Student Conservation Association
|Founder(s)||Elizabeth C. Titus Putnam|
The Student Conservation Association (SCA) is a non-profit group in the United States whose mission is to build the next generation of conservation leaders and inspire lifelong stewardship of our environment and communities by engaging young people in hands-on service to the land through service opportunities, outdoor skills, and leadership training.
History of the SCA
In 1955, Elizabeth Titus Putnam of Vassar College wrote her senior thesis, "A Proposed Student Conservation Corps". The idea, modeled after the federal Civilian Conservation Corps program (1933–42), was to take the burden of labor-intensive jobs such as entrance fee collecting or trail work from the National Park Service and shift to the SCC. In 1957, the Student Conservation Program (forerunner to SCA) had two separate programs in Grand Teton National Park and Olympic National Park. In 1964, the Student Conservation Program broke away from the National Park Service and formed the Student Conservation Association. Since then, the organization has grown tremendously and currently places more than 4,000 volunteers annually in public lands and urban green spaces.
Every summer, over 600 young people aged 15+ are placed into crews of 6 or 8 in national parks, national wilderness areas, national monuments, Bureau of Land Management-controlled lands, even military ranges, as well as a variety of other federally controlled lands throughout the United States. The crews are divided into frontcountry and backcountry crews, with frontcountry crews being based within one mile of a road and most likely having easier access to showers, stores, and park rangers. Backcountry crews are usually more isolated and provide a completely different experience.
The projects performed by the crews vary. The Conservation Crews typically do trail work, usually trail construction or erosion control, depending on the needs of the park. Other projects may include restoration of tourist-impacted areas and invasive species removal. The projects last from 21–30 days with a 4-5 day recreational trip at the end.
The program is free to students except for the cost of transportation to the prearranged meeting location, usually a nearby airport. Also, students provide most of their own necessary outdoor gear. Expenses are shared between the SCA, agency partners, and individual donors. Financial assistance is available to cover transportation costs, and SCA can provide gear to those needing it.
Once at their worksite, the students work eight hours a day, six days a week. The crews are led usually by two trained, experienced crew leaders, men and women over the age of 21. Most crew leaders are college students or teachers, though there are leaders in their 60's. The sponsoring organization such as the Park Service or Bureau of Land Management provides instruction and tools, but the crews are responsible for completing their job without supervision. On days off, they may undertake an ambitious hike or just relax around camp. At the end of their conservation project, all crews take a short recreation trip to enjoy the area, often a backpacking trip.
An online application as well as a catalog of conservation crew work sites is available on the SCA website. SCA begins reviewing applications in January and offers of placement are sent out beginning in April.
Community programs are offered in the following cities: Houston, Stamford, Seattle, Oakland, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Jacksonville, Manchester, Milwaukee, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Pittsburgh.
The Conservation Leadership Corps (CLC) program takes place year-round in regional offices. The format of the CLC program varies from region to region. All students successfully completing the CLC program will have the opportunity to participate in a summer Conservation Crew and will have their airfare covered by their regional office. As part of the CLC, members volunteer on weekends throughout the school year in their home city, build trails, restore river and lakefront environments, conserve habitats, learn about the environment through field trips, go on weekend camping excursions, and give back to the community through service projects.
The Summer Community Crews are six to seven week crews over the summer in which students complete trail maintenance and site restoration projects in public parks, learn about the local environment through field trips led by the Crew Leader, visit local parks, learn outdoor skills, and go on a recreational camping trip.
Through partnerships with agencies such as the National Park Service, people 18 and over are placed in internship positions. There are two different types: short and long term internships. The short term internships last under three months, while long term internships can last from 6 to 12 months. The jobs performed by the interns varies. They can include backcountry patrol, working with visitors, and conducting ecological surveys. The interns are provided with a stipend, housing (in most cases), and an AmeriCorps Stipend.
Applications and a catalog of current internship openings are available on the SCA's website. Some internships are very competitive while others are not filled. The admissions process for each internship is on a rolling basis, with each internship position having a closing date. Students can apply for as many positions as they wish.
Many short-term Conservation Internship Positions involve work such as soil and water monitoring, GIS work, naturalist work, interpretation, visitor assistance, and more. The majority of short-term conservation internship positions are during the summer season, but positions are offered all year long.
Interns can work either on a one-to-one basis with state or federal professionals, or in groups as part of the Conservation Corps.
At the Conservation Corps sites, members learn conservation skills. Corps are teams with members living and working with others who share a connection to the land and the people who live there.
Corps members spend 3–10 months of their time devoted to critical environmental issues such as wildfire management and education, trail restoration and maintenance, environmental education, and invasive species eradication.
All SCA programs strive to benefit both the environment and student members of the organization. While the SCA does a great deal of work in National Parks and other green spaces in the United States, a main component of the organization's mission is to deliver a sound environmental education to its students. This is accomplished by creating emotional ties between the students and the natural world through environmental engagement. Spending a month in the backcountry of Alaska or elsewhere will change a student's life and open his or her eyes to the complexities of environmental problems. The idea of SCA is that when a student becomes attached to the natural world, he or she will likely desire to preserve and protect it.
SCA's 4,000 volunteers annually provide more than 2 million hours of conservation service – including trail construction, wildlife research, habitat restoration and GIS mapping – in parks, forests, refuges and urban green spaces in all 50 states.
More than 20 million people directly benefit from SCA conservation services each year.
SCA members annually serve more than 500 natural and cultural sites in all 50 states.
Since 1957, SCA’s 50,000+ members around the world have provided service valued at over half a billion dollars.
70% of SCA alumni remain active in conservation in their careers or communities.
SCA members build or maintain more than 2,500 miles of trail per year, well over the equivalent of the Appalachian Trail.
12% of the National Park Service are SCA Alumni.
SCA was founded before Peace Corps, City Year and AmeriCorps.
SCA also preceded the EPA, Earth Day and Silent Spring.
SCA has been recognized by The White House, the Department of the Interior, and the Garden Club of America, among many others.
Additionally, the SCA along with Outward Bound and NOLS, sponsor the Wilderness Risk Management Conference.