Engaging the Next Generation with the Help of our Partners in Conservation

Robert Bonnie and Rhea Suh

By Robert Bonnie and Rhea Suh

When President Obama launched the America's Great Outdoors Initiative in 2010, one of the top priorities included connecting our youth and veterans to our nation's cultural and natural resources. President Obama wanted to foster a new generation of stewards to carry on our nation's proud conservation legacy.

In that spirit, a 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) was announced as a collaborative effort to put America's youth and veterans to work protecting, restoring and enhancing America's great outdoors. Through the 21CSC, young people and veterans will accomplish meaningful work, and gain important personal and professional skills while building a lifelong connection to the outdoors.

Today, we are announcing another step forward in our work to turn that vision into a reality.

An initial group of 91 organizations have been approved as partner organizations to help the Obama Administration implement the 21CSC. From the Anchorage Park Foundation in Alaska, to the City of Chattanooga in Tennessee, to the Youth Conservation Corps of Vermont, the initial 91 organizations will serve as models of the values that 21CSC represents.

These organizations will be important partners in standing up the 21CSC and in providing young people and veterans opportunities through supervised crews or small teams to make a difference for our nation's natural, cultural or historic resources.

In the coming months, the 21CSC National Council, made up of eight federal departments and agencies including the Departments of Agriculture and Interior, will focus on recruiting additional member organizations. We will be targeting new programs in urban areas and investing in training and career pathways for a diverse group of participants in order to uphold the core principle of 21CSC of expanding opportunities for all youth and veterans.

Building upon the historic achievements of programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corps, we know that partners will be essential to the success of 21CSC. We look forward to working with the organizations announced today, as well as with other federal, state and non-profit programs as we work to facilitate meaningful conservation service work on our nation's public lands. We encourage all organizations interested in participating in the 21CSC to submit a letter of interest: click here to learn more.

Click here for a full list of the 91 partner organizations, and visit the 21CSC website for updates.

Robert Bonnie is Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment at the US Department of Agriculture; Rhea Suh is Assistant Secretary of Policy, Management and Budget at the U.S. Department of the Interior