Service and Conservation Corps Celebrate AmeriCorps Week 2018

Every year, Service and Conservation Corps across the country engage thousands of AmeriCorps members. This year alone, The Corps Network’s AmeriCorps Education Awards Program and Opportunity Youth Service Initiative will enroll more than 3,000 young adults and veterans in service to our communities and public lands. To celebrate AmeriCorps Week (March 11 – 17, 2018), we’re highlighting some of the many ways AmeriCorps members at Service and Conservation Corps #GetThingsDone for our country.


Member of The Corps Network's AmeriCorps Opportunity Youth Service Initiative with Texas Conservation Corps helps reduce the threat of wildfires:

  • Where is this Corpsmembers serving? 
    Austin, TX

  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    This member is removing vegetation, or “fuel,” through installing a fuel break at Travis County Balcones Canyonlands Preserve

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    This member is learning about proper chainsaw operation and safety, as well as plant identification skills.


Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa AmeriCorps member helps put goats to work in the fight against invasive species:

  • Where did this Corpsmember serve? 
    Addie Bona is a Youth Outdoors Crew Member based out of Minneapolis, MN

  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    Addie manages invasive species by working with goat contractors to prepare sites, set up fences, put signs up in order for goats to eat buckthorn and other invasive species.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Invasive species management




Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa AmeriCorps member helps monitor wildlife:

  • Where is this Corpsmember serving?
    Tamara Beal was a Wildlife Studies Crew Member based out of Ames, IA

  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    Tamara conducted two research projects. 1- She studied migratory patterns and behaviors of the Northern Long Eared Bat. 2- She learned how to remove and test lymph node samples from deer to study the presence of Chronic Waste Disease.

  • What skills did she learn/use? 
    Field work, including: how to set up thermal & infrared cameras; how to use an Echo Meter app to identify batt calls; and how to remove & prepare lymph node samples from deer.


Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa AmeriCorps member monitors river levels to help support outdoor recreation:

  • Where is this Corpsmember serving? 
    Ryan Schilling was an Individual Placement member with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (based out of St. Paul, MN).

  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    Ryan managed a River Level Reporting project, which resulted in a much more detailed and useable product for paddlers to make well-informed decisions before visiting a water trail.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 


Montana Conservation Corps AmeriCorps members help communities hit hard by winter storms:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Montana [Browning, Heart Butte, East Glacier, Babb, and St. Mary]

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone?
    Severe winter weather in North Central Montana and along the Rocky Mountain Front has caused the Blackfeet Nation and the State of Montana to declare a state of emergency. The communities of Browning, Heart Butte, East Glacier, Babb, and St. Mary have been especially hard hit. Heavy snowfall accompanied by winds as high as 65 miles per hour – blizzard conditions - has caused drifts as high as six feet in some areas, shutting down roads and trapping people in their homes. On the Blackfeet Reservation, schools have been closed and residents are running out of food.

    MCC Northern Rockies Office sent a relief crew whose members shoveled snow, delivered firewood, and helped out in whatever way they could. In a nice confluence of events, MCC Crew Leaders were able to add the load of wood they cut and split at the Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge to the firewood donated by UMCOR – United Methodist Committee on Relief – to the load they delivered to the Blackfeet.




Green City Force AmeriCorps Members supported by The Corps Network's Opportunity Youth Service Initiative grow organic produce in communities with limited access to healthy food: 

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    Pictured are Daniel Silvia and Nordesia Walters-Bowman. They are inspecting the produce on Farm Stand day at the Howard Houses Farm, located at a New York City Housing Authority Development.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Urban Farm Corps Members learn to build and operate urban farms and develop important skills through interacting with the public. They distributed nearly 20,000 lbs. of organic produce in 2017 at weekly Farm Stands across four Farms on New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) properties.



AmeriCorps Member with Rocky Mountaim Youth Corps - New Mexico takes a break from trail work to reflect on their experience:

  • Where is this Corpsmembers serving? 
    Cibola National Forest, Albuquerque, NM

  • How does this AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    This member is journaling during a break on the Crest Trail as part of their Individual Development Plan (IDP), a tool used with all RMYC members to help them build S.M.A.R.T. goals and build on their experience at the Corps to help them launch a career.



AmeriCorps Members with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - New Mexico ASL program open up trails and expand their conservation vocabulary: 

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    These members are partnering with the City of Albuquerque in the Piedra Lisa recreation area.

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    These members are participants in our ASL Program and are working to open up the trail corridor and clear branches and debris from the trail.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    In addition to learning about trails and trail maintenance techniques, member are learning through American Sign Language and broadening their vocabulary in the conservation field.


AmeriCorps Members with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - New Mexico build sustainable trails: 

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Gila National Forest, Silver City, NM

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    This member is part of a two-year project to restore trails and build retaining structures to prevent further trail damage. In this picture, the member is looking for hazard trees that could pose a danger to the crew while they work in the burned area.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    During a typical spike, members spend 10 hours a day working on trails and engaging in professional development trainings related to trail design, maintenance and construction.  During the evening, members work together on meal preparation and life skills trainings such as leadership, conflict resolution or thinking about next steps after the Corps.


AmeriCorps Members with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - New Mexico help establish a new wildlife refuge:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    This motley crew of kick@ss females are serving at the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in Albuquerque, NM

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    This crew was tasked with building two miles of wildlife-friendly fence as one of the first components to a major restoration project as the brand new refuge takes shape in Albuquerque's South Valley.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    This crew is not only learning about power tools and the safety protocols associated with working on federal land, but are also engaged in RMYC's Urban Conservation Corps. This program focuses on getting urban young adults exposed to and interested in federal jobs working with federal land management agencies.  A critical component of this program in 'Mentor Mixer' day: think of speed-dating with mentors! Members are paired with federal employees that work with different agencies in a variety of fields - from HR, to accounting, to law enforcement and park rangers. This program allows Corpsmembers to see the vast array of employment options with the Corps' agency partners.



AmeriCorps Members with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - New Mexico help preserve cultural and historic treasures: 

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, Mountainair, NM

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    This summer crew was involved in historic preservation in the park. They helped restore some of the ruins the park is tasked with protecting.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    This crew was trained by park staff in the methods unique to working with a variety of natural materials and ancient techniques that were used thousands of years ago to build the missions.



AmeriCorps Members with Southwest Conservation Corps spend days in the backcountry, working on the Continental Divide Trail: 

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Along the Continental Divide Trail (Rincon La Vaca Trail) in the Weminuche Wilderness on the San Juan National Forest.

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    For the last two years, SCC crews have spent a combined 130 Days in the backcountry building a more sustainable trail through rocky slopes and wet marshy areas. This is to accommodate heavy use from through hikers, hunters, and backcountry horse men/women. On a side note this is the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System and the 40th Anniversary of the CDT. It’s important to highlight this, as well as the Corps’ efforts working on the CDT over the years.

  • What skills are they learning/using?
    Backcountry travel, leadership, geology, alpine ecology, technical trails (rock work and sustainable trail construction), teamwork, communication, and a plethora of other things you learn when you are in the backcountry for 15 days at a time.





AmeriCorps Member with Arizona Conservation Corps and The Corps Network Opportunity Youth Service Initiative helps restore ecosystems: 

  • Where is this Corpsmember serving? 
    Gila River Valley near Safford, Arizona

  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    Chavez Ventura (crew 113) from the Tohono O’odham Nation is felling an invasive species of tree (tamarisk) in the Gila River Valley.  Helping to restore an ecosystem.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    AZCC Gila crews are all proficient Class A Sawyers! 



AmeriCorps Member with Arizona Conservation Corps and The Corps Network Opportunity Youth Service Initiative helps maintain trails and public lands: 

  • Where is this Corpsmember serving? 
    Bar-V Ranch of Pima County Parks and Recreation, near Tucson, Arizona

  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    Ashley Childs (crew 110) is using her McLeod tool to clear brush for a fencing project.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Knowledge about trail maintenance and how to use trail tools are required.  She is also learning how to erect wire t-post fences.



AmeriCorps members with Arizona Conservation Corps and The Corps Network Opportunity Youth Service Initiative/Education Awards Program put their McLeods to use to maintain public lands: 

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Bar-V Ranch of Pima County Parks and Recreation, near Tucson, Arizona

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    The crew members (crew 110) are using their McLeod tools to clear brush for a fencing project.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Knowledge about trail maintenance and how to use trail tools are required.  They are also learning how to erect wire t-post fences.


AmeriCorps Member with Stewards Individual Placement Program and The Corps Network Education Awards Program helps engage the public at Gulf Islands National Seashore:  

  • Where is this Corpsmember serving? 
    Gulf Islands National Seashore

  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    As the Outreach Coordinator for the Turtle T.H.i.S. Program, Natalia often plans and hosts events like the Hispanic Festival booth. Held at Fort Walton Beach, this event allowed Natalia to interact with many families and local youth who shared their excitement about park programs. Seventeen attendees signed up to volunteer with the park in the future. Participation in events like this provide education and engagement to the local community and help bring support and awareness to the historical, environmental, and ecological elements of Gulf Islands National Seashore.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Natalia has gained experience in public speaking, community engagement, volunteer recruitment and management, youth education, and a variety of ecological and zoological data collection and protection activities.



AmeriCorps Member with Stewards Individual Placement Program and The Corps Network Education Awards Program assists the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement:

  • Where is this Corpsmember serving? 
    Pittsburgh, PA

  • How does this AmeriCorps Member #GetThingsDone? 
    OSMRE AmeriCorps Member Cassandra Forte serves out of the OSMRE Appalachian Regional Office in Pittsburgh, PA. Cassandra focuses much of her effort on water quality testing and outreach initiatives for the office. Cassandra and fellow OSMRE employees have also researched streams at a state park to determine which would be an adequate location for a spring hydrology course. She worked closely with a hydrogeologist to teach approximately 100 7th-grade-students about acid mine drainage. She also spoke to a freshman biology class about OSMRE, AmeriCorps and what she does in her role.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    A recent site visit to a partner organization allowed Cassandra to assist OSMRE staff in providing requested technical assistance for water quality issues the organization is having in some of their ponds. Cassandra assisted while simultaneously learning about their pollinator program, which she will use in her own project as she works to create a pollinator initiative for abandoned and active mine lands. 


AmeriCorps Members with American Conservation Experience help maintain and improve a community farm:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Flagstaff Family Farm

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    The Flagstaff Family Farm was started in December 2015 to bring the community local produce and eggs. Over 100 ACE members have cycled through since 2016. Corpsmembers have helped build and shape 2,800 linear feet of garden bed and walkway. Additionally, over the course of three months, more than 30 Corpsmembers helped complete three Hoop-Houses. ACE also planted a dozen apple trees and created earthworks to reduce erosion.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Construction, Planting, Irrigation, Mulching



AmeriCorps members with EarthCorps help build a rain garden to improve stormwater infrastructure:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Everett, Washington

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    They are building a rain garden

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    EarthCorps crew members #GetThingsDone by building green stormwater infrastructure. Rain gardens like this one can hold a lot of water, helping to reduce the risk of flooding in heavy storms. They also help filter toxic runoff, which is critical in protecting wildlife. To build the garden, Corpsmembers dug out the garden basin and added layers of special soils and native plants that will absorb and clean runoff water.


AmeriCorps members with EarthCorps help control invasive plants and maintain healthy marshes:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Port Susan Bay, Washington

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    They are engaged in invasive plant control as part of salt marsh restoration.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    EarthCorps crews worked to control invasive plants, such as spartina, as part of a larger effort to restore salt marsh area in the Stillaguamish River Delta. They learned about invasive plant control, dike removal, native plants, bird habitats, and working in tidal areas.


AmeriCorps members with EarthCorps help bring awareness to local water quality and water management issues:

  • Where is this Corpsmember serving?
    Brightwater Education Center, Snohomish County, Washington

  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    Corpsmembers building a demonstration rain garden at the Brightwater Education Center in Snohomish County, Washington. By constructing a rain garden, Corpsmembers gained experience building green stormwater infrastructure, and helped raise awareness and address water quality issues in the surrounding areas.



AmeriCorps members with EarthCorps help control invasive plants in North Cascades National Park:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Stehekin, North Cascades National Park, Washington

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    EarthCorps crews work hard to manually control invasive and exotic plants and restore our National Parks.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Manual exotic plant control, native seed collection, apple orchard removal, opportunity to learn about National Park Service.



Members of the Southeast Conservation Corps Veterans Fire Corps help conduct prescribed burns and maintain healthy habitats in Mississippi:

  • Where are the members serving?
    De Soto National Forest in Mississippi

  • How do they #GetThingsDone? 
    These are members of the Southeast Conservation Corps Veterans Fire Corps Crew 936. The SECC VFC members are working in the Gulf Coast of MS to assist with Pitcher Plant Bog restoration, fire fuel reduction and prescribed burns to contribute to a healthy forest and mitigate uncontrolled wildfires.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    The SECC Veterans Fire Corps program (in partnership with The Corps Network and The Nature Conservancy) provides training and on-the-job experience for post-911 era veterans interested in entering careers and gaining experience in natural resource management. The program engages participants in a cohort environment in which eight members work together to train and complete natural resource management projects, specifically related to fuels reduction and fire fuels management. Participants also gain experience in trail work, invasive species removal, GIS, and other appropriate conservation stewardship work.



AmeriCorps members with Washington Conservation Corps help with cleanup and recovery on U.S. Virgin Islands following 2017 hurricanes:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    U.S. Virgin Islands

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    They are assisting communities affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which devastated the regions in Fall 2017.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    When serving on a disaster response assignment, WCC AmeriCorps members utilize their chainsaw skills to remove hazard trees from homeowners’ yards and local structures. They also take on tough tasks like debris removal and installing roof tarps. They also help manage the outpouring of volunteers and donations in local regions.



AmeriCorps members with Washington Conservation Corps help organize volunteer projects:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Skagit County, Washington

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    Individual Placement AmeriCorps members Erin and Keelin recently led a volunteer planting party for their service placement, Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group. The group of volunteers installed over 300 trees at the site!

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Leading volunteer events means Erin and Keelin recruit volunteers, arrange tools and logistics, and provide on-site guidance to make sure everyone has a safe, fun and productive time! Planting native trees will help  convert the site from a field into a forested area.


AmeriCorps Members with Great Basin Institute-Nevada Conservation Corps help support the comeback of the endangered Condor:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    The interns, Kylie Smith and Nathan Pinckard, as well the project partner Joseph Brandt, are in this image. Joseph Brandt is teaching Kylie Smith how to draw blood from the leg of the Condor while Nathan Pinckard is holding the Condor. The blood sample is used to check for lead levels of the condors.

    In the second photo, Nathan is releasing a juvenile Condor into the wild.


AmeriCorps member with Great Basin Institute-Nevada Conservation Corps and The Corps Network Education Awards Program helps collect data and conduct research to assist with habitat restoration:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Henderson, NV (Common Gardens project located in the Mojave Desert)

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    The United States Geological Survey, is looking at what methods work to bring back native perennials but also looking at herbicide application as a way to control the spread of Bromus sp. and Schismus sp. Interns mainly assist with collecting data, assessing the landscape before and after restoration has been implemented and aiding in research for various extensions of the project.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Sarah assists the USGS in the Common Gardens project located in the Mojave Desert in hopes to restore the area that was impacted by the fire while learning novel ways to conduct research. 


AmeriCorps Members with Vermont Youth Conservation Corps and The Corps Network Opportunity Youth Service Initiative help improve Vermont’s park infrastructure:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving?
    Corpsmembers Maddi Shropshire (left) and Tori Best (right) from our 2017 Americorps 2 Crew show some crewmate love in front of a woodshed they constructed on Mt. Mansfield.

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone?
    In one week, this crew replaced 60 feet of box steps that access a stone hut; helped build this woodshed (with Vermont Forest Parks and Recreation staff and contractors), and built a raised roof for the shed with a weather shield.

  • What skills are they learning/using?
    Through this project, Corpsmembers developed their construction skills, learned important lessons about working with partner organizations, and worked on their communication skills as they coordinated their efforts.



An AmeriCorps member with Kupu helps restore the most threatened ecosystem in Hawai‘i:

  • Where is this Corpsmember serving? 
    Ethan Souza is serving at Hawaiʻi Forest Industry Association -Kaʻūpūlehu Dryland Forest

  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    Ethan is working to restore the native dryland forest, which is the most threatened ecosystem in Hawaiʻi. Over 90% of it has been lost due to development, invasive species, and fire.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    Identifying native and invasive plant species, collecting plant propagation materials, raising native plants, removing invasive plants, hosting and educating school groups, and collecting and analyzing data



AmeriCorps members with Civicorps help keep the Bay Area shoreline healthy for marine creatures:

  • Where are these Corpsmembers serving? 
    Alameda Shoreline, California

  • How do these AmeriCorps members #GetThingsDone? 
    These members are participating in shoreline beautification. Crewmembers collect litter and debris in low tide, helping wildlife avoid toxic items like cigarette butts and plastic. 

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    They are learning about the Bay Area’s ecosystems, drainage, and the impact of storm runoff. Additionally, they are learning about team work, communication, and the various steps of project planning.


AmeriCorps member with Northwest Youth Corps engages in resource management and community outreach in partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers:

  • Where is this Corpsmember serving? 
    Northwest Youth Corps selected Mathew Zhun to serve with the Army Corps of Engineers for a 675-hour term in October of 2017. Mathew was providing natural resource management and community outreach assistance with the Recreation Operations section of the Willamette Valley Project for the Army Corps of Engineers. WVP is a large water resource project responsible for operating 13 dams and managing natural resources and recreation in the lakes and surrounding lands at nearly 30,000 acres in the Willamette, McKenzie, and Santiam watersheds.

  • How does this AmeriCorps member #GetThingsDone? 
    Mathew served with the Cottage Grove, Oregon Recreation Operations Section providing education, outreach, and public safety programming specifically in schools. Additionally, Mathew spent half of his time monitoring and improving trails and mitigating exotic vegetation. This included direction of volunteer crews and navigating to monuments for boundary surveys.

  • What skills are they learning/using? 
    While Mathew stepped into the internship with extensive field based skills he expanded his knowledge and confidence public speaking and educating  various audiences.  The curriculum he was conveying focused on water safety, field ecology, and Leave No Trace principals. The Army Corps of Engineers is a partner of the “Every Kid in the Park” Program which was created for fourth graders and their families to discover wildlife, resources, and history for free. 


Moving Forward Initiative Guest Series: Interview with Dr. Dorceta Taylor on Diversity and Equity Initiatives within Environmental Organizations

Dr. Dorceta Taylor is the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and the James E. Crowfoot Collegiate Professor in the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Dr. Taylor is the author of The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations: Mainstream NGOs, Foundations, and Government Agencies (a publication prepared for Green 2.0: 2014) and The Rise of the American Conservation Movement: Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection (Duke University Press: 2015). Both publications fundamentally seek to examine the state of gender, racial, and class diversity within environmentalism.

As part of The Corps Network's Moving Forward Initiative, we spoke with Dr. Taylor about her inspiration for environmental work, her education and career path, as well as the efficacy of diversity and equity initiatives within environmental organizations.

Click here for Moving Forward Initiative Homepage

- By Cassandra Ceballos, Programs Assistant, The Corps Network

Growing up in 1960s rural Jamaica, Dr. Dorceta Taylor found herself instinctively drawn to the natural environment.

"I really think I was one of those people who was just genetically hard-wired from the womb to come out caring and wanting to know about plants and animals," she said.

As a young girl, one of Dr. Taylor's many chores was to take care of a rose garden near her home. The garden fascinated Dr. Taylor; the various colors and kinds of roses, the bees pollinating the different flowers. She thought it was "the coolest job ever," and credits this early exposure with cementing her "respect, understanding, and curiosity" in biology.

Unable to attend school until the age of seven due to family responsibilities, Dr. Taylor taught herself how to read and write. In her studies, she came across a book that talked about the prestigious Yale University and decided then, at age seven, that she would one-day attend. "Ignorance is bliss," she shares, "because, at the time I said that, Yale did not admit black students and it did not admit women. But since there was nobody to tell me otherwise, I put it as one of my dreams and decided to pursue it."

In her first years of college in Jamaica, Dr. Taylor continued to pursue her interests in the biological sciences, specializing heavily in zoology and botany. Upon immigrating to the United States at age 20 she chose to continue along a Biology track at Northeastern Illinois University but was unable to register for an upper level Botany class in her first semester due to limited enrollment. Dr. Taylor instead enrolled in an environmental class at the suggestion of a professor. Her experiences in that first environmental class fundamentally shaped her life's trajectory.

Though medicine is a common career trajectory for biology students, Dr. Taylor never wanted to be a doctor; she hates the sight of human blood. She felt stifled in the sterile setting of labs and much preferred to work outdoors. The environmental course offered Dr. Taylor an "opportunity to see how you can connect people to the environment and focus on human interactions with the environment," rather than following more traditional STEM career paths. Yet, there was another side to this revelation. The lack of diversity in the environmental class both startled and disturbed Dr. Taylor.

"We were learning all this cool stuff about the environment, and pesticides, and I thought to myself ‘where are all the other black kids?’"

For the first time, Dr. Taylor found herself sitting in a science classroom as the only person of color. Surrounded by about fifty white students and a white male professor, she remembers thinking, "I know I left Jamaica, the Caribbean, but did I go that far out of space that I'm in a place where black and brown students are not taking these courses?"

Never one to be deterred, Dr. Taylor posed this question to the professor, who responded in front of the class that blacks are simply not interested in the environment. "I was stunned," she said. This comment lead Dr. Taylor to the library, determined to debunk his statement. She left disappointed, "I pulled out every book I could on behavior and the environment and every single research article said exactly what he said: blacks are not interested in the environment."

Those findings directly contradicted Dr. Taylor's lifelong knowledge of environmentalism. She grew up amongst black and brown people who cared about the environment, studied the environment, worked in the environment, all with excellence. Dr. Taylor realized the problem was not with participation, but with perception, "this perception that somehow an entire race of people does not care about the environment. How, how is that possible? And what does that mean if you have that kind of racialized understanding of caring about the environment?" Fostering stereotypes about the parts of society that do or do not involve themselves in environmental work establishes a logic about who to hire or engage in those capacities.

Dr. Taylor graduated from Northeastern Illinois University in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Studies and Biology. She enrolled in the Yale School of Forestry and the Environment later that year. Concurrently, the environmental movement was in full swing on national and international stages. Intrigued by the interaction of society and nature, Dr. Taylor found herself particularly drawn to the burgeoning environmental justice movement. This interest influenced her decision to pursue an interdisciplinary field of study. Not only did Dr. Taylor fulfill her childhood goal of attending Yale University, she did it with pizzazz. Dr. Taylor holds a Master of Forensic Science in Social Ecology, both a Master of Arts and Master of Philosophy in Sociology/Forestry, and dual doctoral degrees in Environmental Sociology from the Department of Sociology and the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Even now, Dr. Taylor vividly remembers her experience in that first environmental class, her shock at the professor's racist remarks.  Unfortunately, this kind of racist understanding is not unique to the conservation movement. Such beliefs spring from historical rhetoric that erases the active participation and extraordinary contributions of persons of color in many aspects of our society. Growing up in a rural area of a developing country, however, she knew intimately the extensive body of environmental knowledge necessary to survive in such communities. Much of Dr. Taylor’s research works to rewrite, or “re-right,” the traditional narrative of environmentalism. She wishes to disprove, "the idea that black people are somehow so different from everyone else in the world that we don't care, we have no knowledge."

Documenting Black Contributions to Environmentalism

Authored by Dr. Taylor in 2016, The Rise of the American Conservation Movement: Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection comprehensively details the roles of race, class, and gender in shaping the environmental movement from the mid-1850s to the early 1900s.

"I thought that if I looked at slavery, I bet you we will find people of color doing amazing things either for the environment or to survive in the environment. We just haven't documented it,” said Dr. Taylor. “…If you look at slave plantations, what slaves did. The fact that they had incredible knowledge of the plants, the animals, it's just not written about. These were environmental activities. These were sustainable activities."

In The Rise of the American Conservation Movement, Dr. Taylor analyzes the environmental characteristics of prominent figures like Harriet Tubman and Phyllis Wheatley, providing nuanced perspective on their lives. She writes about the environmental knowledge used by Harriet Tubman in operating the Underground Railroad, "she was a human minesweeper before we knew about minesweepers. She understood the water, could read the water so very well. It's really quite a hard thing to navigate along water in a forest, much less at night."

Dr. Taylor further argues that Phillis Wheatley, enslaved in the late 1700s, "was writing about the environment in a very positive way. Telling us to care about it for almost a century before Ralph Waldo Emerson, yet he gets credit for it." Traditional narrative surrounding these women and their accomplishments does not include these environmental elements. 

The 1960s saw an explosion of social movements in the United States, including the civil rights movement, the labor movement, the anti-war movement, the women's movement, and the environmental movement. 

The rhetoric of the civil rights and environmental movements established a false dichotomy between the two. The environmentalists at the time framed the environment as everything except for urban areas and everyone except people of color. It was mostly focused on middle and upper-class white people and the places where they lived and recreated.

"Through the 1960s and 1970s the environment is framed as the forests, the trees, the beautiful birds, the perfect oceans and lakes. It didn’t include the issues that related to urban areas or to poor people. Certainly not to persons of color,” said Dr. Taylor. “Part of the pushback of communities of color was a sense that, we’re not going to come out and march to save the bald eagle when we don’t have food in the house to feed our children. We have to take care of that first."

As a result, documentation of the civil rights movement fails to account for the environmental activism of its participants. "We talk about the fact that blacks were carpooling and we talk about it in the context of we couldn't get on the bus therefore, we had carpools. And guess what? Everybody now knows carpooling is environmentally friendly. But we don't frame our activism in those terms."  Dr. Taylor points out that, "there were more blacks carpooling in the South than environmental activists carpooling in the North. But white environmentalists get the credit for carpooling."

Dr. Taylor stresses the importance of telling these stories, "I’m hoping a whole new generation of people of color go back into their literature, go back into their stories that their parents and their grandparents and great-grandparents tell them about the way they lived. About activities. And, rather than seeing it as backwards, understand not only how it plays into who we are as a people, but how we can use it to understand our contribution to the environment and that we were always extremely connected to the environment. If we weren’t, we absolutely would not have survived."

The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations

In her 1997 journal article, American Environmentalism: The Role of Race, Class, and Gender in Shaping Activism, 1820-1995, Dr. Taylor writes that "the [environmental] movement faces enormous challenges in the future. Among the most urgent is the need to develop a more inclusive, culturally-sensitive, broad-based environmental agenda that will appeal to many people and unite many sectors of the movement.” In the 20 years since making that statement, Dr. Taylor has good news and bad news.

 The good news is there has been some increase in diversity.

A 1990 survey found that less than two percent of the staff at the largest environmental organizations were people of color. Most of the employees of color worked in the mailroom, on the janitorial staff, or strictly in entry-level positions. In Dr. Taylor's 2014 report, The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations: Mainstream NGOs, Foundations, and Government Agencies, she studied several hundred mainstream environmental organizations and found that people of color made up about 16 percent of the workforce, an increase of about 14 percent in 24 years. Meanwhile, white women have made incredible strides, making up 60 percent of the staffing at environmental organizations, up from 14 percent in the 1980s.

Dr. Taylor says her report acted as, "a jolt to organizations. Because I put so much data out there, it's become very difficult for them to sit around and simply say people of color are not interested in the environment, that they don't want these jobs or apply to these jobs... And all the data we have says exactly the opposite. Young people of color, old people of color, they will take these jobs, want these jobs, and are qualified for these jobs."

The bad news is that we aren't where we need to be.

Currently, people of color make up 38 percent of the population, a number expected to increase to over 50 percent in the coming decades. "We are a growing segment... 16 percent in environmental organizations is well below our representation in the general population. We are underrepresented, by a significant amount."

Additionally, people of color working at environmental organizations continue to be concentrated in entry-level positions. "When you get to senior staff, Presidents and Vice Presidents, it's rare to see [people of color]. We need to look at diversity as we look up the hierarchy. The mentoring piece is missing. People are being hired but they’re also leaving because they feel alienated, isolated, and the conversations that are taking place in these organizations are sometimes very hard for the young people of color to deal with, especially when there are very few of them. So, the institutional culture has to change."

Moving Forward with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Dr. Taylor offers suggestions on how organizations might better approach diversity. Her first recommendation involves improved wages. "I find most [organizations] underprice the labor of young people of color," she said, "they don’t put a market value on it. So that's one of the first things."

When many foundations talk about funding diversity they talk about it in terms of how many bodies are in the room. But when Dr. Taylor approaches it, she thinks in terms of wages and salary scale. "Your wages today determine your wages tomorrow, and next week, and way down the road. That part of the diversity piece is so critical in building job negotiation skills.”

Dr. Taylor's undergraduate and graduate summer internship programs provide generous financial compensation to participants.

Spanning two summers, the undergraduate program consists of two cohorts of twenty students each. With over 400 applications a year, competition is high. The program focuses on very high achieving STEM students, with GPAs above 3.4. The grant includes money for travel expenses, including a car service from the airport. Meals and housing are also covered. Students make $4,200 for eight weeks. Dr. Taylor does this, "with the idea being that, when they leave here, they can go home and take their entire stipend back with them to help with college in the fall"

The graduate students start at $10,000 for 12 weeks in the summer, so that when they leave, multiplying the weeks over the summer, their biggest salary history is about $55,000/year. They can negotiate a different base salary than if they were paid $2,000 for the summer.

"It’s not just getting good students academically. It's about getting the ones that participate to be really excited and proud of what they’re doing. And they can say ‘wow, look at what I earn.’ People tend to say ‘oh bring me some students of color’ but then don’t want to pay these kids. That’s the dirty underside to this diversity piece, is that nobody wants to pay for it."

Dr. Taylor stressed the need to prepare young adults of color to be leaders in environmental conservation, rather than just entry-level employees. In her program, the undergraduates spend their first summer in a lab and their second summer in various environmental organizations.

"We have to think about where are we placing the students. If we’re not placing them in the labs and in the professional setting, we won’t diversify upwards through the pipeline. Otherwise all we have done is for them to say to us: find us these students and train them, when in reality we’ve only trained them for entry-level. So, chances are they’re only going to be in the organizations a very short time because they’re frustrated and don’t see the upward mobility. The hardest thing within diversity is for folks to realize that we are not just talking about back office. We’re talking about the front office. The presidential suite. Every part of the organization. And for these young people to have access to those [positions], to know that they can have access to these spaces, becomes really critical."

Dr. Taylor hopes to prove there are students of color interested in conservation work. "We’re not the only program that is seeing that incredible demand from students of color," Dr. Taylor said. "High-performing students of color, that want to do environmental justice, want to do conservation, forestry, those kinds of things. Those students are absolutely out there."

Finally, Dr. Taylor advocates developing a strong cohort and network amongst young adults of color participating in environmental programs, guided by the spirit of mentorship.

"The few of us who run these programs can't fix everything. In communities of color that kind of networking, especially in the environmental field, is not common. It’s important for students of color to understand how networks work. Some of these students are actually really good peer mentors and so we’ve actually appointed some of the very mature ones to help with the mentoring of their counterparts. It’s amazing how they can start helping each other."

For Your Consideration: 

1. Read this summary of Dr. Taylor's 2014 report, The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations. What surprises or stands out to you the most? Given the changing demographics of the United States population, what are the implications of the current state of diversity in environmental organizations?

2. Many stereotypes exist about what communities or types of individuals care about the environment. In your own career or education, have you been stereotyped or witnessed the stereotyping of others? If so, how have you reacted or responded? What are the effects of these stereotypes? Ask yourself, “what can I do to change the narrative?”

3. Dr. Taylor mentions carpooling as a sustainable activity most often credited to white environmentalists, despite the earlier use of carpooling by people of color during the civil rights movement. Consider other sustainable activities generally attributed to the mainstream environmental movement. Thinking critically, might there be other stories behind these activities?

4. In The Rise of the American Conservation Movement, Dr. Taylor documents the environmental consciousness of Harriet Tubman and Phillis Wheatley. Why do we not view the work of these women through an environmental lens? What are the effects of omitting such individuals from the collective of historic environmental figures? Pick a figure from this list of civil rights activists. Can you find information on the individual’s environmental contributions? If not, think creatively. In what ways might this individual have been an environmentalist?

5. Skim through Dr. Taylor's latest research publication, Diversity in Environmental Organizations: Reporting and Transparency. What are the major findings from the report? Why do you think transparent reporting of diversity data is important?

6. For Corps: Dr. Taylor credits her early experiences tending a rose garden in Jamaica for sparking her interest in the natural world. Do you have a similar story or memory? Think back. When do you remember first gaining interest in conservation and preservation? Is there a standout influence?

7. For Corps: In this blog, we identify equal representation, mentorship, and fair wages as important elements of "diversity, equity, and inclusion". What do these terms mean to you? How can you contribute to making the environmental workforce more diverse, inclusive, and equitable?

8. For Corps: What do you do (or can you do) to promote “professionalism” in your program? What do you do to help Corpsmembers explore career and educational pathways that build on their Corps experience?



21CSC Corpsmember of the Year Speaks at Launch of National Commission on Service

Left to right: Kent Abernathy, Executive Director, National Commission on Military, National and Public Service; Earl Bowman, 21CSC Corpsmember of the Year, 2018; Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President & CEO, The Corps Network.


January 18 marked the official launch of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service. As the name implies, the Commission’s task is to explore ways to increase participation across these three service categories with the overarching goal of addressing America’s security and domestic challenges.

In a recent op-ed published in The Hill, Commission Chairman Dr. Joe Heck said the Commission “…intend[s] to listen to the American public, and learn from those who serve — and who want to serve — to determine how best to instill a strong spirit of service and identify barriers to service.”

Dr. Heck, and others in attendance at the Commission’s launch event in Washington, DC, had the chance to listen to Earl Bowman, The Corps Network’s 2018 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) Corpsmember of the Year and an AmeriCorps alumnus of Delaware State Parks Veterans Conservation Corps.

Earl spoke to a packed room, detailing how he discovered his passion for service. A volunteer firefighter, a member of the Delaware Air National Guard, and now a full-time employee with Delaware State Parks, Earl is a great example of what can be accomplished through service. However, he is by no means the only example. In a few short weeks, The Corps Network will recognize five additional outstanding Corpsmembers of the Year at our 2018 National Conference. These young men and women have exceeded the expectations of their Corps by exhibiting outstanding leadership skills and demonstrating an earnest commitment to service and civic engagement.

Service and Conservation Corps have a rich history of service to country. As descendants of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) – a Depression-era program created as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal – today’s Corps, most of which are nonprofits, provide service opportunities for many populations across the country, including people like Earl and other military veterans from all branches.

The CCC was an enormously successful program. During its operation from 1933 to 1942, the program enrolled over 3.4 million persons, including over 25,000 veterans. Corpsmembers lived in camps managed by the U.S. Army and engaged in reforestation and other reclamation projects. The Army’s experience managing an operation of this magnitude provided preparation for the massive call-up of civilians in World War II.

Across the county, modern Corps collectively enroll over 25,000 participants annually. The 21CSC is an initiative to grow the capacity of Corps to engage 100,000 participants annually. Last week, the country got one step closer to this goal with passage of the 21CSC Act out of the United States House Committee on Natural Resources. Among other provisions, this legislation would make it easier for federal agencies to partner with Corps in putting young people and veterans to work on priority projects.

As the Commission gets going, Service and Conservation Corps are a great place to begin exploring ways to engage and inspire a new generation of citizens.

An Interview with Reginald "Flip" Hagood, The Corps Network 2018 Legacy Achievement Honoree

Flip Hagood with Liz Putnam, Founder of the Student Conservation Association (SCA)

Reginald "Flip" Hagood, formerly of the Student Conservation Association and the National Park Service, is the 2018 Corps Legacy Achievement Award Winner. We interviewed Flip to learn more about him and his experience in the Corps movement. Click here to read his bio.

Tell us a little bit about your personal background.

I'm a local kid here to Washington, DC. I grew up and went to public schools here, and still live fairly close to the same neighborhood where I grew up. My old high school, Eastern High, is two blocks away.
I also went to university here: Howard and American University for undergrad. For graduate school I went to NOVA Southeastern while I was stationed for the Park Service in Georgia.

I've lived in other states and traveled a lot in the last 50 years, having worked in Georgia and Arizona and in the beltway area in Maryland, Virginia, and DC, but right now we're living on Capitol Hill near Lincoln Park. Most of my life has been spent here in the Mid-Atlantic region. I have a small family here in the DC metropolitan area. I'm married and I have one son and two grandchildren. 


Tell us about your career with the National Park Service and how you transitioned to the Student Conservation Association (SCA).

Career with the National Park Service (NPS)
I joined the National Park Service after serving three years in the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam era. I spent a little bit of time in Vietnam and served the country. Upon my return, I learned about a program that transitioned returning veterans to public service careers. I passed the exam and got hired with the National Park Service as a law enforcement officer.

I was familiar with national parks. Growing up, I knew many of the parks within the National Capital Region (Anacostia Park, Rock Creek, etc.). As a Boy Scout, I went to Prince William Forest Park for my first overnight camping trip. As I grew older, my interest in the outdoors expanded when I went to Shenandoah as a high school student.

My interest in the Park Service came about by playing in parks and learning about the outdoors as a child. I credit my grandfather with a lot of that; every summer, up until I was 14, I spent with him in the Carolinas. That was outdoor time for me, doing everything one can do in the outdoors as a young person and exploring with him and learning about the land. Many ethics and lessons came from spending time with family in rural South Carolina during those 90-day summer breaks from school.

I have always had a love for outdoor work, and that certainly inspired me when I decided to look for a career. Even with the National Park Service, it always had what I call a “green side” to it, or what I think later translated into an environmental and conservation career for me.

I spent the first 15 - 20 years of my career in what they call law enforcement and protection work in the National Park Service. At the same time, however, I was developed as a training officer for the Park Service and was eventually assigned to be an instructor for law enforcement employees. That position sent me to Georgia for six years at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center where I taught in the academy, including instructing national park rangers. In Georgia, I continued my education and did a little adjunct teaching at a couple community colleges and colleges in the Southeast. I worked with younger people, primarily college age and high school age, both as a formal instructor and as a volunteer.

In the latter part of my National Park Service career – a career that ultimately covered 30 years – I moved to the administrative part of the house. I eventually was in charge of both formal and informal training and professional development for the National Park Service. I served 20,000 employees as a key proponent of training and education. Within the Department of the Interior, I served 70,000 employees, looking at the human resource needs, educational needs, and training needs of all the employees. Working with youth in these agencies helped build a bridge for when I moved over to the conservation side of my career with SCA.


Career with the Student Conservation Association (SCA)
I became familiar with the Student Conservation Association working at the National Park Service because of the partner relationship that existed. That relationship – based on educating and training youth – was in my purview. My position at the Park Service gave me the opportunity to learn about a lot of youth organizations, like scouting groups, Corps, and other programs. I had staff assigned to help train park rangers and interpreters how to educate young people; this certainly fortified my understanding of working with young people and educating them in the outdoors.

After my career with the Park Service, I had an opportunity to retire early at 51 years of age with 30 years of federal service. I took that and went out to the non-profit sector. The opportunity to become director of SCA’s Conservation Career Development program came about. I worked to help them diversify their student base of participants.

The transition for me was an easy one because I was very familiar with SCA; I knew staff there. This new opportunity afforded me a chance to take my learning in the federal service and apply that to the non-profit area. I've counseled many others in public service careers to do the same. I let them know many of the skills, knowledge, and abilities they acquired in public service are applicable to the independent and non-profit sector.

That's an overview of my Park Service and SCA story, but what I'll add to that is that I started to work very early on. My first formal job was at 14 years of age, when I no longer went to Carolina in the summer. I had a job every summer. I had my first government job at 15 in a new program started in the Washington area where they hired local youth. I was a laborer in that job, working at the Pentagon. I worked while I was at Howard University at the government printing office, working on a night shift, running machines and binding books that were then sent out to governmental folks. So, my government and public service career started quite early in my life. That allowed me to retire with 30 years of service when I was still in my early 50s; all that time accrued. I got a real jump start on the federal career and federal retirement.


Who are some of your heroes? What did they do to inspire you?

I have two people that I lean towards as heroes: Frederick Douglass and Thurgood Marshall. I’m inspired by Douglass for his life well-spent in championing the cause of freedom for slaves. Many people know who he is and the work he did, but it’s interesting to learn more about him personally, in terms of how he was self-educated and later acquired formal learning. He transitioned himself from someone who toiled as a youth on a farm, to become a respected leader in the abolition movement. Douglass has always been a champion of mine. I have numerous photos that I have collected of him. As an early park employee, I worked at the Douglass home in Southeast DC. It was one of the places where I often had protection and security responsibilities. There was a caretaker who worked at the building that I got to know well. I'd stop by to check on her in terms of her personal safety, but it also gave me real exposure to the house, the property, and the man. She shared many stories about him and I learned insights about the work Douglass accomplished. I also learned about how he spent part of his life in New England. When I met my wife in Southeast Massachusetts, we spent time in New Bedford, MA, where Douglass lived at one point. I could broaden my understanding and get a different look at him at that point of his life.

I’m inspired by Thurgood Marshall because I'm a child of the sixties and grew up during the Civil Rights Movement. I recognized the need for change, having spent many a summer in the South and dealing with bias and Jim Crow laws; dual water fountains and those kinds of experiences. One of the real icons in law at the time was Marshall, later to be Justice Marshall, the first African American on the Supreme Court. He has a special place in my heart and is a hero because of the personal fortitude he showed and the impact he had on our society.

I view both men as having very impactful lives. The work they did helped change this country.

Given your experience, what is the primary piece of wisdom you would give to a young person currently enrolled in a Corps? What is the primary piece of advice you would give to staff at Corps?

For both Corpsmembers and Corps staff, I have very similar advice. Focusing first on the Corpsmembers: simply listen and learn. When I say listen and learn, I mean it in a very broad sense. Open yourself up to new experiences, challenge yourself, and do things that you might enjoy, as well as things you might not enjoy. Try to expand your boundaries.

By listening, I mean listening in every way. Listen to advice and counsel. On the counterbalance, I encourage Corpsmembers to question. I think a lot more is learned through the answer of a question than it is by just having information told to you. When you can learn and find answers through your own inquiries, I think the assimilation of information occurs in a much better way. To young Corpsmembers out there, I’ll say what I always used to say to SCA participants: you don’t have to be as verbal, but turn on your ears. You have two of them, but one mouth. Embrace that 2:1 ratio. Make a query and listen to the answer.

I apply the same advice to staff, because as educators, trainers, leaders, and supervisors, staff really need to listen to the youth in every way. One must hear them, validate them, take in their messages, be respectful of them. Even though the relationship is somewhat parental in terms of the age and experience dynamic, open yourself to also be a receiver of information and the relationship will be much stronger. The fact they know they've got someone they can go to who's willing to listen provides a safe place and an opportunity for you to be impactful. Taking the time to understand their music, dance, culture, heritage goes a long way.

Listening is important, but the questioning role also applies to staff. Through what I call the one-on-one's and the one-on-group, one should posit questions that hopefully motivate and inspire others to seek out learning. Positing questions can be a platform for learning, for the growth of the Corpsmember as well as the growth of the staff member.


You’ve worked to try and break down barriers and increase diversity and equity in the conservation movement. In short, what do you believe is the primary reason for the lack of diversity in conservation? What are steps we can take to address this disparity? 

I've spent a lot of time in this work over the last 50+ years. That includes my own personal experiences of not being allowed to participate, whether that was not being able to swim or get a drink of water because of someone's perception of me primarily based on color. Exclusion to me is a negative that I won't accept.

It's always been a motivator for me personally to, at any chance, try to open opportunities across the board and break down barriers that might keep someone separate because of their race, ethnicity, gender, age, any factor. I’ve tried to break down those barriers and create more equity, diversity, and inclusivity in the green movement. This isn’t easy because exclusivity is a part of this movement and part of its history.

To remedy that, and allow people to experience what I think are the values of spending time outdoors and experiencing nature, we can meet people where they are. It’s all very relative.  I'm working on the steering committee of a group called the “Green Leadership Trust,” which is trying to increase diversity among the board members and professional staff within not-for-profit and green organizations. I am working with them and other conservation and environmental justice organizations to strengthen their leadership by having more brown, yellow, red, and black people at the table; more women; and more young people.

I think one reason a lack of diversity exists in the conservation sector is its heritage and history. It also has to do with opportunity. A lot of times, getting to the outdoors is part of an economic issue, or because someone is excluded. Opportunity and exclusion are the primary reasons for the lack of diversity that we face in conservation, environment, and recreation.

We see a lot of this being institutionalized and present today. I certainly see change within my life and I applaud every step that has been taken. I also see our losses occurring today when decisions are made to stop the protection of cultural heritage sites and natural resources. I think we have to continue to work very diligently to address this disparity, this lack of opportunity, lack of inclusion, and lack of the ability to be a voice at the table.

When we talk about biology and the concept of diversity, its value to the planet is so overwhelming. Without diversity, there would be nothing. I believe the same analogy aligns with human beings: the more diverse we are the stronger we are.

In the future, what developments would you like to see happen in the Corps movement?

Growth. I know many of the recipients of this award in the past have said the same thing, but we're not there yet. There needs to be many, many more gateways to the outdoors through conservation Corps, as well as service Corps and educational Corps.

The more learning opportunities like these, the better, but we need to be on guard and know our budgetary facts. We hear about budget constraints on education and youth and public lands; that should alert all of us who are part of Corps. We need to be focused on that so we don't lose what we have gained. At the same time, we need to seek the investment to grow more in every dimension and open ourselves up to new opportunities.

I was in this movement long enough to remember a time when the number of women who participated in Corps was miniscule. In my lifetime, I've seen that change. I know we're not there yet. Among other diversity issues, the gender imbalance needs to change. One of the things that was a great moment in my life at SCA was when the percentage of women participants versus males changed. There was a flipping of the script. It used to be male-dominated and finally there was a 51:49 year, I recall. To me, that was momentous. I can remember the first all-women crew and the first crew for LGBTQ youth. Broadening up the platform, broadening up the gateways, expanding the number of Corps... they don't need to be government-sponsored, they could be corporately-sponsored, they can be foundation-sponsored. Those in leadership need to be entrepreneurial and creative so that we build towards this future of expanded Corps opportunities. I think that's the one development I would like to see happen: continued growth so that more young people can be impacted by serving in a Corps.


What do you hope your legacy will be?

Well, that's a tough one, because you don't quite know. I guess my wish would be that every young person that I have touched, if there's any seed I planted in them, I hope they would do the same for others.

I hope through their learning and experiences in the conservation movement, their public service, their working on the land and working to aid others, I hope that that inspires them to be servants throughout their lives. I hope they take on a philosophy of learning and apply that in service to others.

If I have any legacy at all, I would hope that I would have some motivational impact such that others would pick up the mantel and be champions for younger people in their field, even if they don’t work in the conservation arena. It doesn’t matter what kind of work you’re, doctor, public servant, laborer, educator, any job in technology…there are ways to impact the next generation. Hopefully they become inspired to be the next champions so we're always growing a larger cadre of those to follow us than those that came before us.

Next Generation of Aquatic Restoration Leaders: Michael Muckle

By Luke Frazza,
Trout Headwaters, Inc. 


Mike Muckle, director of the New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg (NJYCP), a program of the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development, is passionate about aquatic restoration. That’s why, after attending The Corps Network 2014 National Conference and learning about Waders in the Water (WitW), the brand new aquatic restoration training built for The Corps Network, Mike volunteered his Corps to pilot the program. Since then, aquatic restoration has become the biggest focus of the NJYCP. Twenty-six Corpsmembers have earned their WitW certification and worked on multiple stream and wetland restoration projects.

Recently, Mike, now a representative to both The Corps Network’s Board of Directors and the Corps Council, took some time to explain where his enthusiasm for restoration came from and how it’s influenced NJYCP and its Corpsmembers.

Nineteen years ago, when Mike was the new program coordinator for NJYCP, he attended an Urban Waterways Restoration workshop designed for youth Service and Conservation Corps. The event was presented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps (now The Corps Network). Mike says that’s when he got the bug for environmental restoration work. After the workshop, Mike brought his interest in restoration back to NJYCP and he and his staff sought out those types of projects. It wasn’t long before NJYCP was partnering on nearby U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service projects

Over time, Mike realized the value of restoration work. However, upon being promoted to Director of NJYCP, he understood they would require additional resources in order to build their capacity to perform such projects.

“While we’ve done restoration work since I’ve been here,” Mike observed, “until recently we were never able to bring resources or funding back to our program.” Mike credits that change to the WitW third-party certification.

“Since our Corpsmembers have completed the WitW training, I’ve been able to secure funding for our program in return for project work our Corps was doing.”

Register your Corpsmembers here for the next WitW training.

Mike has discovered a trusted project partner in New Jersey Audubon’s (NJA) Stewardship Project Director John Parke. NJYCP now routinely partners with the NJA and others to restore local habitats and improve water quality on streams. As part of the growing Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI), NJA recently brought in NJYCP Corpsmembers to help plant 1,900 native trees and scrubs at five different riparian restoration projects near NJYCP. The projects were all funded by both the William Penn Foundation and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. During this work together, John Parke told Mike “there’s never been a shortage of project work, only a shortage of trained workers. This training and certification has addressed that issue, allowing us to provide qualified, competent, and informed candidates to work on these important ecological projects.”

After working on his first stream restoration project, 18-year-old NJYCP Corpsmembers/WitW graduate Zach Oefelein said: "It definitely gives me a good sense of pride. There aren't enough people focused on things like this. A lot of our world is focused on what you can get out of nature and not what you can put back into it."

Mike happily shares that, with all the training and project work his Corpsmembers have done, “they now realize a career in ecological restoration is attainable, and that this important work to save our planet, is virtually all around them - in every community.”

Register for Waders in the Water here

Hurricane Maria Recovery: Firsthand Account of Relief Efforts in Puerto Rico from Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa AmeriCorps Member Landon Acre-Kendall

In response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, several member organizations of The Corps Network have sent crews to Texas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Coordination of most of these deployments has been through the AmeriCorps Disaster Response Team (A-DRT) program

Corpsmembers from across the country have assisted with a range of activities, including clearing debris, coordinating volunteers and donations, conducting damage assessments, and helping muck, gut and tarp homes. Below, read the firsthand account of Landon Acre-Kendall, an AmeriCorps member from Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa (CCMI) who deployed to Puerto Rico in November.

By Landon Acre-Kendall, CCMI AmeriCorps Member

When our AmeriCorps Disaster Response Team had our first day in the field, it truly became clear that Maria held nothing back on the island. The landscape was a ruin of decimated vegetation. The trees were plucked out of the ground like weeds. There was endless debris and trash piled above my head on sidewalks and scattered about open areas. People were living in destroyed homes without roofs, power, and water. It was an eye-opening experience and it motivated us to work that much harder, every day, for those less fortunate then us in Puerto Rico. 

To me, one of the most enlightening and heartwarming aspects of my deployment was working with all the new people we met in Puerto Rico and getting to know our own teams so well. The members and supervisors from Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) were great. Elliot always surprised us with his own blend of strange and unexpected humor and, at the same time, was a very professional and knowledgeable Incident Commander. The people from other teams and organizations, such as California Conservation Corps (CCC), Team Rubicon, and Samaritan's Purse, all made lasting impressions on us as well. However, the friendships and teams created within CCMI will be everlasting. We all grew to know each other very quickly and, within weeks, it felt as though I'd known these people my entire life. 

Another part of my trip that I will always remember will be my interactions with the local people of Puerto Rico. Though there was a language barrier, I could always read the voices and faces of the people around me. I would see elderly couples laugh, smile, and say thanks to me and my team and it was always a touching moment. I saw a younger couple with a baby and children have sighs of relief and cries of joy and laughter as they watched a tree come falling down from a very hazardous situation on top of their house. Though I couldn't fully understand their words, I thought as though I could feel what they were saying. 

My favorite part of being here was using our specialized skillset for an amazing cause. I will always remember one of the bigger trees we tackled (see image). One afternoon we were canvasing for a job and we stopped to talk to some locals. When we mentioned that we cut trees, one old man’s eyes lit up and he started talking about a giant tree blocking entrance to his entire house. He was talking about how, every day, he would be forced to climb through a massive tree's hazardous wreckage just to access his house. We followed him around a couple blocks to his house as he told us bits about his life. This man once lived in the mainland United States and was a horse jockey for several years. When we arrived at his house we immediately were excited by the challenge of this project. We slowly took apart the massive tree piece by piece. It was one of my favorite big jobs with a very grateful and kind man. I will never forget his face or his house. 

Puerto Rico was a great experience. I feel as though I've grown a lot as a person, but, more importantly this trip has inspired me to grow even more beyond this trip alone and never stop growing. I want to continue to inspire and help others for the rest of my life.

Photos of the Month: December 2017

Keep updating those Facebook photos! We'll collect some of our favorite photos posted on Corps social pages within the past month and post them on this blog. Here are some of our favorites from December 2017.


California Conservation Corps 


Earth Conservation Corps 


Earth Conservation Corps 


Heart of Oregon Corps 


LA Conservation Corps 


Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - Colorado 


Mile High Youth Corps 


Montana Conservation Corps 


New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg


Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa


Great Basin Institute 


Montgomery County Conservation Corps 


Southwest Conservation Corps 


Washington Conservation Corps 


Rocky Mountain Conservancy

2018 Legacy Achievement Award Winner: Reginald "Flip" Hagood - Student Conservation Association (SCA)

The Corps Network’s Corps Legacy Achievement Award recognizes leaders with approximately 20 or more years of contribution to the Corps movement, who have served in a senior leadership position (CEO, Executive Director, Board Member, Vice President) for a Corps or multiple corps, and who have made a significant contribution to the movement (e.g. founded a Corps, brought a Corps to scale, served for approximately 15+ years as Executive Director/CEO of a Corps, served a key role as a national board member, made a significant national contribution through developing a nationwide project, etc.). Learn more.

Reginald “Flip” Hagood has many years of service under his belt. From serving his country as a Marine in Vietnam, to being a champion of the outdoors and youth programs as Senior Vice President of The Student Conservation Association (SCA), Flip goes above and beyond in serving his community.

As a young man, Flip left military service to start a law enforcement career with the National Park Service (NPS) Park Police. He later served as a Park Ranger, then moved into designing and delivering training. In 1994, after serving over 25 years with the park service, Flip retired as the Chief of the Employee Development Division.

Before leaving the park service, Flip began serving with SCA as a council and board member. His retirement from NPS was designed so that he could transition to a position as Deputy Program Director of SCA's Conservation Career Development Program (CCDP). Flip soon became Program Director, then Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives, and eventually had a long run in several program and partnership arenas as SCA’s Senior Vice President.

During his service with SCA, Flip not only led the organization’s commitment to diversify the conservation movement, but served as an industry leader as well, having served on the boards of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and the Institute of Conservation Leadership. He has also been a member of The Wilderness Society’s Governing Council since 2001 (where he chaired the Diversity Committee).

During his time at SCA, Flip impacted and supported thousands of high school students, college interns and staff seeking to serve the environment. He was at the forefront of developing urban-based programs for youth and young adults interested in conservation careers. Flip was essential in the creation of SCA’s Washington DC Urban Community program. This was a pioneer program focused on engaging local DC youth in conservation service. The program has grown from its inception almost 40 years ago to more than 15 urban centers that reach almost 1,000 youth each year.

Flip’s influence and impact has extended far beyond SCA into all aspects of the environmental movement, including nonprofits, government service and even the corporate world. He is a respected advisor in the advancement of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) within the conservation workforce. Since his retirement three years ago, he is still mentoring many students and professionals, guiding their careers and amplifying their impact. His voice has been highly influential in helping organizations like NOLS and The Wilderness Society better understand their obligation to be more inclusive as they deliver their missions.