Secretary Jewell, American Express Announce Major Commitment to Increase Volunteerism on America's Public Lands

Public-Private Partnership Kicks Off 50-City Campaign in New York City

Last edited 09/29/2021

NEW YORK, NY—As part of the Interior Department's bold youth initiative to engage the next generation of outdoor stewards, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced a new $5-million commitment from American Express to help the Department reach its goal of one million volunteers on public lands annually. Watch this Twitter video released earlier today that highlights key elements of this new volunteer initiative.

Joined by American Express Foundation President Timothy J. McClimon, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, and YMCA of the USA President Emeritus Neil Nicoll, Jewell and the other leaders discussed how the funding will help increase engagement, connections and support of public lands in 50 cities across the country – starting in New York City.

“Magnificent landscapes and our strong volunteer ethic are part of what make America so special and unique,” Secretary Jewell said today at the kickoff event at Castle Clinton National Monument in Manhattan. “This partnership with American Express will be a huge boost as we create a movement to foster the next generation of leaders and outdoor stewards while helping people connect to the public lands in their community – particularly in urban areas.”

“Community service and historic preservation have a long heritage at American Express,” said Timothy J. McClimon, president, American Express Foundation. “Since our founding more than 160 years ago, American Express has seen how America's parks and public lands contribute to our sense of national and local identity, and we are proud to lead an effort to mobilize a new generation of volunteers to protect, conserve and revitalize America's public lands and treasured national parks.”

In partnership with the YMCA of the USA, the funding from American Express will create community coordinator positions in 50 U.S. cities to increase awareness, support and participation in outdoor programs. These newly created positions are expected to engage thousands of volunteers annually in each city. The funding will also support efforts to engage young adults and veterans to serve on the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps and engage new volunteers during the National Park Service centennial.

“Many people in urban neighborhoods don't have the chance to experience all that the public lands in and around our cities have to offer,” said Neil Nicoll, President Emeritus of the YMCA of the USA. “This initiative will help us bring together leaders in conservation, education, recreation and service to provide opportunities for individuals to deepen their connection to these natural and historic sites, develop important skills, and engage in activities where they can give back and strengthen their community.”

The program will roll out in 25 cities in 2015—starting today with New York City and continuing with the announcement of ten more cities in the following days.

In New York City, two years of funding is provided to the YMCA of Greater New York to help coordinate efforts, facilitate collaboration, grow resources, and increase participation in outdoor programs on all public lands – from local parks to federal lands and waters.

“New York City is exceedingly proud to be the first of 50 cities to kick off this volunteer partnership to mobilize the next generation of outdoor stewards,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We're working hard to boost volunteerism and engage more New Yorkers in service opportunities across the five boroughs. We've always believed that our greatest strength is in our people—and I urge more New Yorkers to get more involved in revitalizing and preserving our treasured public lands through this generous partnership, and at”

Secretary Jewell first outlined the goals of the youth initiative in a speech at the National Press Club in October 2013 where she emphasized the need to bridge the growing disconnect between young people and the great outdoors. For more information on the youth initiative, visit

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