Conservation Corps & The Great Outdoors: Enhancing America’s Recreation Experience

The Corps Network advances programs that transform young people’s lives and communities through career development, conservation, and civic engagement.

by The Corps Network


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The outdoor recreation economy continues to grow, with economic benefits for both rural and urban communities. Millions of American’s explore the Great Outdoors each year, visiting local, state, and federal lands to recreate, relax, and further their understanding of our nation’s heritage. Many communities, businesses and non-profits realize they need to engage the next generation to ensure continued investment in these outdoor resources. Through expanded public-private partnerships between land management agencies, Corps, and other recreation groups, America can increase outdoor recreation opportunities and the associated economic benefits.

Modern Corps descend from the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a Great Depression-era program that developed much of the recreation and public lands infrastructure still in use today. Unlike the CCC – which was a large, federal program, most of today’s Corps are non-profits. The majority of the more than 130 organizations that are part of The Corps Network – the national association of Service and Conservation Corps – receive AmeriCorps funding – allowing them to enroll participants and leverage additional funding to complete projects on public lands.

Conservation Corps support activities like hiking, biking, camping, hunting, and fishing by partnering with land management agencies to put young adult and veteran Corps members to work conserving, developing, and maintaining the great outdoors. Corps are cost-effective partners, helping resource managers extend limited funding through joint-fundraising and matching resources.

In addition to engaging young adult and veteran Corps members, Corps partner with sportsmen and women groups and recreation-focused organizations to engage volunteers in projects that maintain our lands and waters, ensure productive fish and wildlife habitat, and promote continued access to outdoor recreation. By giving young people and the public the opportunity to serve on public lands, Corps help develop the next generation of outdoor stewards, recreationists, and entrepreneurs. In fact, a study found that, following their service, Corps members planned to engage in twelve additional recreation activities per year than a comparison group. Corps members also reported being more likely to purchase outdoor gear or apparel and spend more money on outdoor activities.

As policymakers at the local, state, and federal level focus on building the outdoor economy, Corps will be an essential partner in helping conserve and maintain outdoor spaces and access to recreation opportunities. This report makes the case that policymakers at all levels of government should focus on the recreation economy and increase the amount of recreation-focused partnerships and projects on public lands. Such partnerships will help expand access and visitation to the Great Outdoors and develop the next generation of outdoor leaders.

Published July 01, 2018

About the Author


Corps are locally-based organizations that engage young adults and post-9/11 veterans in service addressing recreation, conservation, disaster response, and community needs. Through a defined term of service, Corps participants – or “Corpsmembers” – gain work experience and develop in-demand skills.

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