Tuesday, July 9, 2024

PA Environmental Council: DCNR Seeking Applications For Its NextGen Advisory Council

article first appeared on the Pennsylvania Environmental Council website July 8, 2024--

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’s NextGen Advisory Council is accepting applications for its next cohort of members.

The council consists of young people who bring fresh perspectives to the agency. Since 2022, members have met to address issues around diversity, equity, and inclusion, and to advance DCNR’s goal of making all Pennsylvanians feel welcome on public lands. 

The body also works toward recruitment and retention of a diverse DCNR workforce.

The council includes 26 young people, ranging from high school students to age 35. Members represent 21 counties from across the state.

PEC’s Rachael Stark became a member of the council last year and helped to develop its 2024 annual report. That report gathered input from members and DCNR staff on the value of the council and its impact to date. 

For example, members helped to update DCNR’s definitions of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) that align with the agency’s needs while making the terms more relatable to employees. 

They also gave feedback on the Bureau of Forestry’s strategic plan, offering insight into strategies that would resonate with younger audiences.

Stark, the Northeastern Program Coordinator at PEC, was inspired to get involved by her positive experiences as Chair of the Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber Young Professionals Council.

“I saw the DCNR Next Gen Advisory Council as an opportunity to learn and have a positive influence on the future of outdoor recreation in the state,” she said.

Young people, she added, are growing up at a time when the effects of climate change — from intense flooding to record-breaking heat waves — are becoming ever more prevalent.

“Our whole upbringing, younger people have been tasked with the very heavy weight of ‘saving our planet,’ and it can be absolutely daunting,” Rachael said. “My involvement with the DCNR NextGen Advisory Council has exposed me to like-minded individuals who are my age and younger and have the energy, drive, and ambition to follow through with this gargantuan task. It has restored my faith in our ability to progress as a community in a way that is equitable to people and the ecosystem alike.”

Serving on the NextGen Advisory Council showed her how DCNR’s vision aligns with younger people’s idea of a sustainable future, especially when it comes to equitable access to outdoor recreation, environmental justice in the face of climate change, and forest-driven conservation efforts. 

She was particularly inspired to see so many young women who work at DCNR.

“It is amazing to see the field dominated by knowledgeable and experienced women, who just a few decades ago were only beginning to make their mark in this realm. I’m so inspired by the women before me who have paved the way for our future in the environmental field,” Stark said.

In the annual report, Greg Czarnecki, Director of Applied Climate Science at DCNR, underscored the importance of having young people in this advisory role.

“Their future will be heavily influenced by the impacts of climate change and what we do now to address them. Their knowledge, insightful questions, and enthusiasm gave me hope that our future will be in good hands as they take over the reins from us,” Czarnecki said.

The report also included testimonies from council members who said their experience has expanded their knowledge in unexpected and valuable ways.

“Because our council members are all from different backgrounds, I find myself leaving with not only diverse insights into our projects, but a new perspective in everyday life,” said Maggie Hoover, a member since 2023.

CNRAC Chairperson Silas Chamberlin said it’s not just about what the NextGen Advisory Council is doing for DCNR but what council members are gaining in return.

“Talk about workforce development,” Chamberlin said. “It’s a great way to expose people to the work DCNR does.” Such exposure, in turn, helps create a pipeline to jobs in the conservation field.

Council members serve three-year terms, with the option to serve an additional, consecutive term. There are also opportunities to participate in committees within the council, as well as networking and special project meetings.

Young people interested in serving on the NextGen Advisory Council can apply online. Applications are due by Monday, July 31.

Visit DCNR’s website or email RA-NRDCNEQUITY@pa.gov for more information.

For more information on programs, initiatives and special events, visit the PA Environmental Council website, visit the PEC Blog, PEC Bill/Regulation Tracker, follow PEC on Twitter or Like PEC on Facebook.  Visit PEC’s Audio Room for the latest podcasts.  Click Here to receive regular updates from PEC.

[Posted: July 9, 2024]  PA Environment Digest

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