The Corps Network (TCN) places AmeriCorps members with organizations and government agencies to contribute to environmental stewardship projects in communities across the country. TCN members build and maintain trails, campgrounds, boat docks, and other outdoor recreation facilities. They eliminate invasive species, remove hazardous fuels, and restore critical ecosystems and habitats at national and state forests and parks.
The goal of this study is to examine the impact of TCN’s participating AmeriCorps conservation corps programs as well as the impact on hosting agencies’ capacity. The primary outcome-related goals are to determine whether there is evidence that TCN’s host partners demonstrate higher levels of engagement, efficiency, and environmental stewardship than similar non-hosting agencies. The comparison group comprised USFS and State Parks units that use alternative methods (e.g., agency crews, volunteer groups, contractors) and the treatment group comprised sites utilizing AmeriCorps members.
The research questions were:
- Do the TCN partnerships increase partners’:
- Capacity to engage communities compared to non-host agencies as indicated by perceived higher levels of engagement and higher hours of volunteer engagement?
- Efficiency compared to non-host agencies as indicated by fewer organizational resources committed to trail/habitat work and higher perceived quality of trail/habitat work?
- Natural resource enhancement compared to non-host agencies as indicated by increased miles of trails improved/created and acres of habitat improved?
The evaluation found the following:
- Participating AmeriCorps conservation corps programs in TCN were identified as important partners for land management agencies, primarily in tasks related to trails, invasive species, and fuels management.
- Land management personnel who partnered with conservation corps programs created or maintained 30% more of the trail miles they planned to accomplish in comparison to personnel not working with TCN.
- Land management personnel who partnered with conservation corps programs completed 42% more of the fuel-acres work they planned to accomplish in comparison to personnel not working with TCN.
- Conversation corps’ contribution to resource enhancement was rated the highest among all partner types.
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