Partnering with the Ancestral Lands Program

The Conservation Lands Foundation (CLF) staff is proud to announce that our first restoration partnership project with Southwest Conservation Corps’ Ancestral Lands Program will be underway Sept. 19 – 29. A conservation corps made up of five young people from Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico will be doing habitat restoration and stewardship work on two units of the National Conservation Lands: Rio Grande Natural Area near Antonito, Colo., and El Malpais National Conservation Area near Grants, New Mex. CLF and more than 100 individuals made donations to support them—another “first” we’re excited about.

Southwest Conservation Corps’ Ancestral Lands Program is dedicated to providing jobs and conservation corps training for Native American youth who are part of tribal communities. Program leaders identify and support champions from within a Native community, help grow and empower new leadership, and form conservation corps made up of young people who are willing to serve their ancestral lands by doing habitat restoration, trail-building, traditional agriculture, chainsaw work, historic preservation, engaging other youth in outdoor activities, and more. Some of the Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps are “roving,” and travel and camp to several different locations to complete work projects or take part in special education events.

Just as important, each Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps—whether made up of Zuni, Acoma, Navajo, or young people from many backgrounds—strives to incorporate cultural traditions, stories and skills from tribal elders, and native languages and values into the corps lifestyle and project work. The National Park Service and Forest Service have been primary partners to the Ancestral Lands Program, and we’re excited to support the Acoma Pueblo crew as they bring their skills to America’s National Conservation Lands.

aaron_and_other-swwcBefore an international audience, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell recently said, “In the United States, as is happening in many other regions of the world, there is an increasing respect and appreciation for the knowledge of indigenous people, and how they have lived in concert with the landscape since time immemorial. So we have so much more to learn.”

Secretary Jewell then specifically mentioned Southwest Conservation Corps and the Ancestral Lands Program, praising them for connecting younger generations with elders and bringing bio-cultural knowledge to conservation and land stewardship.

After the Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps-Acoma Pueblo crew completes work at Rio Grande Natural Area and El Malpais Sept. 29, several members will be attending the Friends Grassroots Network Rendezvous in Las Vegas—CLF’s annual gathering of organizations around the country working to protect, restore and expand the National Conservation Lands. We’re looking forward to having them there! (photos courtesy of Southwest Conservation Corps)

  • Find out more about the financial donations that are making this project possible.
  • Read about CLF’s Restoration Program.
  • Questions about CLF’s restoration partnerships? Contact char@conservationlands .org

Ancestral Lands Program 2015 overview (from the annual report):

  • 9 Project Locations in 5 states
  • Participants from New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Washington, Utah, Idaho, Montana
  • Corps members recruited in partnership with Gallup High School, Shiprock High School, Ganado High School, Washington State University, University of Idaho
  • 100% Native American participants, including crew leadership; 31% of corps members are female; 69% are male; 94% member retention
  • 10 interns worked in 5 different National Parks, as part of the NPS Career Institute
  • Members attended Inter-tribal Youth Climate Leadership Congress, Society of American Indian Government Employees Annual Conference, and more…


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