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Parks California Announces First-Ever ‘Career Pathways’ Grantees to Help Expand Workforce in the Outdoors

  • 2021 Grantees offer hands-on natural resources training, mentorship, and expertise while building career and professional development opportunities
  • Grants to support organizations that are advancing access and climate resilience across state parks through workforce development programs


Parks California, an organization dedicated to the preservation of state parks through education, conservation, and employment opportunities, announced its six inaugural recipients of the Natural Resource Stewardship Career Pathways grants. The grants are part of a greater effort to diversify the workforce in California State Parks and in other outdoor spaces for those who historically have not had the same access.

From glistening San Diego beaches to majestic Northern California redwoods, the recipients work hand-in-hand with California State Parks to advance climate resilience and environmental justice in our outdoor spaces. These organizations are committed to breaking down barriers to broaden and expand access to job training, professional development, and career advancement opportunities to ensure parks will be protected for generations to come. 

In addition to providing training and work experience in invasive species removal work, habitat restoration projects, monitoring, and fuel reduction work, the grantees also invest in building an inclusive culture through staffing and mentorship models. These organizations build a sense of belonging for their participants, creating safe and welcoming spaces. Additionally, the grantees connect participants to job networks and provide career advice and provide additional resources, such as equipment, wages, meals, and travel reimbursement to make training opportunities more accessible to the specific communities that they serve.


Parks California recognizes that not everyone has the same access to the state’s breathtaking parks – both as a visitor and as a potential employee. To face the pressing landscape-scale challenges, there is great need to build and strengthen an inclusive community of stewardship practitioners and leaders that represent diverse perspectives and backgrounds across the state. In order to ensure career opportunities in the outdoors are more equitable, the Career Pathways grants directly fund organizations with programs that offer natural resources training and career development programs for historically underinvested and underrepresented communities.

2021 grantees: 

  • Literacy for Environmental Justice – Literacy for Environmental Justice (LEJ) promotes ecological health, environmental stewardship, and community development in Southeast San Francisco. LEJ has developed an Eco-Apprentice program, a paid workforce development internship serving up to 12 youth ages 18-25 each year. Most participants are people of color, many of whom are from the low-income neighborhoods of Southeast San Francisco.
  • Amah Mutsun Land Trust The Amah Mutsun Land Trust (AMLT) Native Stewardship Corps is a work training and cultural relearning program for members of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. The AMLT Native Stewardship Corps serves as a contract crew on a number of wildfire resilience projects throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains and beyond.
  • Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods – Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods is partnering with the Sonoma County Youth Ecology Corps to support a 2021 summer youth crew to support fire recovery priorities within Armstrong Redwoods State Nature Reserve and Austin Creek State Recreation Area. The program provides youth and young adults (18-24) with paid work experience, training, the opportunity to explore careers and develop work-readiness skills. 
  • Crystal Cove Conservancy Crystal Cove Conservancy (CCC), in partnership with California State Parks’ Orange Coast District (OCD) and UC Irvine’s Center for Environmental Biology (CEB), is launching a new summer capstone project that connects nontraditional students who may not normally qualify for internships to work directly with CCC and OCD staff on natural resource projects.
  • Student Conservation Association – Student Conservation Association (SCA) is a national youth conservation service organization, providing young people with opportunities to serve nature and to shape their futures. SCA will support a team of four young adults who will spend six weeks receiving training and implementing fuels reduction and ecological restoration work in Sinkyone Wilderness State Park.

To learn more about Parks California’s Career Pathways grants, the grantees, and their programs, click here.


“California State Parks are for everyone and it takes all of us to shape these wondrous spaces to be more welcoming and accessible,” said Kindley Walsh Lawlor, president and CEO of Parks California. 

“These programs are a critical component to bridging partnerships between our parks and communities. They both advance access and provide inclusive pathways for career development in natural resources – strengthening the workforce across the state needed to steward our shared landscapes in the face of a changing climate. These grantees are catalysts to change and I can’t wait to see what they accomplish,” said Becky Rittenburg, resource stewardship program manager at Parks California. 

“Receiving this grant is an incredible honor and responsibility. It confirms that we are doing the right thing by teaming up with California State Parks to train the next generation of stewards from our local communities,” said Jonathan Kusel, Executive Director of Sierra Institute for Community and Environment. 

SCA is very grateful for this grant from Parks California.  Our project will train a young adult team in the growing and vitally important fields of wildland fuel reduction and ecological restoration,” said Jay Watson, Vice President for the Western United States with the Student Conservation Association.

“We’re so pleased to have this opportunity to expand both our conservation efforts and our community. Expanding access to our public lands and opportunities to help preserve it creates new populations of environmental stewards, every one of which we’ll need to ensure that places like Crystal Cove live on for generations,” said Kate Wheeler, President and CEO of Crystal Cove Conservancy.

Additional information: 



About Parks California 

Parks California is a statewide nonprofit working to ensure state, regional, and local parks thrive. As a statutory partner to California State Parks, Parks California has a simple mission – to help strengthen parks and inspire all to experience these extraordinary places. From redwood groves and desert springs to urban parks and lighthouses, the organization works with partners to steward these natural wonders and make California’s parks more welcoming, accessible and relevant to all visitors. For more information, please visit