Sally Jewell Announces Major Funding for Conservation

On a frigid January 8, 2014 in Washington, D.C., Sally Jewell, Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, announced the first major private funding commitment to support the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) to a crowd at the Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) Memorial. American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) has committed $1 million towards a projected $20 million to fund integral aspects of the 21CSC, including support for non-profit programs that engage young people and veterans of the military with work and training experiences on public lands. One of these non-profits that will benefit, the Student Conservation Association (SCA), had numerous young trainees and volunteers in attendance, including SCA founder, Liz Putnam and SCA board member, Robert Hanson, who is also the CEO of American Eagle Outfitters.

With the help of private partners such as AEO, Secretary Jewell aims to garner $20 million by 2017 to fund various aspects of the 21CSC, which include: enhancing outdoor recreation partnerships in 50 cities to engage 10 million young people, attracting 10 million K-12 students annually by welcoming them into nature’s classroom, engaging one million volunteers annually on public lands, and generating the next generation of park stewards with 100,000 work and training opportunities.

Jewell stressed the importance of organizations, such as the SCA, in their ability to provide transformative volunteering experiences for young and old alike. “When we volunteer, when we give back, when we serve, we develop a connection to a place that is far deeper than when we come there just as paid employees.” Jewell likened the 21CSC agenda to FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), begun in 1933. The CCC provided jobs to young men to relieve the burden of finding work during the Great Depression, while promoting natural resource conservation, and inspired the creation of team-based national service youth conservation programs around the country such as the SCA.

Jewell, calling the 21CSC the “CCC 2.0,” referenced FDR’s 1933 plan to enact a “broad public works labor-creating program,” outlined in his Three Essentials for Unemployment Relief. In it, he declared such policy would “pay dividends to the present and future generations” and cited the relative importance of the “moral and spiritual value of such work” over that of material gains. Secretary Jewell stated that she and the Obama Administration want to “embrace what conservation looks like in the 21st century.” They realize that a reinvigorated effort to push conservation is especially vital for the large millennial generation facing a host of challenges, including job scarcity.

When asked about the prospect of generating $20 million in private donations, Jewell emphatically said “we are going to deliver” and predicted this goal could easily increase soon with enough support. However, she realizes the limits of public-private partnerships and believes “private philanthropy should be the margin of excellence on our public lands, not the margin of survival…we appreciate private philanthropists stepping up to help, but we also know that it is our role as public servants, and as elected officials to provide the support needed for these assets so important to the American people.” With her leadership, infectious enthusiasm, and poise, the 21CSC seems ready to deliver on its promises. This plan of action is a fitting tribute to FDR, for whom conservation of our public lands was a guiding principle.

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