The America's Great Outdoor Initiative: from Conversation to Action


Leaders from Federal Land Management agencies discuss their plans for increasing youth involvement as part of the America’s Great Outdoors initiative. From left to right: Julie Chavez Rodriguez, Youth Office Director at the U.S. Department of the Interior; Will Shafroth, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Interior; Meryl Harrell, Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and Harris Sherman, Under Secretary of Natural Resources and Environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

On Monday, leaders from U.S. federal land management agencies made the Forum one of their key venues for announcing their next steps of action in response to findings from a nationwide listening tour. As part of the Obama Administration’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, the tour helped assess what Americans perceive to be obstacles to getting outside and enjoying America’s public lands both in cities and in rural areas.

A major component of the listening tour and initiative is getting young people further involved as stewards of America’s public lands. According to the speakers at the session, across the nation, over 2,000 young people provided feedback in 21 different listening sessions. Several common themes emerged. One was that government websites are not engaging and user-friendly. The government must use social media and modern technology to better appeal to youth and encourage them to get outside. Another theme concerns how it is challenging for many young people to find and win federal jobs with land management agencies — making it less likely that they will consider outdoor careers.

To begin addressing these problems, one solution that speakers talked about is a new website called that is hoped to help make finding federal job opportunities easier for young people. Another is the creation of a 21st Century Conservation Corps, modeled on the Great Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps. The Corps Network will be a major partner in providing ready-to-go positions for individuals who will join the 21st Century Conservation Corps. It will essentially represent an effort to bring conservation corps to scale on a greater national level. 

A highlight of the day’s activities was Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s keynote address. He also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with The Corps Network that will allow members of the network to fast-track cooperative work agreements with federal land management agencies.

The Corps Network’s Service and Conservation Corpsmembers of the Year look on as Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signs a Memorandum of understanding with Sally Prouty, President of The Corps Network.

Corpsmembers at Forest History Center Bring CCC History Alive

For the third summer, a crew from the Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa served at the Forest History Center in Grand Rapids, Minnesota working as interpreters in the Center’s early 1900s-era living history museum, and doing field work such as trail maintenance and fence construction. Corps members Willie Storm and Marjie Shrimpton spend their afternoons in costume: Storm as a woodsman teaching about logging practices and Shrimpton singing and dancing in the kitchen as a cook assistant. Jen Sikkink and Riley Cavanaugh worked the forester’s cabin and fire tower, teaching visitors about the CCC’s role in logging history and tying it to the Corps’ current work in maintaining, restoring and educating the public about Minnesota forests. Becky Jennings, interim FHC program director, praised the work of the crews in initiating and maintaining projects that enhance the experience for visitors. “They are ambitious, hard-working, able to think on their feet and work independently, but also work really well as a crew,” said Jennings. “We’ve been thrilled to have them here.”

Montana Conservation Corps Unites CCC Members with Corps for Public Lands Day

From Jono McKinney, President and CEO, Montana Conservation Corps

This past weekend, the CCC Legacy held their annual reunion in Missoula, and this coincided with a large National Public Lands Day project at Fort Missoula, one of the signature America's Great Outdoors project sites.

The “CCC-boys” and their families and guests joined with our members and 140 volunteers to construct CCC-style picnic tables for the Fort Missoula Regional Park.  A CCC alum joined by an MCC member shared in the ribbon cutting at the dedication for the new Fort Missoula Regional Park. In attendance was Steve Doherty, special assistant to Secretary Salazar for the NW Region, the Deputy Regional Forester, staff for Senator Baucus, and other local VIP’s.  Of course, MCC couldn’t miss the opportunity for a group photo with our CCC gang. Also includes a few members from the Anaconda Job Corps.

All and all, a really fun service project by all, with 3 generations of corps on hand – CCC to YCC to MCC.

21st Century Conservation Service Corps Federal Advisory Committee Meets for 1st Time


On February 9th and 10th, leaders from federal land management agencies, The Corps Network, and other organizations that serve youth met over 2 days for the first official meeting of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Federal Advisory Committee (FACA).

The FACA has been tasked with creating guidelines and recommendations for how to scale up and implement a nationally recognized Corps that shares the scope and ideals of the historic Civilian Conservation Corps. As federal funding shrinks across the board, ideas and methods for addressing this mission will need to incorporate bottom-up ideas, as well as a strong foundation of public-private partnerships.

Harry Bruell, CEO of Southwest Conservation Corps, has been designated as chair of the Committee. He is joined on the FACA by several other Corps Directors who are serving as both primary committee members, and as alternates. They include

• Laura Herrin, The Student Conservation Association

• David Muraki, California Conservation Corps

• Jennifer Freeman, Colorado Youth Corps Association

• Jeff Parker, Northwest Youth Corps

• Len Price, Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa

• Parc Smith, American YouthWorks

• Scott Weaver, The Student Conservation Association

Mary Ellen Ardouny, Vice President for External Affairs at The Corps Network, is also a primary member of the Committee. A full list of Committee members can be found here.

On the first day of the meeting, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar joined the newly formed Committee to express his support and a sense of urgency for the Committee to complete its report and recommendations by July (the urgency is real, as the FACA has been authorized for a total of 2 years). Salazar noted that creating opportunities for youth has been one of his biggest priorities as Secretary and as part of the America's Great Outdoors Initiative and its public hearing sessions. He also provided a juicy morsel of gossip by suggesting that the President might designate a new National Park Service site focused on the Civilian Conservation Corps in the upcoming year. He did not elaborate in an greater detail, however, about this exciting prospect. 

Secretary Salazar's commitment was reinforced by two of Salazar's closest peers, who also attended the first day of the meeting and spoke: Harris Sherman, Under Secretary of Natural Resources & the Environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and William Shafroth, Special Assistant to the Secretary and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.

The first day of the FACA meeting also included introductions of each Committee Member and an in-depth explanation of ethical considerations for FACA members to understand as they move forward in their work.

The 2nd day of the FACA meeting quickly got down to the business of allowing Committee members to more throughly discuss their perspectives about what a 21st Century Conservation Service Corps "would look like" and begin to agree to some basic parameters and assumptions under which the FACA would begin its deliberations (e.g. the age range of Corpsmembers, the locations of demonstration projects, how experiences would be tied to careers, and so forth). Next, a discussion about "subcommittees" took place. The subcommittees of the FACA will explore 4 key topics in depth over the coming months, and will then present their recommendations to the full committee. Committee members and alternates were able to choose which committees on which they would like to serve. The subcommittees will grapple with these key topics:

1. A general framework for the 21st CSC, including its scope, size, and programmatic elements.

2. Certification processes that Corps must undertake to be considered for participation in the 21st CSC.

3. Funding and partnerships that will be essential for helping the 21st CSC take root.

4. Ensuring and facilitating career pathways for Corpsmembers through the 21st CSC.

The FACA Committee members recognized that this was one of the biggest -- if not the biggest -- opportunity that Service and Conservation Corps have had to date to capture the public imagination, improve the lives of millions of young people, and promote environmental stewardship nationwide. As work gets underway, your help in promoting this effort and its value to Americans will be appreciated.

The next official FACA meeting will take place from March 27-29th in San Francisco, California. 

President Roosevelt Did it Then, President Obama Can Do it Now


"I propose to create a Civilian Conservation Corps. . . . More important, however, than the material gains will be the moral and spiritual value of such work." --Franklin D. Roosevelt March 9, 1933

In his first 100 days, President Roosevelt approved several measures as part of his New Deal, and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in particular represented the new president's determination to create jobs and preserve Americans' sense of pride in their work. The CCC, also known as Roosevelt's tree army, was a second chance for thousands of unemployed young men (many of whom were in dire need of income, but also vocational and educational training).

From 1933-42, President Roosevelt's "CCC boys" dramatically improved the nation's public lands, while also receiving food, shelter, education and a precious $30-a-month stipend that literally saved many of their families from hunger in tough times. By the close of the program, there was hardly a state that had not benefited from the program, with millions of acres of federal and state land improvements, roads built, telephone lines strung and trees planted.


"People of all ages, stations, and skills will be asked to serve. Because when it comes to the challenges we face, the American people are not the problem-they are the answer. We'll call on Americans to join an Energy Corps to conduct renewable energy and environmental cleanup projects in their neighborhoods." --Barack Obama July 2, 2008

Like the legendary CCC of the '30s, today's Corps are a proven strategy for giving young men and women the chance to change their communities, their own lives and those of their families through service. Carrying forward the CCC's legacy, modern Corps are often a lifeline to young people who are low-income, out-of-school, out-of-work, and looking for a second chance. But more than that, Corps are also a place for all young people to channel a drive to serve, strive toward their potential, and do meaningful work that directly impacts their communities.

If the generation that filled the ranks of the CCC were to be called the greatest generation, today's modern Corpsmembers prove that still greater things lie ahead. Unlike few before them, America's young adults are compelled to serve and motivated to meet the profound challenges of their day - namely, climate change.

Modern Service and Conservation Corps are a concrete example of the solution-driven American ethic of service President-elect Obama spoke of so eloquently.

During the campaign, President-elect Obama committed to establishing a Clean Energy Corps that would, "promote energy independence through efforts like weatherization, renewable energy projects and educational outreach...and to clean up polluted land and water, plant trees, and work for the environmental health of our nation's natural areas." He also proposed the creation of a Green Jobs Corps "for disconnected and disadvantaged youth... to provide participants with service opportunities to improve energy conservation and efficiency of homes and buildings in their communities, while also providing practical experience in important career fields of expected high-growth employment."

Service and Conservation Corps across the nation are already engaged in a wide variety of energy service and job training activities. For example, the Ohio Civilian Conservation Corps at Quilter, housed in a Community Action Agency, builds professionals through service: Corpsmembers join the CAA weatherization team after they have gained experience through service and achieved related certification.

In addition, Service and Conservation Corps are providing viable solutions to other national concerns, such as our decaying transportation and infrastructure systems, the high school drop-out crisis, and youth incarceration. Each day, Corpsmembers also combat climate change through their conservation efforts on public lands.

Across the nation, Corps stand ready to provide solutions to pressing problems and respond to national needs.

Please contact The Corps Network's Director of Government Relations, Mary Ellen Ardouny, for more details at 202.737.6272

California Conservation Corps and Marin Conservation Corps Honor Civilian Conservation Corps


Three "CCC boys" were honored last Saturday as part of a 75th anniversary celebration for the Civilian Conservation Corps (original CCC), held at Mt. Tamalpais State Park in Marin County. Members of the California Conservation Corps and the Marin Conservation Corps (now Conservation Corps North Bay) joined together to help clean up the magnificent rock amphitheater built by the original CCC in the 1930s and is still in use today. Representatives from California State Parks presented a proclamation from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the California Conservation Corps' (CCC) Jimmy Camp read a letter from CCC Director David Muraki.

To learn more about the event, visit the Marin Independent Journal website.

Director David Muraki also published an op-ed about the original CCC in numerous California newspapers. To read David's op-ed, visit the Santa Monica Mirror website.