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A renewed commitment to conservation in the West

 


The students of Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers were recently given a second chance.

Earlier this year, the future of these programs was threatened when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed closing nine of the 25 Civilian Conservation Center (CCC) programs and transferring the operations of the remaining Centers to the Department of Labor (DOL).

This transfer to the DOL would have been contrary to the very mission of the Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers, which aims to train the next generation of America’s workforce to carry out a unique and particularly important mission: conserving our federal lands, mitigating fire threats, and suppressing active wildfires. I joined a bipartisan group in Congress to defend the program and the positive influence it has on rural communities across the United States.

In Central Washington, students at Columbia Basin CCC in Moses Lake and Fort Simcoe CCC in White Swan learn hands-on skills they utilize to expand public access to federal lands, improve campsites in national forests throughout Washington state, and serve as impactful stewards of our environment.

Our local CCCs have experienced increased interest and even more success. When I visited Columbia Basin CCC in August, I had the opportunity to speak directly with students who were graduating from the Job Corps with new skills and enthusiasm for serving their friends and neighbors in Moses Lake.

Fort Simcoe CCC was recently rated third among all 124 Job Corps programs for performance outcomes. That means students in White Swan are completing the program, receiving career credentials, and earning incomes at rates higher than a large majority of Job Corps students across the country. Both of these Centers train students to fight wildfires across the Pacific Northwest.

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and U.S. Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen recently announced their renewed commitment to Job Crops Civilian Conservation Centers. I was sincerely grateful to Secretary Perdue for committing to work with me to improve CCC programs, and with this announcement, he is following through on his word.

Under the Secretary’s direction, Chief Christiansen announced a realignment of the Job Corps CCC mission to more closely match the Forest Service’s own motto: Caring for the land and serving people.

Under this new vision, these specialized Job Corps programs will better prepare both urban and rural youth to become the next generation of responsible land managers. By revamping the CCC curriculum to meet the needs of Forest Service Regions across the United States, the Centers can focus on regional targets – increasing student learning opportunities and making much-needed improvements to forest conditions.

By strengthening the alumni network and supporting a pipeline between CCCs and a career with the Forest Service, Job Corps leaders can encourage students to focus on jobs in forestry, firefighting, and conservation, which are all critical careers throughout the rural West.

In the words of Chief Christiansen, “Our Job Corps faculty and students embody the Forest Service values of service, interdependence, conservation, diversity, and safety,” and as I have seen firsthand, these students – and our public lands – deserve this investment.

This renewed commitment to Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers is a renewed commitment to rural America, our national lands, and the communities of Central Washington that benefit from the hard work of CCC students.

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