Jun 22 2017
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Tom Udall (D-NM) this week reintroduced the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps of 2017, bipartisan legislation that would increase national service opportunities for America’s youth and returning veterans to protect, restore and enhance America’s great outdoors. This legislation would enable certain federal departments and land management agencies to more effectively work with youth and veterans corps to increase engagement, carry out important missions and provide youth with opportunities to gain in-demand skills and credentials to successfully prepare for the 21st century workforce. Congresswoman McSally (R-AZ) introduced the companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“In Arizona and across the country, young people are growing increasingly interested in service programs focused on enhancing our national parks and public lands,” said Senator McCain. “While more people each year are applying for service opportunities, they are being turned away – even though our federal agencies need their help to complete a growing backlog of critical projects. Our legislation would solve this problem by creating more opportunities for young people and returning veterans to serve their community while spending no additional taxpayer dollars.”
"This bipartisan bill will help us maintain our public lands and provide new opportunities for young people and veterans to gain meaningful job training in conservation,” said Senator Bennet. “In Colorado, our public lands are an important part of our state's identity and thriving outdoor economy. The legislation will make it easier for Conservation Corps to engage with federal agencies and develop the next generation of leaders to carry on our unique public lands legacy.”
“This legislation will provide job opportunities for young Americans and veterans and help to address the maintenance needs of our federal lands,” said Senator Alexander. “These conservation corps members will help to create an even greater American Outdoors.”
“This bipartisan bill will help inspire a new generation of conservation leaders to protect the precious lands and natural resources that make New Mexico and the United States so spectacular,” said Senator Udall. “By providing young people, Native American youth and returning veterans with job training, education, and rewarding community service opportunities, we will boost our economy while helping to restore and safeguard our environment for generations to come.”
“Arizona’s breathtaking scenic landscapes are renown throughout the country and the world— but our state also has one of the largest backlogs in park maintenance projects,” said Congresswoman McSally. “This backlog is restricting access for Arizonans and tourists at our parks and public areas. This isn’t a problem that money alone can fix, we need to think innovatively and pragmatically to address this growing problem. Our bipartisan bill leverages existing resources in a smarter way to get these projects moving. This would be a win for veterans, youth, local communities, and our national parks.”
This legislation is also supported by The Corps Network. "On behalf of the more than 200 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) programs across the country, The Corps Network and the Partnership for the 21CSC applaud the introduction of a new, bipartisan, bicameral 21CSC Act,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, CEO of The Corps Network and Chair of the Partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps. “We are deeply grateful to Senator McCain, Representative McSally, and all of the other original co-sponsors of this bill for championing the vision of the 21CSC. The 21CSC is a win-win: our public lands agencies can help address the maintenance backlog and meet their missions through cost-effective public-private partnerships; and young adults and veterans gain education and in-demand skills for the workforce and growing outdoor recreation, natural resource and restoration economies. We look forward to working with the congressional offices involved to see the bipartisan 21CSC Act signed in to law."
"Each year over 500 young people and veterans contribute over 250,000 service hours on the vast amounts of public lands in Arizona,” said Paul Schmidt, Executive Director of the Arizona Conservation Corps. “Veterans continue their service here at home by protecting communities from wildfire. Young people help reduce backlogged maintenance that challenges our well-loved public lands by working on trails and waterways in parks and forests statewide. There is a growing need for maintenance and protection of our public lands for the benefit of local economies and different user groups. There are also more young people wanting to contribute to this effort so increasing opportunities for young people to serve on public lands is critical. I sincerely thank Senator McCain for his commitment to young people and veterans and for his support of the 21 CSC Act.”
Currently, there is an extensive backlog of public lands projects that have not been completed by federal land agencies. At the same time, there is also a high demand for national service positions, with applications to existing national service corps consistently exceeding the number of available positions. This legislation aims to address both of these issues by authorizing federal departments and land management agencies to enter into cooperative agreements with 21CSC organizations to complete these important projects.
Participating agencies and departments include the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, Transportation, Labor, Energy, Defense, Veterans Affairs, Commerce, Education, Housing and Urban Development, the Corporation for National and Community Service, Army Corps of Engineers, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The legislation would encourage federal agencies to coordinate and identify ways to leverage existing resources and enlist the help of national service participants in the conservation corps to meet their missions. It would also require participating agencies to report their progress to the Government Accountability Office to avoid duplication and inefficiency, and to ensure their activities are being completed in a cost-efficient manner.
The legislation is here.