SCA Hails National Parks' Call to Action

Parks' Second Century Focus on Youth, Diversity, and Career Paths Lauded as "Key to Keeping the Public in 'Public Lands"
Aug 29, 2011 10:30 AM ET

(3BL Media / theCSRfeed) August 29, 2011 - The Student Conservation Association (SCA), the national leader in youth service and stewardship, today endorsed a new National Park Service plan to enhance the lives of more Americans and vowed to be a major force in accomplishing the Service's conservation and participatory objectives.

A Call to Action: Preparing for a Second Century of Stewardship and Engagement, a wide-ranging strategy for connecting people to parks, advancing the parks' education role, preserving the nation's natural and cultural treasures, and achieving organization excellence, was released by the National Park Service in conjunction with its 95th anniversary. The plan details thirty-six actions and outcomes that will define the second hundred years of America's national parks.

SCA President Dale Penny, who attended the plan's introduction at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C., credits the Service for both recognizing and addressing a widening relevance gap between the parks and average Americans.

"Our country has changed dramatically since the National Park Service was formed in 1916," Penny states. "A Call to Action moves our national parks into the 21st century by reaching beyond park boundaries and into our communities, specifically aiming at young, diverse constituencies. By spurring more recreation, volunteerism and career opportunities among these populations, we can ensure a more prosperous future for our parks, our environment, and our society.

"As the National Park Service's largest youth service partner, SCA is committed to helping the agency meet its goal of engaging 10,000 young volunteers annually to conserve our parks, monuments, seashores and historic sites. We believe this plan is key to keeping the public in ‘public lands' and we commend Director Jon Jarvis and his colleagues."

Penny notes SCA's role in shaping A Call to Action, which relied heavily on the input of SCA members and other youth participating in last year's America's Great Outdoors listening sessions as well as other recent initiatives designed to attract new and larger audiences to national parks.

"SCA members united to provide the single, most influential youth voice in convincing government officials to create new volunteer and work opportunities in our parks and other federal lands as a way of reconnecting young people to nature," Penny says. "The National Park Service's second-century vision includes and builds upon the pilot ‘NPS Academy' workforce development program SCA launched at Grand Teton National Park earlier this year. I am also pleased to see the plan call for a continuum of service-to-career experiences that mirror SCA's own program structure.

"Additionally, I am confident that SCA's pioneering community conservation programs which engage thousands of ethnically and culturally diverse youth in urban centers across the country will help NPS find, engage, hire and ultimately represent the grand mosaic that is the American people.

"A Call to Action is an urgently needed challenge that speaks to the need for, and the strength of, the SCA-Park Service partnership and we look forward to extending our collaboration to further enrich the next century of America's national parks."

Alan Yee, an 18-year old SCA alumnus from the San Francisco Bay area, says young people are eager to care and advocate for national parks. "From Golden Gate National Recreation Area to Acadia National Park," Yee states, "my SCA experiences have helped me recognize the value of natural places as well as our responsibility to conserve them. The young people I served with understand this planet will one day be ours and, for us, stepping up to protect our parks is the first step toward leadership."

SCA has been a constant partner of the National Park Service since 1957. In 2010, one third of SCA's more than 4,000 interns and volunteers rendered over 750,000 hours of service at 200 National Park units. SCA members routinely advance to Park Service professions. NPS officials estimate that up to 12% of their workforce - from superintendents to rangers - launched their park careers through SCA.