History of HistoriCorps

HistoriCorps – A Chronology of Success

The idea for HistoriCorps evolved out of a partnership. Between 2002 and 2007, a group representing land managers and preservation stewards got together to restore buildings on the Pike-San Isabel National Forest, Leadville, and Twin Lakes. They included Terri Liestman and Doug Stephens from the US Forest Service, Curt Buchholtz from the Rocky Mountain Nature Association (RMNA), Mark Rodman from Colorado Preservation Inc. (CPI), Amy Cole from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Bob Ogle from Colorado Mountain College-Leadville. RMNA assumed the administrative duties for the partnership, which was called the Rocky Mountain Heritage Society.

Although the partnership demonstrated that a public-private program engaging a network of volunteers and professionals in the preservation of historic places was a viable business model, after six years the RMNA Board decided to reframe their operations, and historic preservation was no longer within their redefined mission. The Rocky Mountain Heritage Society went dormant.

However, the Forest Service saw enormous benefits in the collaborative model: they are stewards of thousands of historic buildings, but they are poorly equipped for preservation. The Rocky Mountain Heritage Society provided “step-on, step-off” projects, where volunteers and cooperating organizations supplied the labor, expertise, tools, and equipment. How could this idea be revived?

In January 2009, fueled by President-elect Obama’s call to service, a renewed interest in the “corps” concept emerged; AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Youth Conservation Corps, and Job Corps became a focus. Terri and Doug thought the USFS preservation program could capitalize upon this trend by reviving the concept of the Rocky Mountain Heritage Society. They approached long time CPI member and preservation advocate, Ann Pritzlaff, with the idea to form a “corps.” It would be modeled after community service programs like the renowned Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps. The seeds for HistoriCorps were sown.

Events transpired quickly. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act appropriated several million dollars for preservation projects in the Rocky Mountain Region. Through the efforts of Ann Pritzlaff and others, Congress Members John Salazar, Diana DeGette, Betsy Markey, and Jared Polis urged Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to fund HistoriCorps. Colorado Preservation Inc. would provide the administrative structure, so then-Executive Director James Hare and Program Manager Jonas Landes joined the group. Within a few months, recognizing that volunteer recruitment was essential to the development of this fledgling organization, the core group invited Ann Baker-Easley, Executive Director of Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, to join the formative activities.

In October 2009, the first HistoriCorps preservation project was a “community work-day”, and 30 volunteers painted, cleaned, and repaired façades of historic buildings on Main Street as well as the USFS Ranger Station in Saguache, CO.

Over the next three years, HistoriCorps restored 92 historic structures with over 40 partners in 10 states. HistoriCorps received prestigious awards from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the USFS Rocky Mountain Regional Forester. In April 2012 the first national Memorandum of Understanding was executed, linking HistoriCorps with prestigious national stewardship organizations, The Corps Network and Student Conservation Association, as well as the Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior, to foster a nationally scaled initiative to engage youth and students, Veterans, and volunteers in onsite preservation work.

In August 2012, CPI proudly announced that HistoriCorps will incorporate as an independent 501(c)3.

All of this happened because a few dedicated, passionate people believed it was possible. A few of our founders have moved on to new ventures, but their spirit and vision are deeply embedded in everything we do. HistoriCorps is now building the capacity of public land management agencies to preserve their historic resources, advance green technologies, and foster stewardship among local communities. By working with constituents, partners and alternative workforces, HistoriCorps is implementing meaningful solutions that save special places for many generations to come.

© 2013 Historicorps®. A 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, Historicorps® works with numerous federal, state and local agencies, including the United States Forest Service, one of its founding partners.