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ACE Announces The Departure Of President, Christopher Baker

March 9, 2018

Contact – Susie Jardine
Telephone – 928-226-6960
Address: 2900 N. Fort Valley Rd.
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Email –
Website –

Flagstaff, AZ, March 9, 2018 –

It is with deep appreciation and gratitude for his leadership and service that the Board of Directors announces Chris Baker’s departure as President and CEO of American Conservation Experience (ACE), effective June 30, 2018.

Chris founded ACE in August 2003 and under his guidance it has developed into a nationally recognized leader in the conservation community engaging thousands of young adults in the accomplishment of practical environmental restoration projects in America’s national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and other public lands.

Although Chris will be greatly missed by the board, staff, corps members, and partners alike we wish him great success in his new endeavor as the co-founder of Conservation United Insurance (CUI), where he will continue to support and consult conservation corps and other nonprofit organizations across the nation.

We want to thank him for the 15 years of dedicated service as well as his inspirational leadership and mentorship which involved many significant accomplishments and contributions, including but not limited to:

  • Expanding ACE’s service footprint from a small office in Flagstaff, AZ to direct service in 42 states and 3 territories.
  • Growing the original staff of 3 to 75 full-time leaders in the conservation community.
  • Providing conservation opportunities for over 8,000 young adults (and counting), including 1,300 conservation corps members and interns in 2017 alone.
  • Contribution of over 3.5 million hours or 10,700 crew weeks of service on America’s public lands since 2004.
  • Placement of 1,859 members in the Corps Network AmeriCorps program in 2016-2017 with 1216 members serving in crew based placements, 641 serving in individual or internship placements.
  • Development of enduring, nationally-scaled partnerships with multiple federal land management agencies, including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service as well as AmeriCorps national service program programs under the state and national programs of the Corporation for National Community Service and others.
  • Development of dozens of federal, state, municipal, and nonprofit partnerships.

In the coming weeks, ACE’s Board of Directors will conduct a nationwide search to identify our new President and CEO.

During this period of transition, we are fortunate for the continuity afforded by a great many talented and committed staff and board members.
Our team will work hard to ensure the seamless continuation of the professional field standards, support for its corps members and interns, and both the quality of work and the high degree of accountability that our stakeholders have come to associate with ACE.

We cannot adequately thank Chris enough for his vision, passion, enthusiasm, motivation and dedication. ACE emerges from Chris’s founding 15-year tenure stronger than ever, well prepared and excited for the next chapters, as we continue to harness the energy and idealism of the next generation of stewards of America’s public lands.

Brad Bippus, Chair
Board of Directors
American Conservation Experience

From Chris Baker, President and Chief Executive Officer,
American Conservation Experience

After a decade and half with the American Conservation Experience (ACE),
I have submitted my resignation to the board in order to pursue new opportunities. The decision for my transition did not come easily as I am extremely proud of all that the American Conservation Experience has achieved and the colleagues and corps members who I have had the honor of working alongside over the last 15 years.

While I have a mix of emotions as I move into this next chapter of my career, as the Co-founder of Conservation United Insurance (CUI), I will be able to continue in the work that has become so important to me: helping to support the capacity of the corps industry as well as nonprofits in general from a new operational perspective.

I want to give my deepest gratitude to all who have been so supportive of the organization and of me personally and professionally over the years: staff, current and past ACE members/interns, board members, and, of course, our partners. Without all of you, the organization would not be as strong and vibrant as it is. I am so honored to have been the leader of this incredible organization and will watch with much excitement and anticipation as it makes strides in supporting and creating continued solutions for environmental restorations across the nation and US territories.


Chris Baker


ACE is grounded in the philosophy that cooperative labor on meaningful conservation projects fosters cross cultural understanding and operates in the belief that challenging volunteer service unites people of all backgrounds in common cause.

If you would like more information contact Susie Jardine at or 928-226-6960

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21CSC Act Passes in U.S. House Committee


American Conservation Experience (ACE) would like to thank the House Committee on Natural Resources for advancing the 21CSC Act, and thank Rep. McSally and Rep. Grijalva for their leadership on behalf of Corps,” said Chris Baker, President of American Conservation Experience. an Arizona-based 21CSC organization. “In a nation too often divided, Rep. McSally’s efforts championed bipartisan support to facilitate youth and veterans’ employment through service to our nation’s public lands. Rep. McSally and all the bill’s sponsors and cosponsors have truly helped elevate service in our national parks, forests, refuges and recreational areas to a national priority. The 21CSC Act will provide vital support to help ACE, the Arizona Conservation Corps, and over 220 other 21CSC organizations nationwide facilitate life changing-outdoor service opportunities for young men and women.”


View press release from the office of Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ)

View press release from The Corps Network

Make a Difference Day 2017

What a wonderful collaboration between the City of Sustainability, our friends at Willow Bend Environmental Education Center and all of the other partner organizations, City and County staff and members of our beautiful community of Flagstaff. Our hats off to all of you. THANK YOU!
-Article Courtesy of Arizona Daily Sun

Click here to read article:



ACE in Huffington Post – Engaging Women in Conservation by The Corps Network

Last month was Women in History month. In recognition of this month-long celebration, our amazing partners at The Corps Network did an informative piece for Huffington Post Blog. They reached out to women within the conservation world who literally blaze trails: the women of Conservation Corps.

We are thrilled that some of the women on our ACE staff as well as some of our female crew leaders and crews were quoted and shown throughout this article.

Thank you to our staff that contributed to this wonderful article: Director of California, Sarah Miggins, National Restoration Program Manager Afton McKusick, Crew Leaders, Jenny Diamond and Krish Karau, photo of corps member, Kyia Foster, Photojournalist, Jessica Plance, Director of Communications, Susie Jardine, President/CEO, Christopher Baker.

Click here for article: Engaging Woman in Conservation




Utah conservationists work to save the Desert Tortoise

(KUTV) — The Bureau of Land Management is working to create a sanctuary for the endangered Desert Tortoise in southern Utah.

Wildlife experts from the BLM are working with the American Conservation Experience to plant nearly 5,000 plants within a 100-acre lot near the Utah-Arizona border.

For the past few decades, the Desert Tortoise has been slowly dying off, due in part to wildfires in Southern Utah.

“The tortoise population here in southwestern Utah went down 50 percent,” said BLM biologist John Aellama.

Conservation experts say the new plants will offer food and security to the rare animal.

“We’re planting seven native plants,” Aellama said. “Each represents a key part of tortoise ecology.”

The project will take about eight days.

Once the group is done, they will move to the Red Cliffs area near St. George, another hot bed for the Desert Tortoise.

Efforts to save the species will continue until the tortoise population increases.

ACE Southeast Featured on CBS

Meet the man in charge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park – CBS NEWS

In this latest installment of “America the Beautiful” – our series celebrating 100 years of the National Park Service – “CBS This Morning” takes you to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at the most beautiful time of the year. CBS News correspondent Jeff Glor traveled to the country’s most visited national park to see the fall foliage and meet with the remarkable man in charge.

The Smokies are a special place, with ancient mountains, a forest that seems to go forever, families who arrive generation after generation, and a rich history. Now, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is run by a man who just made history of his own.

As morning arrives in the Great Smoky Mountains, the trees light up like the colors of the sun, into impossible-to-look-away-from oranges, yellows and reds.

“It’s a whole different scene. People come to the Smokies year-round, but there’s something special about the fall where the leaves change. The smells are different, the sights are different and you really can see a different life of the trail,” said Christine Hoyer, a National Parks ranger.

The park covers over 800 square miles, straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee.

The colors of autumn slide their way down the mountains — from colder peaks to warmer valleys — for up to six weeks on 130 different species of trees.

“We are fortunate because our fall peak season starts in September and goes all the way through November, so you have a time frame where people — a lot of people —get a chance to see the fall foliage here,” said Cassius Cash, the park’s superintendent.

“Because the elevation is so extreme — it goes from 500 feet to 6,000,” Glor said.

“Absolutely,” Cash said.

Cash’s path here is just as inspiring as the views. He was raised a city kid in downtown Memphis.

“Where you grew up, did you see any of this?” Glor asked.

“No, I had no relationship with the natural world. My only relation was I used to watch every Sunday, “Wild Kingdom.” You’re probably too young to remember,” Cash joked.

“I remember, I remember,” Glor said.

“And that was the first time that my imagination was tapped. One week I could be in the Serengeti. Next week I could be in the Everglades. And I was just drawn and fascinated from the comfort of my home,” Cash said.

Cash has worked in Oregon, Washington state, Nebraska and even Boston. After Forest Service and Park Service jobs across the country, Cash is now the first African-American superintendent at Great Smoky Mountains.

His focus is on the next generation. “Hike 100” was his brainchild: a plan to get everyone — but kids especially — to hike 100 miles in this centennial year for the National Parks Service. He’s taken youth groups up and down the trails since spring.

“When the Park Service was created in 1916, 50 percent of our country was urban. Now, 80 percent of our country is now urbanized and so the likelihood of the relationship that kids are engaging with the natural world is shrinking,” Cash explained. “So in order to be relevant for the next 100 years, we have to participate in our own rescue.”

“It’s been inspiring for all those kids he’s come into contact with, but also the people who have the honor to walk beside him and work with him,” said Christine Hoyer, who’s in charge of the backcountry here.

It’s not easy, since there are 849 miles of trails — all of which receive near constant rainfall. That means washed-out sections often need to be repaired.

A team of volunteers restore the impassable with the natural materials from the mountains. And they’re still working, as Cash knows, well into fall foliage season.

“It almost feels like a rainforest,” Glor said.

“It is. It’s a temperate rain forest. So the amount of rainfall and biodiversity are equivalent to having a rainforest-type of ecosystems,” Cash said.

“And as we talk, leaves…” Glor began to speak, as leaves suddenly started to fall from the trees.

“Yeah, right on cue. Can’t make this up, man,” Cash said, laughing.

“This is fall foliage,” Glor said.

“Doesn’t get any better than this,” Cash said.

One of the great things about the Smokies — beyond the views, the trails, the leaves and the people — is that it’s still free for all. There is no entrance fee, ever.

ACE at The Corps Network Conference

Six ACE staff members are currently in Washington D.C. attending The Corps Network Conference. Representing ACE this year are Director of Utah, Jake Powell; Southeast Director, Adam Scherm; Director of California Operations, Eric Robertson; AmeriCorps Program Coordinator-California, Carolyn Getschow; National AmeriCorps Program Coordinator, Bradley Hunter; and National Restoration Program Manager, Afton Mckusick.The Corps Network National Conference is an annual gathering of national, state, and local leaders in the fields of youth development, community service, and the environment. Attendees include approximately 200 Directors and senior staff from Service and Conservation Corps across the country; officials from federal agencies; representatives from philanthropic foundations; and friends and supporters of the Corps movement.

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ACE is a proud partner of The Corps Network and a member of the 21CSC.

The first crew of 2016

ACE Arizona is so happy to welcome our first crew of 2016.

New GOYFF recruit Sarah Komisar uses a powerpoint to introduce herself to the rest of the new recruits.

New GOYFF recruit Sarah Komisar uses a powerpoint to introduce herself to the rest of the new recruits.

On Monday January 4th, 21 new recruits of ACE Arizona’s Leadership Development Program arrived at Intermountain headquarters in Flagstaff, AZ. These members have committed to a six month AmeriCorps program working on environmental service projects throughout the state of Arizona. These new recruits are volunteering in partnership with the State of Arizona’s Governors Office for Youth, Faith and Family (GOYFF). This marks the 7th year ACE has partnered with the GOYFF to engage young adults in a service-learning environment.

Paul Beuchner, a Wilderness First Aid trainer from the National Outdoor Leadership School, explains how to safely move an injured person in order to transport them or administer further care.

Paul Beuchner, a Wilderness First Aid trainer from the National Outdoor Leadership School, explains how to safely move an injured person in order to transport them or administer further care.

During their first three months with ACE, our newest AmeriCorps corpsmembers they will work on a single project to help them utilize and develop proficiency in the skills they learn during their initial training. For their remaining three months in the program, the corpsmembers will operate on ACE’s traditional rotating project schedule, applying their newly gained knowledge over a wider variety of project types.

ACE corps members undergo Wilderness First Aid training as part of their term of service.

ACE corps members undergo Wilderness First Aid training as part of their term of service.

ACE provides educational opportunities by bringing in professional land managers and other industry experts that can expose members to the various career options that exist within the field of conservation, providing knowledge that will aid them in becoming the next generation of land management leaders. The members will also work to organize a volunteer service project event within the local Flagstaff community.

Emily Zastrow, a new GOYFF member, engages the other recruits in a short yoga session as a way to introduce herself.

Emily Zastrow, a new GOYFF member, engages the other recruits in a short yoga session as a way to introduce herself.

It’s been a busy few days, not only for our new members but for ACE’s dedicated Intermountain Staff and Trainers. Our newest ACE corps members are receiving training’s including sustainable trail construction, rock work, and Wilderness First Aid. Training will continue into next week when the recruits will embark on their first project.

BLM – St George Trails

ACE crews in Utah have been hard at work since March on a project in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management restoring the Bearclaw Poppy Trail, a heavily used loop located just southwest of St. George, UT. The trail is primarily intended for mountain bikers.


Although the trail is considered to be the most popular in St. George, the region is extremely ecologically sensitive and features a rare flower that the trail is named for–the Bearclaw Poppy. This flower is only found in the immediate surrounding of St. George because of the high amount of the gypsum in the cryptobiotic soil.


Over time, bikers have created social trails–routes the divert from the original path–and this can damage the soil for decades, rendering it unsuitable for flower growth. In order to conserve the endangered flower, ACE crews have been installing fences and concealing the social trails to restore the area to as close to its natural state as possible.

Mount Tallac Trail Project – Lake Tahoe, California

It has been another successful summer in the Lake Tahoe Basin for ACE California. This marks the sixth summer that our crews have been working in partnership with the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, which commenced in 2009. This relationship was nationally recognized at the American Trails Conference in May, where both ACE and the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit received the Partnership Award. This year, the corps members have been eager to continue in the footsteps of the corps members that have come before them.

This year’s projects focused on two major trail re-routes in the Tahoe Basin, initiated to mitigate negative environmental impacts and improve the user experience. One of these projects was the iconic Mount Tallac Trail.


Tahoe tallac reroute

For four summers, ACE corps members have worked tirelessly to improve this hugely popular Mount Tallac Trail. Under the leadership of Ryan Kuehn, the ACE crew spent the summer camping in the back country of the Desolation Wilderness, building a 3,600ft long re-route. This has realigned the trail onto a more south-facing aspect of the mountain to ensure that the snow will melt in advance of the busy summer season. Additionally, the new trail crosses through a talus field, providing a more sustainable path than that of the old trail, which traversed fragile alpine vegetation and was severely eroded. The crew moved over 15,000 cubic feet of rock during the construction phase of this trail, which is equal to over 1,260 tons or 2.5 million pounds of rock!

As this trail is within a designated wilderness boundary, all work was completed using rock bars or by hand. After the completion of the new trail it was opened to the public and the crew turned their attention to decommissioning and restoring the route of the old trail.

Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky.

Rounding up our recent visit to ACE Southeast we feature a project in Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky, where ACE has just completed work in four of the Forest’s Ranger Districts: Redbird, Sterns, London, and Cumberland. Within each Ranger District, the ACE crew worked alongside Forest Service employees on trail projects of various complexity.


In the Redbird and Stearns Ranger Districts the general focus of the work was to repair and build drains, and brushing the trail to increase the width of the trail corridor.

Over in the London and Cumberland Ranger districts, the crew undertook more technical work including staircase construction, rock work, and new trail construction. Furthermore, the crew assisted the Forest Service with a cleanup project after a spate of recent tornadoes and severe thunderstorms.


Our photojournalist met up with the crew that was completing work on a trail in the Stearns Ranger District. Brushing the trail was the top priority, but corps members also worked to repair the trail tread. These efforts will increase trail accessibility to visitors.


During the 14 week project the crew completed more than 50 miles of trail maintenance and new tread construction. The majority of these trail projects are in economically depressed areas, and the Forest Service is hopeful that new trails will reinvigorate tourism in those areas.


Daniel Boone National Forest is the only national forest completely within the boundary of Kentucky. The forest is geologically very interesting, with numerous arches and rock formations that make it relatively unique in the Southeast. The forest’s namesake, Daniel Boone, was a frontiersman and explorer in the late 18th century who contributed to the exploration and settlement of the state of Kentucky.

Arizona Trail Association Receives Top Honors

On Saturday, September 12 ACE’s Intermountain Regional Director Matt Roberts was invited to a prestigious event to celebrate the Arizona Trail Association receiving top honors at Arizona Forward’s 35th Annual Environmental Excellence Awards ceremony in Phoenix.

The Arizona Trail Association was awarded The Crescordia, Arizona Forward’s highest accolade, for its “unique approach to fostering long-term environmental sustainability throughout the state”. This award is well deserved: The Arizona Trail Association is behind a range of innovative programs such as the Seeds of Stewardship program, which encourages youth engagement, environmental education and stewardship; the Gateway Community program, which seeks to increase tourism and business development within the Arizona Trail’s 33 gateway communities; health and wellness challenges for the business community; and supporting Warrior Hikers to “walk off the war” along the Arizona Trail.

ACE is a strong supporter and partner of the Arizona Trail Association, and has contributed to the Arizona National Scenic Trail’s construction and maintenance for many years with thousands of hours of trail crew time dedicated to the task. On a personal level, Matt Roberts also serves as a volunteer Arizona Trail Steward for Segment 27c (Highline), volunteers with the Seeds of Stewardship program, and contributes, as an instructor, to the ATA Trail Work Training series.

Arizona Forward initiated the Environmental Excellence Awards in 1980 to recognize outstanding contributions to the physical environment of Arizona’s communities. The awards serve as a benchmark for promoting sustainability, conserving natural resources and preserving the unique desert environment for future generations. Over 120 entries were received in 2015, and 17 Crescordia Awards were given. To learn more, please visit

Pictured above are (left to right) Steve Seleznow, President & CEO, Arizona Community Foundation; Larry Snead, ATA Vice President of Board Development; Paul Burghard, Tonto National Forest; Lyn Harry White, former ATA Board Member; Eric Hiser, ATA Board President; Jan Hancock, ATA Board Secretary; Matt Roberts, Intermountain Region Director, American Conservation Experience; Dawn Collins, Chief of Resources & Public Programs, Arizona State Parks; and Robert Foster, ATA Supporter.

ACE In The News

ACE features in the Prescott Daily Courier as construction of the final section of the Prescott Circle Trail is now under way. ACE Arizona Director Matt Roberts has been extensively involved in the project, along with corps members based out of our Flagstaff office.

Thanks to everyone at ACE who has contributed to the project, and to the City of Prescott, the Yavapai Trails Association.

Read the full story in the Prescott Daily Courier.

California Trails and Greenways Conference

The 30th Annual California Trails and Greeenways Conference was held at Yosemite National Park on April 22-24 2015. The conference is a 3-day training venue for trail professionals and advocates to learn practical, up-to-date trail skills; and provides a forum for collaborating on accessible and quality trail systems. The conference also acknowledges and shows appreciation for worthy individuals, organizations, agencies and businesses that, through their hard work, integrity and social responsibility, have made outstanding contributions to promote, enhance or expand public awareness and use of trails and greenways in California during the year.

The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) Eagle Falls Trail Reconstruction Project, on which ACE Crews worked between April and October 2014, won the Merit Award for project development. Garret Villanueva accepted the award on behalf of LTBMU and took the opportunity to talk about the positive relationship with ACE, which has developed over the previous 6 years.

Steps on the Eagle Falls Trail - before and after

Steps on the Eagle Falls Trail – before and after

Another highlight of this year’s conference was the session hosted by ACE’s National Trails Trainer Patrick Parsel and National Trails Director, Mark Loseth. The session was titled ‘Maximizing Volunteers for Trail Work – recruit, train, retrain’ and aimed to provide land management agencies and “friends of” groups, who often rely on volunteers to perform a majority of their trail work, with the knowledge and expertise to effectively utilize the volunteer resource.

Mark Loseth presenting at the California Trails and Greenways conference

Mark Loseth presenting at the California Trails and Greenways conference

Patrick and Mark tapped into their extensive experiences of recruiting and training hundreds of volunteers at ACE, and explained how to make the most of a volunteer’s valuable time and contribution. A particular emphasis was placed on leadership skills, training methods, and methods to ensure volunteers keep coming back.

We at ACE are so very proud of Patrick, Mark, and all of the ACE corps members who worked so hard on the Eagle Falls Trail Reconstruction project last year. Thank you! We would also like to extend a thank you to the Lake Tahoe Basin Management team for your support and partnership. For more details about the California Trails and Greenways Conference please see their site.

ACE @ California Trails and Greenways Conference

ACE @ California Trails and Greenways Conference

Shawn and Tom Firefighter Memorial Run

On Saturday April 25 ACE President Chris Baker participated in the Shawn and Tom Firefighter Memorial Run which took place at Lava Beds National Monument, CA.

The event is hosted to raise money for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation in memory of Captain Shawn Price and Firefighter Thomas Marovich Jr. The Wildland Firefighter Foundation’s main focus is to help families of firefighters killed in the line of duty and to assist injured firefighters and their families.

ACE President Chris Baker (left), ACE EPIC Intern Alicia Gonzales (center), and Lava Beds NM Park Superintendent Mike Reynolds (right).

ACE President Chris Baker (left), ACE EPIC Intern Alicia Gonzales (center), and Lava Beds NM Park Superintendent Mike Reynolds (right).

Pictured is ACE President Chris Baker (left), who clinched first place in the 10km event, ACE EPIC Intern Alicia Gonzales (center), and Lava Beds National Monument Park Superintendent Mike Reynolds (right), who also participated in the event.

ACE would like to thank all of those involved in hosting this very enjoyable event that benefits such a worthwhile cause. We look forward to next year!

To learn more Visit the Facebook page of Shawn and Tom Firefighter Memorial Run and the website of the Wildland Firefighter Foundation

ACE in The Corps Network Crew Leader

The latest edition of The Corps Network Crew Leader features an interview with Michael Muckle, the Director of the New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg. In the interview Michael talks about his excitement about developing a partnership with ACE, in particular putting ‘Waders In The Water’ trained corps members to work in New Jersey. The nationally recognized Waders in the Water training provides corps members with the skills and capacity to professionally complete aquatic restoration projects while preparing them for careers in the private restoration industry. Trout Headwaters Inc provides ACE Corps Members with the ‘Waders in the Water’ training that is instrumental to the project.

We at ACE are also very excited to be a part of this partnership, and to work alongside the corps members of the New Jersey Youth Corps. ACE and New Jersey Youth Corps are currently working side by side on the Mullica River headlands restoration project in New Jersey, planting native plant species.

Sunrise along the Mullica River

Sunrise along the Mullica River

For the full article please visit The Corps Network Crew Leader, or The Corps Network’s website.

ACE in the news!

On Thursday, Feb. 19, ACE was involved in a trail maintenance and improvement project organized by Southwest Utah National Conservation Lands Friends (SUNCLF) at the Halfway Wash Trail in Paradise Canyon. The project was a collaboration of the Dixie Mountain Bike Trail Association, Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Paradise Canyon Homeowners Association.

According to the BLM, the Paradise Canyon trail system had an estimated 21,288 visitors between October 2013 and September 2014. The system connects with the network of trails north of Paradise Canyon, including Paradise Rim, Turtle Wall, Chuckwalla, and Beck Hill. You can read the full story in the Southern Utah Independent.