The Corps Network Sends Sign-On Letter in Support of the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act to Capitol Hill and the Administration

*Versions of this letter were sent to officials in the Obama Administration as well as staff from the Senate Agriculture Committee and the House and Senate Natural Resources Committees. 

November 10, 2015

To Whom It May Concern:

On behalf of The Corps Network’s Service and Conservation Corps (Corps) across the country, we write to respectfully request your support for the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, H.R. 167 and S. 235. This important legislation will reform how wildfire suppression is funded in order to significantly minimize the harmful practice of transferring funds from critical programs to pay for wildfire suppression. The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act would fund response to the most disastrous wildfires similar to how the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds other disaster response under the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985. Instead of competing with funding for response to other natural disasters such as floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes, wildfire disasters would have their own relief mechanism.

The Corps Network’s 100+ Corps are diverse in mission and membership and strive to improve quality of life for our participants and in our communities. From building trails and campgrounds on our nation’s iconic public lands, to responding to natural disasters and wildfire remediation and fighting, Corps provide communities with valuable services, improve lives, and the environment. Increasing disasters such as fires, risk the lives of Corpsmembers as well as interrupt other recreation, maintenance, and economic development activities on public lands.

Wildfire seasons are getting longer and major wildfires are becoming increasingly more costly to suppress. This national problem is causing a crippling burden on the Department of the Interior and the USDA Forest Service’s land management functions as they shift resources to fund suppression activities. Federal wildfire suppression will always be fully funded by the government – even if it comes at the expense of programs that improve forest health and mitigate future wildfires. However, this current ad hoc process of funding wildfire is inefficient and ineffective in delivering on nationwide agency land management priorities set by Congress and virtually assures that overall federal outlays will increase.

We believe a solution to fire funding should: 1) allow access to disaster funding; 2) minimize impacts from transfers; and 3) address the increasing costs of suppression over time. The WDFA, (S. 235, H.R. 167) is a bipartisan proposal that addresses these three items. We encourage you to incorporate WDFA language in the FY2016 appropriations or other related legislative vehicles moving through Congress to ensure this serious budgetary issue is addressed this year.

Additionally, since the Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was not reauthorized in the most recent Continuing Resolution and the fund continues to be used to pay for wildfire suppression, it is also important that take action be taken to fully fund and reauthorize LWCF. Without LWCF, access to our public lands is diminished and proactive forest management provided through LWCF’s Forest Legacy Program is reduced. We cannot afford for conservation programs like LWCF to bear the burden of wildfire suppression and fighting.

We again respectfully urge your support for Wildfire Disaster Funding Act (WDFA) language in the FY16 appropriations omnibus or passage through other must-pass legislative vehicles. The WDFA is a critical, important step to ensure the long-term sustainability of our nation’s forests and other public lands and our Corps stand ready to continue helping manage and improve our nation’s important natural resources and great outdoors.


Mary Ellen Sprenkel

The Member Corps of The Corps Network

Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center Courier: Vol. 2, Issue 3 - November 2015

Photos of the Month: October 2015

Keep updating those Facebook photos! We'll collect some of our favorite photos posted on Corps Facebook pages within the past month and post them on this blog. Here are some of our favorites from October 2015. 


California Conservation Corps


Utah Conservation Corps 

LA Conservation Corps 

Arizona Conservation Corps 

Larimer County Conservation Corps 

Mile High Youth Corps 

Northwest Youth Corps 

Vermont Youth Conservation Corps 

Washington Conservation Corps 

Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - New Mexico 

Heart of Oregon Corps 



California Conservation Corps


Photos of the Month: September 2015

Keep updating those Facebook photos! We'll collect some of our favorite photos posted on Corps Facebook pages within the past month and post them on this blog. Here are some of our favorites from September 2015. 



Arizona Conservation Corps 

California Conservation Corps 

California Conservation Corps 


Vermont Youth Conservation Corps 

LA Conservation Corps 

LA Conservation Corps 

Utah Conservation Corps 

Washington Conservation Corps 

Mile High Youth Corps 

Montana Conservation Corps 

Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - CO 

Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - NM 

Arizona Conservation Corps 


Photos of the Month: August 2015

Keep updating those Facebook photos! We'll collect some of our favorite photos posted on Corps Facebook pages within the past month and post them on this blog. Here are some of our favorites from August 2015. 

California Conservation Corps 



Montana Conservation Corps 

Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - CO, taken by Corpsmember Taylor Hobson


Washington Conservation Corps  

Civic Works 



Green City Force 

Vermont Youth Conservation Corps 

Larimer County Conservation Corps 

Greater Miami Service Corps 

Youth Conservation Corps 

St. Bernard Project



Onondaga Earth Corps 

LA Conservation Corps 


YCC Responds to Tornado


On the night of Sunday, August 2nd, an EF1 tornado with wind speeds up to 100 miles per hour touched down in Lake County, IL. The storm created a path of destruction over seven miles long, prompting Youth Conservation Corps (YCC), based in Waukegan, IL, to adjust their programming schedule to offer disaster response assistance.

YCC YouthBuild members have spent the better part of this week clearing debris. Their first stop was the home of an elderly woman whose house and driveway were buried in downed trees. The crew was able to clean the property and free her car. They next offered assistance at the home of a person with disabilities. So far, the crew has touched nine homes.

“It just so happens that this is my community and these are my neighbors,” said Ben Richards, YCC Program Director. “It brought a lot together for me. I was uplifted personally by what YCC AmeriCorps can and did do.”

Financial Literacy Training for Corpsmembers Through DOI Federal Credit Union

Mario Mejia (Center) of DOI Federal Credit Union at Green City Force 

Did you know that the Department of the Interior Federal Credit Union (DOIFCU) offers a free, comprehensive financial literacy training designed for Corpsmembers?

Through both The Corps Cooperative and The Corps Network, staff and Corpsmembers from member organizations of The Corps Network, as well as their immediate family members, have the option to bank with DOIFCU. Part of the Credit Union’s mission is to not only offer the resources to manage your money, but to help people understand money management practices, too.

“My main goal is to link knowledge to the resources,” said Mario Mejia, The Corps Network’s account manager for DOIFCU and the lead organizer of the financial literacy training program. “Everyone has financial needs, but everyone isn’t eligible to access resources.  Partnerships like this open the doors to meet financial needs through competitive resources in a low to no fee structure, that’s step one. Step two is simply providing the literacy so that each member is equipped with the knowledge to maximize the resources. I see it as, you can have a car and keys, yet learning how to drive is the game changer.

Mario recently visited New York City to conduct a training with Corpsmembers from Green City Force. The topics covered included Credit Unions v. Banks; Money Management Benefits; Steps to Improve your Financial Management; Budgeting; Practical Money-Saving Tips; Banking 101; Credit 101; and Money Management Tools. The training involves an informational presentation as well as activities that prompt Corpsmembers to make financial goals, consider their current expenses, and develop an action plan for how to meet their goals.  

Mario Mejia (Center) of DOI Federal Credit Union at Green City Force 

“This training is specific to Corps, with a focus on youth and young adults from every stage of life,” said Mario. “…I’ve found that over the span of years from adolescence to young adulthood can have its advantages or disadvantages.  During that time frame, several life changes can take place that the average person isn’t prepared for, and can have a lasting effect on your finances.  This can range from situations such as first time homebuyer, birth of a child/children, a loss of a loved one, college expenses, first time saving/checking accounts, etc.  This is where access to financial resources and literacy has its greatest effect.  We realize every situation may be different, but good money habits coupled with access to services and financial coaches is the best way to direct through life’s changes.  Sadly, it doesn’t take much to end up in an upward climb to get back on track.  Often times your credit can be damaged even before you’re 18, which a good amount of youth encounter from misusage due to family members or lack of information.  Even if it’s not the topic of credit I regularly receive questions like: how do I get started, how do I get ahead, or how do I fix that…?”

Though Mario hosted the training for Green City Force, the presentation and activities have accompanying notes, allowing Corps staff the flexibility to lead the training themselves. Mario is currently working with a Corps to develop a way to do the training via video conference so Corps staff will be better equipped to present and answer Corpsmember questions in future trainings. Additionally, though the training at Green City Force offered a general overview of financial management, Mario is happy to customize the training around particular topics a Corps may want to cover.

“To me, the Green City Force training was extremely successful,” said Mario. “I considered the success rate based on their questions from the beginning, and how much their questions advanced by the end.  I watched as they began to connect the dots, internalizing the information and making it relevant to their own lives.  I heard the side conversation and as a presenter I watched the principles germinate throughout the room. That said I knew they were getting it...People walked away and I felt like they were encouraged and equipped with credit union sheltered services, a plan, and knowledge to make S.M.A.R.T decisions with their financial lives.  The resources were going to be a lot more successful because something clicked. They said I can do this and I feel comfortable doing this.”

Mario is currently in conversations with several Corps about the training and is excited to talk with any other Corps that are interested. In the future, Mario hopes to provide the training as a day-long seminar or as 2-hour-long segments for each topic that the Corps wants to cover. All seminars are customized to fit your needs.  At the end of the training, Corpsmembers receive a certificate in recognition of their achievements and commitment to better their lives with sound money management habits.

Interested Corps can contact Mario by email, phone (703-801-5713), or through the Special Offers page of The Corps Network website’s Members Only section.

***This is a free service provided to all Members, Affiliates and AmeriCorps Basic Members of The Corps Network.

Mary Ellen's Blog: Outdoors for All


Originally published on the Huffington Post 

On September 30th, just 61 days from now, one of the most important funding streams supporting the conservation of our public lands and waters is set to expire.

Created by an Act of Congress in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is critical to the maintenance of our parks and the protection of outdoor recreation access. LWCF has provided funds to nearly every state and every county in the country for the creation of parks, the protection of natural treasures and the expansion of outdoor recreational opportunities. There's a good chance that your local playground, public park, or community ice rink benefited from LWCF.

Congress established the LWCF as a way to do something positive for the environment with revenue from oil and gas drilling. The idea was to protect natural places for all Americans as a counterbalance to the depletion of natural resources. Now, unless Congress reauthorizes the fund, our public lands and waters are at risk of falling even further into disrepair. Every year, oil and gas companies pay $900 million dollars to the federal government, but most of this money does not go towards conservation. Since 1987, the average annual appropriation for the LWCF has been only $40 million.

Protecting public lands is at the heart of the Corps movement. The Civilian Conservation Corps, the predecessor to today's Corps, was created during the Great Depression as a way to put millions of young men to work constructing new parks, planting billions of trees, and restoring our existing public lands infrastructure. Modern Corps continue this legacy; on any given day, you can see Corps hard at work building trails and restoring habitats in our national, state and local parks. The work for many LWCF-supported public lands maintenance and improvement projects has been carried out by Corpsmembers. If LWCF is allowed to expire, Corps could suffer from decreased project funding, but, more importantly, we all could suffer from reduced outdoor recreation access.

The great outdoors should be available to all, but many Americans, especially those living in urban areas, need parks and recreational facilities in order to get outside. Even people who are surrounded by nature in more rural communities benefit from well-maintained trails and waterways free of pollutants and invasive species. Access to the outdoors should be a right, not a privilege. But we need funding - like the LWCF - and dedicated individuals - like those involved in the Corps movement - to protect this right by maintaining our public lands and waters.

This summer, The Corps Network introduced Eli the Elk. Similar to how Smokey Bear speaks about the dangers of forest fires, and Woodsy Owl reminds people to "Lend a hand - care for the land," Eli is traveling around the country as a paper cutout to highlight the importance of America's treasured public lands, and the federal funding that supports conservation, through his slogan "Conserve today for access tomorrow!" If you agree with Eli's message, follow him on Twitter to show your support. The week of July 27th - 31st is Eli's first social media campaign; be sure to get online and use the hashtags #EliElk and #outdoors4all to help him spread his important message to as many people as possible. If you plan to be outside soon, print out a copy of Eli and take him with you. Snap a picture with him and share it on Twitter @ElitheElk. Every new person engaged in the campaign helps. You can also help protect the outdoors by signing the Land and Water Conservation Fund's petition to Congress to reauthorize the LWCF.

This is a very important time for public lands conservation. We need to take action now.

Eli the Elk Social Media Action Week!

Campaign Runs July - September 2015

Help launch Eli the Elk's social media campaign!

Eli the Elk was created by The Corps Network in June 2015. He is an advocate for the conservation of America’s public lands and the conservation funding that protects them. His mission is to spread the word that we must “Conserve today for access tomorrow!” Eli wants all of us, and our federal government, to be involved in protecting the outdoors for future generations to enjoy.

How Can I Help?
Help spread the word about Eli on social media. Use the resources below, including sample tweets and shareable images. You can also choose to print a copy of Eli and take a photo with him (outdoors, of course!) to share on social media. Be sure to follow Eli on Twitter @ElitheElk.





  • I stand with #EliElk to support the protection of public lands thru conservation funding so there can be #outdoors4all
  • I'm enjoying this public space w/ #EliElk. Fund conservation so there can be #outdoors4all @USDA @forestservice @TheCorpsNetwork
  • I support #EliElk and his mission to protect the #outdoors4all w/ @USDA @forestservice @TheCorpsNetwork
  • #EliElk and I couldn't enjoy this public space w/o conservation funding #outdoors4all @USDA @forestservice @TheCorpsNetwork
  • #LWCF provides access #outdoors4all #EliElk @USDA @forestservice
  • Get outside with #EliElk and show your support for #LWCF @USDA @forestservice #outdoors4all
  • Get outside with #EliElk and show your support for conservation funding @USDA @forestervice #outdoors4all 
  • I'm outside with my #corps and #EliElk. Without conservation funding we lose #outdoors4all @USDA @forestservice @TheCorpsNetwork 


  • I stand with #EliElk to protect #outdoors4all @ElitheElk @forestservice @USDA
  • My Corps is protecting XYZ state park with #EliElk. Help us protect #outdoors4all @forestservice @USDA @ElitheElk
  • I’m hiking with #EliElk at XYZ national park! @forestservice @USDA help me + @ElitheElk protect #outdoors4all
  • Like this post if you stand w/ me and #EliElk in support of protecting #outdoors4all @forestservice @USDA
  • I support #EliElk and his mission to protect #outdoors4all w/ @forestservice @USDA @TheCorpsNetwork @ElitheElk 


*Click the images below for full-size versions

Camping out with Corps: Camping tips from a Crew Leader

Many of America’s Youth Service and Conservation Corps operate programs that engage youth and young adults in backcountry land and water conservation projects. For days, or even weeks at a time, crews of Corpsmembers will camp in some of the most remote locations in the continental U.S. to fix trails, build bridges and maintain our public lands.

For the Crew Leaders who train and manage the Corpsmembers on these backcountry trips, camping is second nature. When you regularly camp with a group of teens and young adults, some of whom might have little or no outdoor experience, you need to be prepared.

Here are some expert camping tips from Brayton Noll, a former Crew Leader from Northwest Youth Corps’ (NYC) Youth Conservation Corps.


1.       What do you do at the campsite during downtime?

During the first couple weeks we don’t have much downtime because everyone is getting used to the processes. They’ll have 20 minutes or so multiple times throughout the day, but most of the time we’re trying to engage them either in SEED – which is our Something Educational Every Day lesson – or playing some games.

My favorite part of NYC is that we do PHs – or personal histories. That’s where the youth get basically an evening to talk about themselves and give the crew their life story. This really bonds the crew together. We usually do that during the second week once the crewmembers know one another and the trust has been established. Ideally it takes place around the campfire and the youth just have the floor for the evening. People ask them questions at the end and they share what brought them to this point.

The youth earn high school credit while doing our program, so we have 5 – 6 weeks of structured lessons planned. We do a theme every week. The first week is living in a camping environment, so we teach them camping basics, how to get along in a group, we make group contracts, we teach them the importance of treating everyone equally. Then the second week, if I’m remembering correctly, we teach geography, we teach them about the landscape around them. The third week is, I think, botany and we teach them about the plants that are around them. We also do resume skills and mock interviews, where the youth practice interviewing and the Crew Leaders teach them skills like how to write an affective cover letter, or how to act in an interview. It’s a pretty holistic educational experience.


2.       What food do you prepare when you’re camping?

NYC supplies us with all the food we need every week. We pick it up when we all meet at the weekend site. Our Program Coordinator will come out and meet all the crews and bring the coolers with all the food we need.

Our food room manager gives us a menu. The youth are doing the cooking – and often they’re new to cooking – so for the first week you generally want to follow the menu to make sure you’re not using up all the meat and cheese on the first night.

But eventually the youth begin to get creative and some really good and interesting meals…sometimes good, always interesting…come out of when the youth drop the menu and just go freeform.

The food room does a pretty decent job of mixing it up. We do a lot of Dutch oven cooking, so we’ll have deep dish pizzas, or cornbread, or burritos, or sometimes this “lasagna-ish” thing, depending on what the youth can do. During the third week of the program – we call it hump week, NYC gives the Crew Leaders $25 to spend on food for a treat. I would generally buy some steak and candy for my kids. Crew Leaders would cook for one meal that week and that would be really delicious because we don’t get steak on a normal basis.

What’s an average day like as far as the menu?

Before we go to work, so around 6:30 or 7, we’ll either have oatmeal with granola, brown sugar and raisins, or bagels with cream cheese. Then at around 10 a.m. we break and everyone eats one sandwich. Every day we generally have 2 sandwiches: one PB&J and one meat sandwich. Most of the time we would eat PB&J sandwiches around 10 o-clock with some Gold Fish or some gorp, maybe a piece of fruit. At lunch you eat your meat sandwich, maybe some more gorp, you get cookies, and some more fruit. Then in the afternoon there’s another break. Most of the time a lot of the food is gone, but we always have gorp, so people will just be snacking on that and rehydrating.

In the evening there’s dinner. All of the meals are generally pretty huge. I used to try and do the SEED lecture before dinner because after dinner the kids just sort of stuff themselves and go into a post-dinner comatose and want to go to bed once they’re done with their chores.


3.       Do you have any tips for camping with a larger group?

I think being really clear. NYC has taught me to be more efficient than I ever thought I could be in regards to camping outside. So being really clear on expectations up front is very important. We have a chore sheet; it works really well to the Crew Leader’s advantage to be really diligent about filling it out and talking to the youth every day about what their responsibilities are. Each youth has an assigned chore that rotates throughout the week, so everyone gets experience cooking, everyone gets experience sharpening the tools, everyone gets experience packing food for the next day. You need to invest time upfront: five minutes explaining something now could save you an hour later.


4.       Some Corpsmembers have little or no camping experience prior to joining the Corps. What would be your most valuable tip for a first-time camper?

Just try it! Some of my favorite and best youth were the ones who had very little camping experience and were just open-minded and excited about trying it. They just totally bought in. Even girls or guys who had never peed in the woods beforehand were, by the end, these hardcore campers that loved to get dirty and embraced every aspect of NYC. The prospect of all that we do can be really intimidating at first, but when you’re learning alongside you’re nine other crewmembers and your two Crew Leaders, it’s a pretty fun and rewarding experience.