with community are often more effective than “Joe Blow conservation” communicating with youth or community.  That doesn’t mean it doesn’t work, but I believe we need a stronger impact.