A bipartisan, bicameral group of 18 senators and 33 representatives are pushing the USDA and Department of Labor to reverse their decision to shut down Civilian Conservation Centers and end the program in its current form.
These centers provide valuable job training for young people in rural communities who thrive in alternative paths from traditional school and work tracks, and offer critical wildfire and natural disaster response support across America.
“After a difficult year of natural disasters and with hurricane and wildfire season quickly approaching, now is precisely the wrong time to be reducing capacity at CCCs,” the members of Congress wrote in a letter addressed to USDA and DOL Secretaries Sonny Perdue and Alexander Acosta. “These centers not only help support these underserved youth and young adults with invaluable job training, but they also provide essential capacity for the U.S. Forest Service to fulfill its mission and provide economic opportunities in rural areas.”
On May 24, 2019, the USDA announced the closure or alteration of all 25 centers – without the consultation, notification, or approval of Congress. These centers are part of Forest Service culture and employ 1,100 people, operate in 17 national forests and grasslands across 16 states, and provide training to more than 3,000 youth and young adults – many of whom were seeking an alternative to traditional office environments or come from low-income communities in rural areas. CCC programs are consistently ranked among the highest performing Job Corps centers.
The members of Congress requested further explanation regarding the decision to close or alter the centers, including any new plans to ensure public lands are maintained and any additional costs and requirements these plays may entail. Civilian Conservation Centers operate within the Job Corps program, and are designed to conserve, develop, and manage public natural resources and public recreation areas.
According to the Forest Service, 1,200 students provided the equivalent of 450,000 hours of wildfire support during the height of the 2017 fire season. Students also contributed 14,000 hours to improve the health of forests by treating 35,000 acres of forest with prescribed fire, and completing 10,000 hours of forest restoration work. After Hurricane Harvey hurled into the Gulf Coast, students provided 5,000 hours of support to impacted communities.
A copy of the letter is available here.