Albany, NY - January 20, 2016 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the selection of enrollees for New York State’s Excelsior Conservation Corps, a new AmeriCorps environmental education and stewardship program for 18 to 25 year olds. Members enrolled in the program will perform meaningful and lasting environmental projects across New York State while gaining hands on experience and skills in conservation careers.
“The Excelsior Conservation Corps offers a unique opportunity for young New Yorkers to gain valuable skills and training while addressing many of the state’s environmental needs,” Governor Cuomo said. “These members embody New York’s leadership in protecting our environment and I am proud to support this very important program.”
Out of 209 potential applicants, the Excelsior Conservation Corps has enrolled 50 members from diverse backgrounds, including members from a Youth Works program in Albany and two veterans. Representing all ten regions of the state, these participants will undertake over 80 projects, providing services to 19 different Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation sites and 44 Department of Environmental Conservation properties.
DEC projects include Arden Height Woods Trial improvements in Staten Island where members will build decking over exposed roots, I FISH NY Clinics and Outreach in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, where members will assist with in-class lessons and fishing clinics, and developing a history trail at Five Rivers Education Center in Albany County. Members will assist State Parks on a variety of slated projects such as the installation of a 500-kilowatt solar system at Robert Moses State Park, which will make the Suffolk County coastal park the first energy neutral park in the nation. Trail maintenance across multiple state parks and historic sites touching numerous regions is another high priority State Park target for the Environmental Conservation Corps (ECC). Many state parks such as Letchworth State Park in the Finger Lakes, Robert Treman State Park in the Southern Tier and Grafton Lakes State Park in the Capital District each have multiple projects that present greater opportunity for the members to leave a lasting legacy. The 10-month service program will be administered by the Student Conservation Association, a leading national organization in youth and young adult conservation service and environmental programs.
“When Governor Cuomo and our great partners introduced this program in the fall, we knew it would be a special opportunity for young people across the state to get unprecedented hands on experience in environmental stewardship,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “I’m thrilled to see that so many people took interest in the Excelsior Conservation Corps program and I am confident that it will build upon New York’s leadership role in protecting and enhancing the state’s natural resources, while empowering the next generation of conservation leaders.”
The program is funded through $1.9 million in combined state and federal funding, including $1 million from the New York State Environmental Protection Fund, New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation and the State University of New York. The New York State Commission on National and Community Service, in partnership with the federal Corporation for National and Community Service, has also committed $850,000 of AmeriCorps funding to the program. Additional funding will be secured by the Student Conservation Association through sponsorships and private donations.
Excelsior Conservation Corps Activities & Training
Under the supervision of the Student Conservation Association, program members will assist state agencies including DEC, State Parks, the Environmental Facilities Corporation and State University of New York in open space management; natural resource stewardship; infrastructure and sustainability improvements; recreation and access mapping; and environmental education and outreach at state campgrounds and nature centers. Specific projects will include water improvement projects, safety enhancements on trails and campsites, tidal marsh restoration, invasive species removal and climate change resiliency measures. In addition to environmental stewardship work, members will undergo disaster and volunteer management training to help communities impacted by extreme weather and serve as volunteer leaders during major storm events.
Excelsior Conservation Corps members will be based at Morrisville State College, where they will receive extensive training and certifications in wilderness first aid, trail construction, carpentry, risk management and emergency response, education and outreach, and backcountry living. After completing the program’s basic training, members will engage in service work, dividing into smaller teams to tackle priority projects across the state. While on remote and multi-day or week service hitches, members will stay at satellite sites, often camping or staying in cabins at State Parks and DEC campgrounds.
Department of Environmental Conservation Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Under the direction of Governor Cuomo, New York continues to lead the way in addressing important environmental needs facing the state. By combining environmental stewardship with youth service and skills development, this unique program will foster much needed improvements to Adirondack and Catskill Park campgrounds as well as advance other needed restoration projects across New York. We look forward to working closely with the ECC to make this a quality experience for our members and a potential career for these young adults.”
New York State Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation Commissioner Rose Harvey said, “Decades ago the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built and left an indelible mark on our state parks that millions of New Yorkers enjoy today. Thanks to Governor Cuomo the new Excelsior Conservation Corps will carry this torch and continue this tradition as today’s young adults will help rehabilitate and restore our state’s outstanding recreational facilities.”
Congressman Paul Tonko said, “Maintaining our parks and recreation areas is an important part of protecting natural resources and ensuring that Americans have valuable outdoor recreation opportunities. I am certain that we will see outstanding work from the ECC in the Capital Region and throughout New York State. I look forward to working with them to advance a priority of mine in Congress that promotes sustainability, protects national treasures, and boosts our heritage areas.”
Senator Neil Breslin said, "The environmental education and stewardship program is a great opportunity for young adults to gain valuable experience in the area of environmental conservation. Protecting and preserving our state's natural resources is critical to ensuring a brighter future for New York and this kind of first-hand experience these young people will gain will only further support that effort."
Assemblymember Patricia Fahy said, “ECC is just the sort of thoughtful and creative solution for New York’s compelling issues that can inspire generations. I’m eager to follow the progress of this inaugural group of 50 New Yorkers as they work the public benefit triple bottom-line of environmental conservation, community service and inspirational job possibilities, and commend the Governor for providing our youth with what may be a life-altering opportunity to make a difference.”
Linda Cohen, Executive Director of the New York State Commission on National and Community Service – New Yorkers Volunteer, said, “These 50 New Yorkers embody the spirit of service that has defined AmeriCorps from its start and beyond, reaching back to the earliest days of the Civilian Conservation Corps right here in New York State. Together, they are embarking on a life-changing experience that will have a lasting, meaningful impact on the environment. The Commission stands behind these young men and women in their important service to our state, and we look forward to seeing all they accomplish.”
New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation President and CEO Sabrina M. Ty said, “The creation and launch of the inaugural Excelsior Conservation Corps underscores the Governor’s leadership and vision in expanding New York’s environmental legacy by engaging the intellect and energy of our youth. EFC is proud to support this initiative and appreciates the Corps’ commitment to performing important conservation work that will protect our state’s water and other natural resources for generations to come.”
Morrisville State College President Dr. David. E. Rogers said, “SUNY Morrisville is thrilled at the opportunity to host the students from Excelsior Conservation Corp (ECC). We have many faculty and students already engaged in applied research with programs that align with the ECC mission. Many SUNY Morrisville Alumni from these programs have assumed leadership roles throughout NY State as professionals in the American Fisheries Society, the Society of American Foresters, and the Wildlife Society.”
New York State Division of Veterans Affairs Director Eric J. Hesse said, “What Governor Cuomo, the Department of Environmental Conservation and State Parks are doing with the Excelsior Conservation Corps is not only good for New York, but also good for our Veterans. I am very pleased that two Veterans will be serving as a part of the inaugural class. Outdoor conversation work is a natural fit for many Veterans who have experience living and working in teams. I hope their opportunity and experience will lead to many additional Veterans in future classes. I applaud the ECC for the recruiting effort they put forth to get these Veterans to be part of the program.”
Student Conservation Association President and Chief Executive Officer Jaime Berman Matyas said, “We are honored and excited to initiate Governor Cuomo’s Excelsior Conservation Corps for New York State. This unique program builds upon the relationship the SCA has had with DEC and State Parks for 17 years in our joint efforts to expand outdoor recreation and education experiences for New Yorkers through our hands-on education outreach programs and stewardship projects.”