Appalachian Trail Conservancy Hosts Inaugural Conservation Leadership Corps

Date Published: Aug 16, 2016

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. (Aug. 16, 2016) – This summer, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) hired and trained its inaugural Conservation Leadership Corps (CLC), a group of motivated, diverse young people interested in conservation-based careers. Corps members received job skills training needed to work in many of the ATC’s field positions or take on roles with other conservation organizations.

CLC members were recruited through a partnership between the ATC and Groundwork USA, a national network of local organizations that offers young people in marginalized communities the opportunity to improve their environment, serve their community and explore careers in the environmental sector. These individuals gained hands-on experience in trail building and maintenance, natural resources management, field ecology research and visitor education.

CLC Crew enjoying a discussion about habitats.

Front row from left: CLC members Niasha Hamilton, Lucy Crespo, Jeremiah Roy, and Adriana Rodas observe two snails
while Simon Schreier, education technician ​at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, discusses the roles of these animals
in the surrounding habitat. Back row: CLC Coordinator Allison Williams assists with the discussion. These experiences
help CLC members learn more about conservation practices and potential careers.

“By creating this training opportunity and supporting its Conservation Leadership Corps alumni, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy hopes to address a diversity gap seen widely across the conservation movement,” said Julie Judkins, director of education and outreach for the ATC. “We had a fantastic group of corps members this year, and I can’t wait to see how they use their new skills.”

Over the course of ten weeks, the CLC relocated 1,446 feet of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) in North Carolina alongside the Konnarock Trail Crew; taught Leave No Trace principles to over 120 A.T. visitors in Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia; and removed invasive exotic plants from over three acres of land near Fontana Dam in North Carolina and 1.5 acres in southwest Virginia. The participants worked with many ATC partners, including seasoned volunteer A.T. maintainers and officials from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the National Park Service (NPS). Through a variety of training opportunities, they also became Leave No Trace Master Educators, certified crosscut sawyers and practitioners of Wilderness First Aid.

“This experience has given me new insight into how much blood, sweat and time — and maybe tears — goes into protecting nature,” said Niasha Hamilton, a CLC member from Niagara Falls, New York. “I hope to teach Leave No Trace practices and encourage others to leave their comfort zones when I return home.”

In order to learn more about conservation career opportunities, CLC members met with a wide variety of professionals, including USFS personnel, AmeriCorps interns and Cassius Cash, superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

"I really enjoyed getting to meet and talk to people working in conservation,” said Jeremiah Roy, a CLC member from New Orleans. “I especially enjoyed hearing Cassius Cash's story because of the tenacity he showed, starting out as one of the only non-white people in his field and working his way to where he is now. He was truly inspirational."

Upon completing the CLC program, Jeremiah has stated that his new life goal is to become an NPS ranger.

The CLC is a key component of the ATC’s Broader Relevancy initiative within the organization’s Five Year Strategic Plan. By creating a culture of diversity and inclusion among staff, volunteers and A.T. visitors, the ATC aspires to engage the full spectrum of society in fulfilling our mission of preserving and managing the A.T. For more information about the ATC’s Five Year Strategic Plan and its Broader Relevancy initiative, visit

About the Appalachian Trail Conservancy
The ATC was founded in 1925 by volunteers and federal officials working to build a continuous footpath along the Appalachian Mountains. A unit of the National Park System, the A.T. ranges from Maine to Georgia and is approximately 2,190 miles in length. It is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world. The mission of the ATC is to preserve and manage the Appalachian Trail – ensuring that its vast natural beauty and priceless cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed today, tomorrow, and for centuries to come. For more information, please visit

Contact: Javier Folgar
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Tel: 304.885.0481
Fax: 304.535.2667
Email: [email protected]

About Groundwork USA
The mission of the Groundwork USA network is to bring about the sustained regeneration, improvement, and management of the physical environment by developing community-based partnerships that empower people, businesses, and organizations to promote environmental, economic, and social well-being. Groundwork USA is the only network of local organizations devoted to transforming the natural and built environment of marginalized communities — a national enterprise with local roots, working at the intersection of the environment, equity and civic engagement.

Contact: Liz Carver
Communications and Network Development Manager
Groundwork USA
Tel: 978.974.0770 x7021
Email: [email protected]

About the CAN’d Aid Foundation.
We dig bikes, beer, music, food and family and we’re rallying around what we love to raise money for things that matter. What started as a response to the 2013 floods in Colorado has evolved into an irreverent nonprofit that has raised $1.6 million to support its “do-goodery” efforts:

  • Towns: Building strong communities
  • Treads + Trails: Get outside and get after it!
  • Tunes: For your eyeholes and earholes
  • Love Yur Mama: Save the blue marble

For more information, contact [email protected] or call 970.272.5156.

Special thanks to our 2016 CLC program sponsors!

CLC Sponsor Logos

Corps Network Logo

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