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President and CEO of The Corps Network Testifies Before House Natural Resources Committee, Discusses Role of Corps in the Future of Public Lands
Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO of The Corps Network, discusses Civilian Climate Corps initiative, workforce development, and supporting diversity in resource management.
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View Full Written Testimony from Mary Ellen Sprenkel – CLICK HERE
WASHINGTON, DC – Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO of The Corps Network, testified today, March 23, during “Building Back Better: Examining the Future of America’s Public Lands” – a virtual hearing hosted by the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee. The purpose of the hearing was to examine ways of addressing climate change, job development, infrastructure development, and other public lands priorities of President Biden’s administration.
Ms. Sprenkel was among four witnesses invited to testify. Her testimony focused on how to leverage America’s Service and Conservation Corps to help engage the next, more diverse generation of public lands professionals and complete critical projects to improve the resiliency, sustainability, and accessibility of our public lands.
Ms. Sprenkel also discussed how the existing network of Service and Conservation Corps programs can support President Biden’s Civilian Climate Corps initiative. On January 27, 2021, President Biden signed the Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. Section 215 of the Order calls on the Departments of Interior and Agriculture, as well as other relevant agencies, to develop a plan for implementing a Civilian Climate Corps. Similar in purpose to President Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) of the New Deal era, the purpose of this Civilian Climate Corps would be “to mobilize the next generation of conservation and resilience workers and maximize the creation of accessible training opportunities and good jobs.”
“Americans are calling for a bold, large-scale solution – a modern day CCC,” said Ms. Sprenkel during her testimony. “Fortunately, today, unlike the 1930s, we do not have to start from scratch and we don’t have to build a new federal bureaucracy to achieve the same results. Based on the infrastructure and expertise of existing Corps, with additional investments in project work, workforce development, and Corpsmember services and support, today’s Corps could double, or even triple the number of young people they engage and the amount of project work they complete, in a short period of time.”
Among other points, Ms. Sprenkel’s testimony examined how modern-day Corps programs are different from the CCC of the New Deal Era. Today’s Corps are locally or regionally based; operate through public-private partnerships; complete a wider range of projects; and provide opportunities to all young people, representing different abilities, life circumstances, races, ethnicities, and gender identities. Ms. Sprenkel emphasized the importance of intentional investments to expand Corps service opportunities for young people from historically disenfranchised communities, as well as investments to expand support services for Corps participants and increase project work in areas that have faced historic disinvestment.
In addition, Ms. Sprenkel addressed specific ways to expand and leverage Corps programs to help meet the Biden administration’s public lands objectives. As future economic recovery legislation comes under consideration, Ms. Sprenkel encouraged members of the House Natural Resources Committee to consider including the following provisions that would support Corps in their work to enhance public lands and provide hands-on job training to future public lands professionals.
- Funding for projects not only on federal public lands and waters, but also funding for similar projects at the state and local level.
- A preference or set-aside of appropriate shovel-ready projects for Conservation Corps.
- A preference or set-aside of funding and resources for Corps that are operated by and/or engage currently underserved and under-represented populations on public lands.
- An increased investment in youth and workforce development funding, in addition to increased funding for project work.
- Increased uniformity and utilization of the Public Lands Corps (PLC) hiring authority.
- Longer-term agreements and projects for Corps.
- A waiver or reduction of the 25 percent funding match Corps are required to provide when participating in a project with a federal resource management agency.
The Corps Network is collaborating with the Biden administration and officials at the Departments of Interior and Agriculture, as well as AmeriCorps, on plans for implementing the Civilian Climate Corps initiative.
The Corps Network
The Corps Network, the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps, provides leadership and support to over 130 Corps across the United States. Through advocacy, and providing Corps access to funding opportunities and expert guidance, The Corps Network annually enables 25,000 Corpsmembers to strengthen communities, improve the environment and transform their lives through service. To learn more about The Corps Network, please visit www.corpsnetwork.org.
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