WASHINGTON, DC, January 11, 2013 (ENS) – A National Council drawn from eight federal agencies signed on Thursday to shape the Obama Administration’s new 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, 21CSC, a jobs program to put youth and returning veterans to work protecting and restoring public lands, waterways and cultural sites.
The 21CSC implements the first recommendation of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative introduced by President Barack Obama in 2010.
Nancy Sutley, who chairs the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said, “The President’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative is helping to connect Americans from all backgrounds with the recreational, economic and health benefits of our nation’s extraordinary natural resources.”
“The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps will help prepare the leaders of the future by providing youth with valuable opportunities for recreation, career development and service to their community and their nation,” Sutley said.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said 21CSC follows the example set by the Civilian Conservation Corps created by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to put Americans to work during the 1930s.
“Building on the legacy of President Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression in the 1930s, the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps will help build and train a workforce who fully represent the diversity of America while creating the next generation of environmental stewards and improving the condition of our public lands,” Salazar said.
The 21CSC builds on existing partnerships with youth conservation corps across the country to engage thousands of young Americans – including diverse low-income, underserved and at-risk youth – in hands-on service and job training experiences on public lands and community green spaces.
The National Council will stimulate “existing and new public-private partnerships” and “align the investment of current federal government resources,” the agency leaders said in a statement announcing establishment of the council.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, “By coordinating resources across the federal family and working with partners, the 21CSC will accomplish important restoration work, provide more job and training opportunities to a diverse group of young Americans, expand educational opportunities for youth, and create meaningful pathways to careers – all while reconnecting America’s youth with the great outdoors.”
The National Council will consist of members of the senior leadership of each agency, bureau or office that signed the Memorandum of Understanding Thursday: the departments of the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, and Labor, as well as the EPA, the President’s Council on Environmental Quality, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“Our federal lands and waters are vital to the health and well-being of Americans,” said Jo Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army (Civil Works), who oversees the Corps of Engineers. “The 21CSC will expand the Corps’ capacities to conserve and maintain these areas, and provide youth and veterans with meaningful work, education and exposure to the outdoors.”
Goals of the 21CSC include reducing the impacts of climate change on our natural resources, empowering Native American communities, building trails, enhancing wildlife habitat, and improving and restoring cultural and historic landmarks.
21CSC has already begun to work, under the leadership of the departments of interior and agriculture with the participation of the U.S. EPA.
Youth members helped run shelters and restore parks and beaches in New York City after Hurricane Sandy. Youth and veterans are building trails and leading interpretation programs in remote national parks, forests and coastal areas.
“This is a great example of how innovative partnerships are utilizing government resources more efficiently and effectively,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. “The Labor Department is committed to working with our partners to provide young people – especially those from underserved communities – with exposure to a wide variety of in-demand jobs and valuable training opportunities that can form the foundation of lifelong careers.”
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, “The 21CSC program is a great example of how collaboration – not only across federal agencies, but also among others in the private and public sectors – can bring about economic, environmental and health benefits for those who need it the most: our youth and our returning heroes.”
“America is home to some of the most beautiful outdoor spaces in the world,” said Jackson. “The 21CSC will not only help our young people feel more of a connection to those spaces, but it will also ensure our treasured outdoors are preserved for generations to come.”