President Obama launched the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative in 2010 to re-connect communities to the nation’s public lands. The goal of the Initiative is to foster a conservation and recreation ethic that supports our shared natural heritage.
Recognizing the importance of engaging and training young people as stewards of these valuable natural resources, the Initiative specifically called for expanding outdoor job and volunteer opportunities for youth on BLM lands and in national parks, forests, grasslands, and wildlife refuges.
As part of the America’s Great Outdoors 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) Initiative, NFWF launched Developing the Next Generation of Conservationists, a competitive matching grant conservation program, in December 2011. Its goal is to provide support for innovative job opportunities that expose young people, particularly urban and underserved youth who are increasingly disconnected from the outdoors, to the natural world and career opportunities in conservation. Competitive projects are being developed in coordination or partnership with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), the U.S. Forest Service (FS), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and will benefit the missions of the agencies.
Funding priorities for this program include:
- Providing paid internships or jobs in the outdoors to underserved urban, rural, and tribal youth
- Increasing mentorship, training, and education opportunities for youth with natural resource professionals
- Hands-on implementation of habitat restoration, stewardship, monitoring, and other conservation-related activities
- Delivering meaningful conservation outcomes that benefit the land, facilities, programs or mission of BLM, Reclamation, FS, and/or the FWS.
- Projects that align with a NFWF Conservation Program.
During the first three years of the program, 86 projects across the nation received a total of $5.8 million, which is being leveraged by $9.3 million in non-federal contributions raised by the grantees. These projects will provide more than 2,300 jobs for youth and engage over 35,000 volunteers. Approximately one-third of the projects align with an America’s Great Outdoors priority landscape and/or a NFWF Conservation Program.
This conservation program is a partnership between NFWF, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Forest Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and Wells Fargo.