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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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ACE California – Fort Ord Dunes Native Species Planting

ACE has been planting native species in the Ford Ord dunes since late November 2017. By the conclusion of the project, over 23,000 will be planted. Located on Monterey Bay, Fort Ord offers beautiful ocean views, and is now an area of recreation for tourists and locals alike.

Marisa, a 900 hour Americorps member, clears a patch of dead Ice Plant to make room for a Beach Aster sapling. In one day, Marisa will plant about 100 of these. By replacing the invasive Ice Plant with the native Beach Aster, the Fort Ord Dunes are likely to see a positive reduction in erosion, water consumption, and wildlife populations as the saplings grow and reintroduce themselves to the coastal habitat.

Marisa, a 900 hour Americorps member, clears a patch of dead Ice Plant to make room for a Beach Aster sapling. In one day, Marisa will plant about 100 of these. By replacing the invasive Ice Plant with the native Beach Aster, the Fort Ord Dunes are likely to see a positive reduction in erosion, water consumption, and wildlife populations as the saplings grow and reintroduce themselves to the coastal habitat.

Human History: Land use and impact

There is no mistaking the immense impact humans have had on the area. Evidence of this can be seen by both natural and unnatural materials on the dunes.

Fort Ord was originally an Army installation that encompassed 15 rifle ranges, officially closed in 1994. To this day it is not uncommon to find bullet casings in the dunes. ACE Crew leaders and Americorps members underwent bomb recognition training in the event any explosives are found while working.


“Restoration is experimental because it will take a while to see the effects of our efforts. Restoration is such a large part of conservation, when you’re trail building it’s easy to forget that.” -Jesse, Americorps ACL


Natural History and Restoration:

Since November 2017, ACE staff and crew have been working alongside California State Parks representatives at Fort Ord Dunes State Park in a longer-term habitat restoration effort. ACE crews are now planting natives in soil beneath the dead Ice Plant, including Beach Aster, Coastal Buckwheat, Lizard tail, Sticky Monkey Flower, Sage Brush, Sage Wart, and Lupin. Each four-day project produces about 4,000 new plants. Reintroduction of these native plants will have a lasting impact on the area, improving water intake, plant biodiversity, and native animal populations.


Green patches of native plants are reemerging after a past herbicide project cleared the Ice Plant. The Smith’s Blue Butterfly used to thrive in this area, particularly due to the native Coastal Buckwheat.


“It’s nice to plant instead of just ripping plants out. Some people want to learn about biological systems, so this is a good learning opportunity.” -Vince, AmeriCorps ACL


“I’m into restoration and I’m down to be any part of the process, but planting feels the most valuable. My background is in ecology and I feel that this is in line with my education. Seeing whales is a big highlight too.  -Marisa, AmeriCorps member



EPIC visits National Wildlife Refuges – A Journey of Exploration


ACE-EPIC Director Shane Barrow and ACE’s newly hired U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Program Director, Kevin Sloan paid a recent visit to Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada to meet with Project Leader Christy Smith.  Kevin enjoyed a 30-year career with the FWS and recently retired before taking his new position with ACE-EPIC in Salt Lake City.

Kevin and Shane traveled 100 miles north of Las Vegas to visit the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), one of the refuges in the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex.  This particular refuge has special significance for Kevin because, in the late 1990’s, he served as Pahranagat’s Refuge Manager.


Kevin and Shane met with Pahranagat NWR Manager Rob Vinson to learn of the many habitats and infrastructure improvements that have been made at Pahranagat. These improvements include hydrologic restoration in Black Canyon and a new visitor center, which highlights the importance of the Pahranagat Valley to the Native American Tribes in the area as well as the importance of refuge habitats to migratory and resident birds including southwestern willow flycatcher and Sandhill crane.  Pahranagat NWR, the “place of many waters,” has supported human habitation for thousands of years and is one of a string of desert wetland “pearls,” providing critical habitat in this transition area of the Mojave and Great Basin deserts.

This was a significant journey of exploration for ACE-EPIC.  Kevin’s career experience in the FWS and his vast network of FWS contacts allow a very high level of immersion into FWS culture with a highlight on field-level conservation needs. This level of knowledge will enable ACE-EPIC to adapt to meet the future needs of the FWS as well as the needs of aspiring young talent seeking careers in conservation.

Our congratulations to both Christy and Rob on a job well done!  We look forward to providing many highly-qualified interns through our ongoing partnership with FWS to protect and enhance wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of all Americans but mainly for the benefit of younger generations of conservation stewards.


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

Bryce Canyon | Forest Thinning

ACE has taken part in multiple forest thinning projects across the Southwest over the last several years. Each project has had a similar objective in mind: wildfire prevention. Each year wildfires have increased in severity and occurrences, and it has become more crucial than ever to remove the lower level fuels that allow them to become more severe.

Fall of 2017 proved to be a very busy time for our ACE Utah crews in regards to fuels reduction. Crews performed forest thinning in beautiful, Bryce Canyon National Park, for an eight-day project. 

A blue ribbon is tied to the fence on the corner of West Clay Avenue, Flagstaff March 22nd, 2017.

Forest thinning helps to prevent wildfires from becoming catastrophic. ACE’s part in this aspect of wildfire prevention is to remove any trees that would serve as ladder fuel. Ladder fuel is a firefighting term for live or dead vegetation that allows a fire to climb up from the landscape or forest floor into the tree canopy. This means cutting down any tree species that are easier to catch fire, trees of a specific diameter, and removing any dead or down trees.

The crew comes off of a lunch break at one of the canyon's overlooks.

The crew comes off of a lunch break at one of the canyon’s overlooks.

In Bryce Canyon National Park the ACE crew was led by crew leader, Brandon Lester. The primary objective of this project was to protect limber pines and bristlecone pines as well as Douglas firs and Ponderosa pines. Douglas firs and Ponderosa pines are being protected because they tend to be more resilient against wildfires. By keeping these more resilient species and thinning more flammable species, the forest becomes less prone to catastrophic wildfires. The bristlecone pines are being protected because in this area they tend to be very old and the limber pines are being protected because they are a more rare species. By selecting certain species ACE is working to create a healthier pine forest.


Crew members swamp branches and trees that have been cut into piles for prescribed burns that will be conducted by the parks service.

Crew members swamp branches and trees that have been cut into piles for prescribed burns that will be conducted by the parks service.

To do this the crew was reducing the number of flammable species such as white firs and some of the Douglas firs that could potentially become ladder fuels. The crew was also targeting trees that were growing in clumps and trees that were growing too close to the species they were trying to protect. For example, the crew was not directly targeting Douglas firs but if there were any Douglas firs growing too close to a Ponderosa pine, then the crew would remove that tree.


During this single eight-day project the crew aimed to thin approximately three acres within the park. ACE is incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to return to work in this beautiful national park and look forward to our continued partnership with the National Park Service and our friends at Bryce Canyon National Park.

For more information on Bryce Canyon National Park click here: Bryce Canyon National Park





Pecos Wilderness | Borrego Trail | Crosscut

Pecos Wilderness campsite as seen at night.

Pecos Wilderness campsite as seen at night.

Summer 2017 was a tremendously busy season for ACE’s Crew Program. ACE Southwest teams had the opportunity to work on a two-month project in the Pecos Wilderness just outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico, on the Borrego Trail. ACE is proud to offer our corps members a wide range of training on different types of equipment and a variety of of tools. This project called for our teams to use the classic crosscut saw.

A blue ribbon is tied to the fence on the corner of West Clay Avenue, Flagstaff March 22nd, 2017.

The use of crosscut saws dates back to the 15th century, and they are still in use today with very little change in their design. “It’s really cool to be using these saws that have been used for centuries”, explained crew member, Emily Merlo. These saws are used to cut against the wood grain of trees. The crew is using them to “buck up” already down trees. Bucking is a term that refers to the cutting up of already down trees.

Andrew Palomo removes the bark from the log before beginning the cut.

Andrew Palomo removes the bark from the log before beginning the cut.

A bucking saw generally has a straighter back and less of a pronounced curve on its cutting surface. Since bucking saws are more often used on trees that are already downed, the greater stiffness and weight aids swift cutting, and allows two-man saws to also be used by one person, pushing as well as pulling.

The crew enjoying a lunch break in the Pecos Wilderness.

The crew enjoying a lunch break in the Pecos Wilderness.

There are several reasons why crosscut saws are preferred over chainsaws, on certain projects. First, crosscut saws are lighter which makes it easier for crews to carry in to remote locations as most ACE crews backpack in all of their camping gear, food, and tools. This particular crew hiked over ten miles into the forest to reach the project site. The weight of chainsaws and fuel make crosscuts saws a better choice for these long hikes in. Additionally, many areas of the National Forests of the United States are designated as Wilderness Areas and as such the use of mechanized and motorized equipment is prohibited, except by special circumstance, as the noise chainsaws  have the potential to disturb wildlife.

Crew member, Emily Merlo completes the cut.

Crew member, Emily Merlo completes the cut.

ACE crew leader, Kaitlin Egan led the project for the entire duration. The primary objective of this project was to clear downed trees that blocked the trail. The crews worked in two-person teams with the crosscut saw requiring one person on each side. Prior to beginning the work the team starts by assessing each tree, then decides on an approach based on how the tree fell from flooding and wind, where there is tension on the tree, and which way the log will roll once it is cut. And last, the decision is made as to who will take the saw when the cut is complete. It’s a very calculated process to ensure the safety of our crews and that the proper technique is utilized.

A two-man team works to bring down a tree that has fallen from natural causes and was left suspended over the trail.

This project is the second year of work on the Borrego Trail for ACE.  On this particular project the crews cleared the first four miles of trail where they set up camp in the backcountry of the Pecos Wilderness. As they worked their way up the trail, they eventually made it to the campsite at mile ten. Within the first month the crew was able to clear fourteen miles of trail from fallen trees.

ACE corps member, Alexander Hesketh records the diameter of the tree he and his partner have just bucked.

ACE corps member, Alexander Hesketh records the diameter of the tree he and his partner have just bucked.

ACE is proud to be able to provide our teams with  backcountry and wilderness skills to allow our corps members to be a part of improving access to this beautiful trail. We’d like to thank our partners at Pecos Wilderness and the USFS for your guidance and partnership as well as our ACE Southwest Crew for your hard work and dedication on this project.


The Pecos Wilderness crosscut crew at sunset on the first day of the two-month long project.

ACE YCC and EPIC assist NPS with a Pollinator Field Research Study at Cuyahoga Valley National Park


In summer 2017, four local high school students from Akron, Ohio participating in the six-week ACE Youth Conservation Corps program (YCC) joined ACE EPIC Intern Carlyn Mitchell at Cuyahoga Valley National Park to assist the National Park Service (NPS) with a variety of natural resource management projects there. NPS has produced a wonderful video series called the “Outside Science (Inside Parks)” initiative.This video showcases the pollinator field research study. Click here to learn more about the research taking place at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Phoenix Field School – Fish Monitoring

Phoenix Field School, an intensive 16-week program dedicated to providing opportunities for urban Phoenix youth (ages 18-24) to gain meaningful, hands-on conservation experience try completing a variety of field-based projects and  trainings, is a partnership between the Bureau of Land Management, Phoenix District Office, American Conservation Experience (ACE), Phoenix College and Arizona Call-a-Teen Youth Resources.

The students worked at Agua Fria National Monument learning fish monitoring. They were led by Wildlife Biologist, Paul Sitzmann.

Dry Lake Hills Forest Thinning

The past summer ACE Arizona partnered with the City of Flagstaff, the US Forest Service, the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project and the National Forest Foundation to complete an 18-week forest thinning project in the Coconino National Forest, in the Dry Lakes Hill Region. This area has not had previous fuels management, leaving it at high risk for future catastrophic wildfires and post-fire flood impacts. ACE is proud to share this video as a representation of the great work being done within our local community to help keep the city of Flagstaff a safe and healthy place to live and the wonderful collaborative efforts of our partners.

Thank you to our amazing partners who contributed to the making of this video