21st Century Conservation Service Corps Set to Receive More Than $3 Million to Put Young People to Work on Public Lands

Public-Private Partnership Funds 60 Projects to Engage Youth in Job Opportunities this Summer

Last edited 02/15/2023

Date: May 4, 2016
Contacts: Interior, Interior_Press@ios.doi.gov
USDA, Press@oc.usda.gov
Rob Blumenthal, NFWF, rob.blumenthal@nfwf.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the summer outdoor recreation season is about to kick off,  U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Executive Director and CEO Jeff Trandahl today partnered to announce  that the  21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) is set to receive $3.16 million in grants to support conservation employment and mentoring opportunities for youth at 60 projects on public lands nationwide this summer.

The 21CSC is part of an ambitious youth initiative to inspire millions of young adults and veterans to play, learn, serve and work in the great outdoors. This year’s funding announcement includes projects in 20 states.

Secretary Jewell announced funding to engage youth in service projects on Montana’s public lands yesterday at a summer recreation outdoor season kickoff event at Devil’s Elbow Recreation Area near Helena, where she was joined by U.S. Senator Jon Tester, conservation corps members and business and community leaders.

“Providing youth and veterans opportunities to engage in hands-on service to public lands and waters across the nation provides valuable workforce skills while fostering life-long connections to nature,” said Secretary Jewell. “The work these volunteers will help accomplish – to repair trails, remove invasive species, rehabilitate historic structures and more – not only helps take care of our important natural and cultural resources, but enriches the lives of young people and the communities they serve.”

Through the 21CSC, thousands of young adults and veterans will have the opportunity to work on projects across America’s public lands, including maintaining campgrounds, preserving historic sites, monitoring water quality, building trails and more. From Denali to the Everglades, youth conservation corps members are gaining work experience, helping improve the visitor experience and mobilizing entire communities in the stewardship of our parks, refuges, waters and heritage. 

The 21CSC is built through strong public-private partnerships with companies like REI, American Express, Thule, Backwoods, American Eagle Outfitters, CamelBak, The North Face, Coca-Cola, The Campion Foundation and Youth Outdoor Legacy Fund.

“Connecting the passion and skills of our young people and veterans to our nation’s natural resources fosters a new generation of stewards to carry on our country’s proud conservation legacy,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Over the past two years, USDA has supported over 20,000 youth and veteran work opportunities on Forest Service land through the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps. This ongoing collaboration supports President Obama's goal of reconnecting Americans to the great outdoors and it also furthers, in a cost-effective way, crucial projects that improve forest health, watershed restoration and recreational opportunities.”

This summer’s 60 projects nationwide, including those in Montana, are being funded through the America’s Great Outdoors: Developing the Next Generation of Conservationists, a competitive grant matching program launched in December 2011 in conjunction with NFWF. Of the more than $3 million in funding, more than $2 million is from federal sources, and more than $1 million is a result of private fundraising efforts.

“Long-term conservation efforts can only be successful if new generations share our commitment to sustain, restore and enhance our nation’s wildlife and habitats,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “Young people growing up today often don’t get the chance to connect with nature, especially when they live in urban areas. Programs such as the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps can bridge that divide and get these young people outside, where they can develop a deep appreciation of the natural world.”

Agencies participating in the NFWF Next Generation program include Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S Geological Survey, Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service and the Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service.

This year’s projects support diverse work experiences and locations, maintaining and improving resources ranging from a national park in South Dakota to a national forest in Alaska, to New York City beaches damaged by Hurricane Sandy, to a California wildlife refuge where volunteers will conduct bird surveys and sample water quality.

Urban projects include building rain gardens at Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve and local schools in New Orleans and designing and implementing archeology curriculum in partnership with the National Park Service and the nonprofit Groundwork Lawrence in Massachusetts.

These grants are the latest in the Obama Administration’s efforts to advance the 21CSC,  working toward the  goal of providing employment opportunities to 100,000 young adults and returning veterans, and engaging more than one million volunteers on public lands by 2017. 

This work is part an overall strategy by the Obama Administration to connect young people who reflect the rich diversity of the country to the outdoors. Other efforts include Interior’s leadership of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Outside initiative to get millions of young people outside. In March 2015, Secretary Jewell announced this partnership with the American Express Foundation and kicked-off the first cities across the country to be a part of this movement. Twenty-six cities were announced in 2015, and the remaining cities will be announced throughout 2016. For more information about the initiative, visit: http://www.doi.gov/youth

In addition, the “Every Kid in A Park” program to provide all fourth grade students and their families with free admission to national parks and other public lands and waters for a full year is in full swing. Current third graders can start receiving their Every Kid in a Park pass in September. These efforts complement the National Park Service’s Find Your Park campaign, celebrating this year’s centennial of the National Park System.

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