Conservation and Biodiversity

Join the conservation corps community for Earth Day 2020

Earth Day is every day at America’s service and conservation corps. Each year, corps engage 25,000 young adults and veterans in conservation-focused service projects across the United States. On Earth Day 2020, many corps will host cleanup events and other volunteer activities. Learn about how corps serve the planet year-round.

What exactly are corps?

Corps are organizations that engage young adults (generally ages 16–25) and veterans (up to age 35) in service projects that address conservation and community needs. Most corps are non-profits, but some are operated by government or educational institutions.

Through a term of service that could last from a few months to a year, corps participants — or “corpsmembers” — gain work experience and develop in-demand skills. Corpsmembers are compensated with a stipend and often receive a scholarship upon completing their service.

Are corps a new thing?

Nope, not new! Modern corps descend from the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a federal program that put 3 million young men to work on America’s public lands during the Great Depression. From 1933–1942, the CCC planted 3 billion trees and built trails, campgrounds and other park infrastructure still in use today.

The program disbanded at the start of World War II, but many nonprofit and state-run corps developed in the decades since. The Corps Network, the national association of service and conservation corps and a Great Global Cleanup partner, represents more than 130 programs.

What projects can corps do?

Corps partner with park managers, local governments and nonprofits to do projects that really matter. A rural corps might build trails at a national park or remove invasive plants from a national forest. An urban corps might grow organic produce or install water-saving retrofits in homes.

In 2018, corpsmembers collected over 31.5 million pounds of trash and recyclables, restored more than 1.4 million acres of habitat, and planted more than 1 million trees.

What do corpsmembers gain from the program?

During their service, corpsmembers gain work experience and can earn certifications in skills like chainsaw operation, wildland firefighting or energy efficiency auditing.

Corpsmembers also develop important skills in leadership and communication while learning about the importance of protecting our planet. With their knowledge and experience, corps alumni are our next, more diverse generation of outdoor leaders. 

I want to serve with a corps! How can I get involved?

If you are between the ages of 16–30 (or a veteran up to age 35), you can find service opportunities on The Corps Network’s website.

Not looking to enroll in a corps? For Earth Day, as well as other events like National Trails Day, National Public Lands Day or Martin Luther King Day, many corps host volunteer events and invite the community to serve alongside corpsmembers.

On Earth Day 2020, see if a corps near you plans to host an event!

Credit for photo at top: Arizona Conservation Corps, Conservation Legacy.