ALBUQUERQUE — Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland today joined Tribal leaders, community partners and Indigenous youth to celebrate the launch of the Indian Youth Service Corps (IYSC) and unveil the program’s guidelines. The IYSC is a new partnership-based program that will provide meaningful education, employment and training opportunities to Indigenous youth through conservation projects on public and Indian lands, and Hawaiian homelands – putting young people on a path to good-paying jobs while working to tackle the climate crisis.
Building on the decade-long success of the Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps, the IYSC will provide opportunities for Native Americans and Alaska Natives to support the conservation and protection of natural and cultural resources through construction, restoration or rehabilitation of natural, cultural, historic, archaeological, recreational or scenic resources. Participants will receive a mix of work experience, basic and life skills, education, training and mentoring.
“Indigenous people have a strong and abiding connection to the Earth – increasing their access to nature early and often will help lift up the next generation of stewards for this Earth,” said Secretary Haaland. “In addition to completing much-need conservation projects that will enhance landscapes and ecosystems on Tribal and public lands, the Indian Youth Service Corps will have considerable focus on vocational skills training, economic empowerment and career development for Indigenous youth.”
Authorized in 2019 by the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, the John S. McCain III 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act amended and expanded the Public Lands Corps Act to establish the IYSC.
The National Park Foundation (NPF) today announced a new commitment to fund $1 million in IYSC projects, in addition to its ongoing support of Tribal youth service corps projects. NPF is currently funding more than 10 projects from Maine to New Mexico that engage Tribal youth in a wide range of conservation and preservation activities, providing invaluable skills development, personal and professional mentoring and career preparation. Projects also protect Indigenous cultural practices, languages and traditional ecological knowledge used for land management practices.
“The imprint of Tribal history and culture is visible across our national park landscapes,” said National Park Foundation President and CEO Will Shafroth. “Supporting the Indian Youth Service Corps engages and connects Tribal youth to the care and preservation of sacred places across the nation’s public lands.”
Tribal leaders, community partners and several current and former Indigenous members of the Conservation Legacy Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps joined a virtual roundtable with Secretary Haaland and Shafroth to share their experiences in conservation.
The IYSC guidelines provide a framework for Tribal and partner organizations’ participation in the program. Goals of the program include creating awareness of Indigenous culture and history, and conserving and protecting their landscapes, stories and shared experiences for current and future generations. The program guidelines were established in consultation with Indian Tribes, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and other stakeholders. They authorize the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture and Commerce to implement the new program.
IYSC activities can include research projects, oral histories, habitat surveys, climate mitigation, trail restoration, invasive species removal, fire fuels reduction, watershed restoration, recreational expansion and the development of educational, informational or communication materials for the public.
The projects will promote Indian self-determination and economic development and can take place on Tribal lands, or on federal lands where Tribes have ancestral connections. All projects on Indian lands will be designed and managed in a collaborative fashion, including consultation with the Tribal government prior to the start of any project.
The Interior Department is committed to strengthening Tribal sovereignty and governance, fulfilling the federal government’s trust and treaty responsibilities, and engaging in robust consultation with Tribal Nations. This year, the Department is providing $2 million to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, $700,000 to the National Park Service and $600,000 to the Bureau of Reclamation to establish the IYSC.