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21CSC – Partners in Improving Public Lands & Waters: Idaho Conservation Corps Helps Enhance Mountain Bike Access in Sawtooth National Forest

Photo credit: Chris Leman

The Sawtooth National Forest covers over 2 million acres, predominately across south central Idaho. With a variety of habitats, 10 mountain ranges, and more than 1,000 lakes, the forest is a popular recreation destination.

Outdoor recreation is the main economic driver in many communities in and around the forest. To keep tourists coming, it is essential to maintain the region’s trails, camp sites, and other recreation-related infrastructure. This past summer, youth serving with Idaho Conservation Corps (ICC) – a program of Northwest Youth Corps – performed much-needed maintenance on the Oregon Gulch Trail, a popular route in Ketchum, ID for biking, hiking, horseback riding and motorsports.

The Corps participants, who ranged in age from 16 – 18, were part of ICC’s Youth Corps camping program. This program gives teenagers the opportunity to gain hands-on work experience by spending five weeks travelling throughout Idaho to perform important maintenance and improvement projects on public lands. Work on the Oregon Gulch Trail was completed by two ICC crews during July and August 2017.

Photo credit: Chris Leman

With drainage issues and sections of heavy rutting, the trail was in need of attention. To better understand the needs of trail users, Corps participants had the chance to experience the Oregon Gulch Trail on mountain bikes. Then, working alongside the professional Ketchum Trail Crew, based out of Sawtooth National Forest, the ICC members learned the processes involved in laying out a new trail and designing features to increase trail complexity for riders.

Using ten-pound pick-mattocks, the two ICC crews completed over 2,000 hours of service on the trail. They improved 50 drainage structures, restored one mile of existing trail, and constructed roughly a mile of new trail to route around a section that was rutted beyond repair.

With guidance from the professional trail crew, the Corps participants learned and practiced skills to build a quality trail. They also learned many intangible lessons.

“This crew started the season working as individuals, separated by interests, backgrounds and skill levels. Through this project, they learned to work as a cohesive team, sharing in the difficult aspects of digging a trail through rock, and keeping each other hydrated in the heat of an Idaho summer,” said Ari Songer, ICC Program Coordinator, “They will take with them a strong work ethic, resiliency when faced with challenge and an appreciation for the power of teamwork.”

Photo credit: Chris Leman

A reflection from an ICC member:

This experience meant an opportunity to discover one’s true self without the boundaries placed upon us by society.

This experience has been a gateway to self-discovery in its purest form.

For many of us, life is a cardboard box; a box of social groups, cultural norms, identity boundaries, and restriction of expression. Every now and again, the wind blows and the box tumbles head-over-heels, allowing us a brief glimpse of our true nature and the nature of the world around us. 

But, almost always, the box lands open side down. 

This program reminds us that we are strong enough to “break through the cardboard.” This adventure gives us the opportunity to separate ourselves from the cycles that dis-empower us. The only thing preventing you from being your true self is the illusion of disempowerment perpetuated by these cycles.

Take a second to reflect on your experience, and, if you realize nothing else, realize that none of this is possible alone.

 

Thank you to Ariana Songer of Idaho 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.

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/.

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.

Joni Packard, 21CSC Champion of the Year – 2017

JoniPackardPhoto

Joni Packard is a 21CSC Champion of the Year for 2017. 

Joni Packard
U.S. Forest Service (USFS) – Northern Region

Joni Packard has been with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) for 25 years, working in numerous capacities in Washington, Alaska, Idaho and Montana. She now serves as the Regional Volunteer, Youth and 21CSC Program Coordinator for the Northern Region, covering Montana, northern Idaho, and North and South Dakota. Packard has been involved with Corps since she served as a Youth Conservation Corps member in the 1970s. In her current role, she has partnered with numerous 21CSC organizations, helping lead efforts to engage more veterans and diverse youth in conservation projects. Packard has championed and sought additional Forest Service funding for Corps and other 21CSC partner engagement efforts, increasing additional funding to Northern Region field units from $150,000 in FY12 to almost $1 million in FY16. Packard is considered a leader by her peers in other regions and as a trendsetter for creative ways to engage youth on public lands.


Q&A with Joni Packard

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

I’ve had a long time interest in conservation and preservation issues since I was a junior high school student, back in the early 1970s.  Along with the environmental issues and activism that were a key part of that era, we had a family cabin in the Cascade Mountains in Washington State that was instrumental in creating my love for the outdoors.  Rachel Carson was one of my early heroes, not so much for her book “Silent Spring” but more for her book “A Sense of Wonder,” which found the beauty in nature and the “little things” as well as introducing one to the broader connections between living systems.  In the mid-1970s, I was selected as a Youth Conservation Corps enrollee, right after the program was permanently authorized.  YCC “started the spark” where I saw and realized I could turn my love for the natural world and connecting people to it, into a potential career in natural resources.  Conservation and caring for this planet – and caring for people — has been a calling ever since!

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

The advice I would offer is look at these programs as a way to introduce young people to not only an agency’s and non-profit’s missions, but also as way to introduce young people to the skills, strengths, and leadership potential they have in themselves.  These young folks – no matter what generation – are incredibly capable, passionate and caring – look at them not only as a way to help get needed work done, but as new stewards working shoulder to shoulder with us all right now.  Create an array of experiences that will not only introduce them to conservation projects but also the stories, the connections, and a land and community ethic that will inspire their own future stewardship, no matter what career opportunities (public or private sector) they might pursue.

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

When partnering with a 21CSC program, there’s always going to be some bumps along the way and some unexpected issues.  Create timelines that allow flexibility if you can, have back-up plans when staffing issues happen, budgets are late, projects change or get done early, or emergencies (such as fire or floods) occur.  Cost effectiveness and being value added is important for everyone – think about how to partner creatively to leverage resources. Talk about and develop shared outcomes. Stay engaged with each other.  Be willing to experiment with new programming and partners (and/or new combinations of partners) to stay contemporary.  Realize sometimes a partnership may not be a fit in some scenarios yet it doesn’t mean that a great partnership can’t still occur in others – it’s ok to adjust.  Be thinking how to stay be ahead of the game in terms of demographic, cultural, and technological shifts.  Be creative.  Value traditions and new ideas – there will be different “cultures” within organizations (both public and private sectors) to work with.  Understand each other’s processes, mission and goals.  And…share a few laughs, some homemade cookies and get out on the ground together – see, value and acknowledge the great work everyone – 21CSC partners, crews, interns, and agency staff — are doing!

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

People can turn to The Corps Network and its’ website; visit directly with The Corps Network’s member organizations; and visit with agencies (such as Regional Volunteer and Service contacts) working with 21CSC partners.

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

The advice I offer is think about what most interests you, what you really love and would like to do, then visit with as many resource professionals as you can to learn about the potential career opportunities that might be out there, and what different jobs entail.  “Taste test” different types of jobs, through either 21CSC service programs, volunteering and/or paid positions.  You might think you would really love to be a wildlife biologist yet when you are actually doing data collection, it’s not quite a fit –but you then find you do love the larger context of resource management issues that tie into wildlife conservation issues.  If a job in the federal, state or tribal government is of interest, check out what kinds of qualifications are needed to apply for those types of positions – check out the academic requirements as well as the experience requirements.  That way, when you are still in school, you can take any additional courses or get the credit hours necessary to ensure you meet the qualifications.  Stay engaged by networking through student and professional associations.  Stay connected with resource people you may have met, who can also keep an ear out for potential job openings.  Let people know what you are looking for.  Ask for help regarding resumes and applications (Even though a good system, USAJOBS can be confusing!).  Realize that you likely won’t find the “perfect” job the first time you apply – and don’t give up – keep applying/looking for jobs and concurrently keep building your resume with relevant jobs/experiences (even temporary jobs or volunteer work) that show your interest – and show your staying power.  If a federal position is where a young person wants to go, I encourage folks to apply for any job they can that they qualify for – even if it’s not the “dream job” – yet.  Getting that first foot in the door – and really, for any organization – is the hardest.  Once you are “in,” even if it’s not the “dream” job you want, work hard, work well with others, and keep adding to your skill sets and resume – that will help get you to the “next” step in your career. And do be sure to stay at least a little while… it’s a huge investment by an organization (whether public or private sector) to bring someone on, so be that “someone” that an organization or supervisor can give a glowing recommendation about, when you are ready to look for that “next job.”

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

What drives me is that I believe in the future, that it is good, and that each generation is what makes up that good.  Engaging youth on public lands is not only about creating future public land stewards, it’s also about creating connections – to themselves, to each other, to deeper understandings about different cultures, values, perspectives communities, and our natural systems – that will help create a better world for all.  The pride that comes from a job well done, the self-esteem that happens when you can see how strong and capable you are, the camaraderie and friendships that can last a lifetime, the sense of stewardship and caring and being able to pass that along so that your kids will be able to enjoy public lands just as much as you have been able to do – all this and more is, for me, what youth engagement on public lands and waters is about.


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

I see the future of Service and Conservation Corps as a way to help connect our young people to not only their public land heritage and employment opportunities, but also as a way to help them create a more positive future.  Service, any kind of service, is a way for people to give back, to find out about themselves, about other people, about connections to communities and the larger world.  When we experience and work with other people, we get to know them as just regular folks, with similar dreams, hopes, fears and desires.  It doesn’t matter if you are an urban youth working with a youth from a rural area or a Reservation, if you are black, white, or brown, male or female, young or old, straight or gay, from different religious, cultural, ethnic or racial backgrounds, “conservative” or “liberal”… when we can begin to work together on simple things like trail building, cooking dinner together after a hard day’s work, helping a crew member hoist a heavy pack, or making sure everyone’s ok on a long slog in to a remote backcountry work site, the “differences” can melt away and folks become friends, perspectives can change, and people realize they really can work together to make a difference.  Through Service and Conservation Corps and Agency partners, there is the practical part of gaining work skills, getting work done on the ground, and understanding agency missions and conservation work.  There is also the opportunity to become a “new bridge,” by helping create much needed connections and kinder understandings between us all.

21 CSC Champions of the Year – 2017

It is our great pleasure to announce the 21CSC Champions of the Year for 2017

Learn more about the 21CSC Champion of the Year Award

Read about the 2017 Finalists


National Distinction Awardees

Merlene Mazyck
merlene-mazyckU.S. Forest Service (USFS) – National Office

As the Volunteers and Service National Program Manager for the U.S. Forest Service, Merlene Mazyck provides strategic leadership and policy guidance for a program that annually engages more than 100,000 volunteers and service members on America’s 175 national forests and grasslands. Through her advocacy, leadership, and innovation, Mazyck provides support within USFS to implement the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC). She advocated for and acquired millions of dollars for youth and veteran programs in the Forest Service. Since 2014, USFS investments of $61.3 million leveraged partner contributions of $51.4 million to engage 30,000 youth and veterans in protecting, restoring, and enhancing Forest lands. As a key member of the 21CSC Working Group – comprised of staff from several federal resource management agencies – Mazyck has played a role in developing and executing federal policy surrounding the 21CSC. Significantly, she manages the vetting process to ensure that organizations interested in joining the 21CSC comply with the initiative’s principles.


George McDonald
gmcdonald_3National Park Service (NPS) – National Office

George McDonald has served as National Youth Programs Manager for the National Park Service since 2008. In this role, McDonald has led successful efforts to launch numerous programs designed to enhance and increase the number of underserved, minority and disadvantaged youth participating in park activities and engaging in employment and educational opportunities in parks. Significantly, he helped launch NPS’s Youth Intern Program in 2009 to provide youth and young adults an intellectually challenging experience and exposure to a range of NPS job opportunities. McDonald has partnered with numerous 21CSC organizations, helping develop such programs as Greening Youth Foundation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities Internship, the Latino Heritage Internship Program, and the Mosaics in Science Intern Program with Environment for the Americas and Greening Youth Foundation. McDonald has not only championed the 21CSC within NPS, but has taken time to write congressional responses and inform leaders across the Department of the Interior about the value of this initiative.

 


 Regional Champions of the Year

Calvert Curley
dr-calvert-curleyBureau 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.


 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.


Joni Packard
Joni PackardU.S. Forest Service (USFS) – Northern Region

Joni Packard has been with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) for 25 years, working in numerous capacities in Washington, Alaska, Idaho and Montana. She now serves as the Regional Volunteer, Youth and 21CSC Program Coordinator for the Northern Region, covering Montana, northern Idaho, and North and South Dakota. Packard has been involved with Corps since she served as a Youth Conservation Corps member in the 1970s. In her current role, she has partnered with numerous 21CSC organizations, helping lead efforts to engage more veterans and diverse youth in conservation projects. Packard has championed and sought additional Forest Service funding for Corps and other 21CSC partner engagement efforts, increasing additional funding to Northern Region field units from $150,000 in FY12 to almost $1 million in FY16. Packard is considered a leader by her peers in other regions and as a trendsetter for creative ways to engage youth on public lands.


Carter Smith
Executive staff photo DRP 2008,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.

 

21CSC Alum Introduces President Obama at 2016 National Christmas Tree Lighting

Dylan Carrejo, an AmeriCorps alum from Texas Conservation Corps, introduces President Obama at the 2016 National Christmas Tree Lighting

Dylan Carrejo, an AmeriCorps alum from Texas Conservation Corps, introduces President Obama at the 2016 National Christmas Tree Lighting

Dylan Carrejo and David Vacianna – both AmeriCorps alumni of 21st Century Conservation Service Corps programs – were the special guests of Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell at President Obama’s final National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony on December 1st. Carrejo served with Texas Conservation Corps at American YouthWorks, while Vacianna served with Northwest Youth Corps in Oregon.

Carrejo also had the honor of introducing President Obama’s speech at the conclusion of the ceremony.

Read this blog from The Corps Network on Huffingtonpost.com to learn more about the event and the significance of the inclusion of Corps in one of the final public events of the Obama administration. 

The lighting ceremony was aired on the Hallmark Channel on Monday, Dec. 5th. Highlights of the event can be seen here.


Published 12/5/16

Who’s Introducing the President at the National Christmas Tree Lighting?

Later today, Americans can tune in to watch the Obama family’s eighth and final National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. The annual ceremony, which took place last week on The Ellipse – a National Park Service property just south of the White House, is a tradition stretching back 94 years to President Calvin Coolidge.

As in past years, viewers can expect the president to conclude the evening with a speech about the meaning of the holiday season. But who will introduce his speech?

Read more 

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Dylan Carrejo of Texas Conservation Corps and David Vacianna of Northwest Youth Corps. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in the background.

National Christmas Tree Lighting 2016. From right to left: Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell; David Vacianna, a 21CSC alumni from Northwest Youth Corps; Dylan Carrejo; Jonathan Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service; Parc Smith, CEO of American YouthWorks.

National Christmas Tree Lighting 2016. From right to left: Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell; David Vacianna, a 21CSC alumni from Northwest Youth Corps; Dylan Carrejo; Jonathan Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service; Parc Smith, CEO of American YouthWorks.

Honoring Veterans 2016: Mary Dawn Kidd

 Every year, many returning veterans continue their service to our country by participating in 21CSC programs. Several 21CSC member organizations operate programs specifically designed to engage former military service members in public lands stewardship. Throughout November, we will feature stories about some of these programs and the extraordinary people who serve in them. 

From Conservation Legacy –
A Podcast Interview with Mary Dawn Kidd, Southwest Conservation Corps, Veterans Fire Corps 

Summer 2016 Meme Series: Reason #10 to Support the 21CSC

Summer 2016 Series: Why You Should Support the #21CSC

Every Wednesday between June 15th and August 31st, we’ll release a new shareable image depicting a reason why it’s important to support the 21CSC initiative. Post these images on your social channels to let people know why the 21CSC is a good idea.   

August 17th – REASON #10 to Support the 21CSC: All young people who want to serve on our public lands should be able to.

The unfortunate truth is that not all young people who want to serve our country through a Corps have the opportunity to do so. In recent years, AmeriCorps – the national service program that supports many service positions in Corps – had to reject some 86 percent of applicants; there simply aren’t enough service positions to meet demand.

One way the 21CSC initiative helps increase the number of available service positions on public lands is by working to raise non-federal funding support for 21CSC projects. To date, companies, foundations and individuals have donated millions to the 21CSC. For example, private funding matched with AmeriCorps dollars is currently supporting 21CSC Corpsmembers serving on comprehensive trail restoration projects at Olympic and Mt. Rainier National Parks.

Additionally, the 21CSC advocates to expand the number of federal agencies that can partner with Corps to complete mission-critical projects. More projects for Corps means more opportunities in which Corps can engage young people in meaningful service to our country.

If you want to serve in a Corps and improve public lands, you should have the opportunity to do so.

 

USDA and Partners Invest $11M in 21st Century Conservation Service Corps

USDA logoWASHINGTON, June 7, 2016 – As National Get Outdoors Month begins, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that the U.S. Forest Service and partners have invested over $11 million to support work and training opportunities for more than 1,500 youth and veterans on national forests and grasslands in fiscal year 2016.

The Forest Service and partners make investments in 21CSC throughout the year. Today’s announcement includes national and regional Forest Service investments of $6.5 million with additional partner investments of $3.7 million in funding. The National Forest Foundation has also leveraged an additional $1.5 million for 21CSC projects so far in 2016.

Today’s announcement provides support for opportunities for hands-on service in opportunities across America. To see a brief description of each project, its location, and the name of the 21CSC Member Program facilitating each project: Click to view spreadsheet.

Click to read press release from USDA