The Corps Network and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps Testify Before House Natural Resources Committee During Forum on the Restoration Economy

Mary Ellen Sprenkel of The Corps Network and Dwayne Lefthand of Rocky Mountain Youth Corps–New Mexico speak on the role of Service and Conservation Corps in providing job experience in resource management

Banner photo: Rocky Mountain Youth Corps – New Mexico, Taos Pueblo Crew 2019


WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday, July 7, Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO of The Corps Network, and Dwayne Lefthand, Taos Pueblo Conservation Program Coordinator with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps – New Mexico, were among four expert panelists to testify during “The Restoration Economy: Examining Environmental and Economic Opportunities,” a virtual forum hosted by the U.S. House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands. The forum explored how investing in addressing environmental concerns could help create jobs as part of our country’s economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

Ms. Sprenkel spoke about the history of Service and Conservation Corps in providing young people with work opportunities in resource management. She also offered recommendations for policies and investments that could help Corps expand and engage more young people in conservation work, particularly in communities of color that have been historically underrepresented in the conservation workforce and have been hardest hit by COVID-19. Mr. Lefthand provided information on Rocky Mountain Youth Corps’ collaboration with Tribal communities and public land management agencies to provide service-learning opportunities to Native American youth and young adults and other young people seeking a professional and personal development experience.

The Corps Network’s recommendations, presented by Ms. Sprenkel:

  • 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 run by and/or engaging currently underserved and under-represented populations.
  • 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.
  • And a waiver or reduction of the 25 percent match required by Corps when partnering with federal resource management agencies on projects.

“The Corps Network, our 130 member Corps, and the 25,000 young adults they annually engage commend the Committee for considering the important role that the restoration and outdoor recreation economies can play in economic recovery and job creation,” said Ms. Sprenkel. “Further, we urge the Committee to consider the inclusion of specific provisions that would drive the impact of such a stimulus package beyond multi-million dollar investments in huge companies for large, expensive projects to smaller, but equally important investments in projects that will benefit more people and more communities, and develop the next – more diverse – generation of outdoor enthusiasts, resource managers, and environmental stewards.”

“The importance of Youth Corps organizations such as RMYC is instrumental to the communities we serve,” said Mr. Lefthand. “I myself am an Alumni of the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps. Over twenty years ago I testified in front of the Natural Resources Committee in Washington, DC as a youth, in support of the Collaborative Forest Restoration Program that has benefited New Mexico on a landscape scale regarding conservation efforts across the board. Now all states have access to CFRP funding. I feel this is my calling because I am sitting here in front of you today, coming full circle being a witness attesting to the importance of Youth Corps around the nation and the impact it has to the economy locally, nationally and globally and on many levels addressing the needs of our youth and the communities we serve.”

Serving on the Subcommittee is Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO), who last month introduced the House version of the 21st Century Conservation Corps for our Health and Our Jobs Act, a bill introduced in the Senate in May by Sen. Ron Wyden. Among other provisions, the bill would direct $9 billion through the Department of Labor to support workforce development at Service and Conservation Corps. The bill is co-sponsored by two other members the Subcommittee: Chairwoman Deb Halaand (D-NM) and Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA).

The Corps Network extends appreciation for the invitation to testify.


Watch a recording of the forum.

Click to read full testimony from Ms. Sprenkel.

Click to read full testimony from Mr. Lefthand.



About 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 more than 22,000 Corpsmembers to strengthen communities, improve the environment and transform their lives through service. To learn more about The Corps Network, please visit

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