American Eagle Outfitters Pledges $1 Million To Connect Youth, Veterans With Public Lands

A major step has been taken to launch a 21st Century Conservation Service Corps that is intended to better connect youth and veterans to the outdoors through field training programs.

On Wednesday, American Eagle Outfitters, a clothing company, pledged $1 million towards the program.

The funding commitment is the first in AEO’s philanthropic history and is also the first pledge toward Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s target of raising $20 million from private partners by 2017 to support the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps.

The 21CSC, launched by the Obama Administration as part of the America’s Great Outdoors program, is a national collaborative effort to put America’s youth and veterans to work protecting, restoring, and enhancing America’s natural and cultural resources.

Secretary Jewell made the pledge announcement at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in recognition of the Civilian Conservation Corps that President Roosevelt created more than 80 years ago.

“What we’re doing today embodies the spirit of President Roosevelt’s CCC – coming together to put young people and veterans to work on our public lands which will instill a lifelong conservation ethic that not only benefits them, but our public lands and our country,” said Secretary Jewell. “American Eagle Outfitters has a long history of philanthropy, conservation and volunteerism and I applaud them for this unprecedented commitment to the youth initiative. This lays a strong foundation toward reaching our goal to provide positive experiences for young people and veterans on our public lands that offer both employment and meaningful connections to the outdoors.”

The $1 million is to directly support non-profit corps programs that provide work and training experience to young people and veterans on Interior’s public lands, such as those programs offered by the Student Conservation Association.

“American Eagle Outfitters is proud to support the conservation of public lands through America's youth,” said Helga Ying, the company's vice president of external engagement and social responsibility. “This public-private partnership is one close to our customers' hearts and directly reinforces our company's community engagement principles. Through this initiative, we are able to provide opportunities for students to work together to protect our planet and improve our country through a deeper connection to nature, civic engagement and community development.”

Already an initial group of nearly 100 organizations has been approved as partner organizations to stand up the 21CSC and provide work opportunities through supervised crews or small teams. In the coming months, the 21CSC National Council, made up of eight federal departments and agencies including the Departments of Agriculture and Interior, will focus on recruiting additional member organizations.

“Partners like American Eagle Outfitters' are critical to the Administration's efforts to conserve our public lands and to connect a new generation of Americans to the great outdoors,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We are grateful for this contribution to the 21CSC initiative, and look forward to continuing to build public and private sector support to grow this initiative and engage more young people and veterans in important conservation work.”