March 19, 2021

Neguse, Wyden Ask President Biden to Prioritize Support for Conservation Corps in FY22 Budget and Build Back Better Infrastructure Package

Washington D.C.— Today, Congressman Joe Neguse, Chair of the U.S. House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, and Senator Ron Wyden, a Senior Member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, sent a letter to President Joe Biden, requesting that funds for a Civilian Climate Corps be included in the FY2022 budget and that their joint legislative effort, the 21st Century Conservation Corps Act, be included in the upcoming Build Back Better infrastructure plan. Neguse and Wyden unveiled their 21st Century Conservation Corps Act earlier this year, a plan which would create a reimagined civilian conservation corps, make major investments in wildfire mitigation and provide economic stimulus for the outdoor recreation industry. 

As the country works to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the establishment of a 21st Century Conservation Corps would create hundreds of thousands of jobs and put Americans back to work in natural resource management. 

“As we work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis, job creation and climate action must be prioritized. In our historic reimagined 21st Century Conservation Corps proposal, we can accomplish both, by putting a new generation of Americans back to work conserving our public lands and restoring our forests,” said Congressman Joe Neguse. “By taking a page out of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s successful playbook and revitalizing this popular program born out of the New Deal, we can put our environment, our economy and our future at the forefront. We’ve been so heartened to see President Biden’s eagerness to establish a climate conservation corps, and look forward to making this innovative initiative the law of the land.”

“From day one, the Biden-Harris administration has put job creation and climate action at the forefront of its agenda to help American families and build back better. Our 21st century Civilian Conservation Corps would support those efforts and create the workforce needed in Oregon and nationwide to restore our public lands and mitigate the wildfires devastating the West,” Senator Wyden said. “Putting people to work and climate action go hand in hand. Now, let's deliver for the American people.”

“Providing access and opportunity to young adults at a critical stage in their lives through the vehicles of service, conservation, and education is the hallmark of youth and conservation corps’ across the country,” said Brigid McRaith, CEO of Mile High Youth Corps. “Mile High Youth Corps has been providing young adults with workforce development for 30 years, helping to transform communities and the environment through meaningful service across 23 counties in Colorado.  There is no better time to mobilize young people to help meet the backlog of land maintenance projects and mitigate wildfire risk, and Corps are ready to do just that.” 

“Every year, America’s Public Lands Corps proudly partner with federal resource management agencies to assist in the maintenance of our natural and cultural resources. These partnerships are mutually beneficial, helping our country address priority projects on public lands and introduce a diverse generation of young Americans to conservation and preservation work,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO of the Corps Network. “We thank Rep. Neguse and Sen. Wyden for their support of the existing network of Corps programs and appreciate this request, which would offer an important first step in launching the Civilian Climate Corps initiative.”

“Given the devastating events of 2020, we believe that our nation has a unique opportunity to not only repair our public health and economy, but to also restore our environment. Throughout the previous year, our home states of Colorado and Oregon have been severely impacted by both a devastating pandemic and a historic wildfire season,” reads the letter from Neguse and Wyden. “In Colorado, the three largest fires in state history all burned in 2020, costing the state over $200 million in suppression alone. In Oregon, climate-driven wildfires burned over 1.2 million acres across the state, destroying hundreds of homes and businesses.  

Read the full letter here.

Specifically the 21st Century Conservation Corps Act: 

  • Establishes a $9 billion fund for qualified land and conservation corps to increase job training and hiring specifically for jobs in our nation’s forests, helping to restore public lands and provide jobs in a time of need;
  • Provides an additional $500 million for Tribal drinking water infrastructure repairs, prioritizing Tribal communities that have decrepit and underfunded drinking water systems causing health and safety emergencies;
  • Provides $2 billion for the National Fire Capacity program, which helps the Forest Service implement FireWise, to prevent, mitigate, and respond to wildfire around homes and businesses on private land;
  • Provides $2 billion for the FEMA Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program to improve resiliency for communities impacted by wildfire;
  • Provides $6 billion for U.S. Forest Service, $6 billion for the National Park Service, and $2 billion for the Bureau of Land Management maintenance accounts to create jobs, reduce the maintenance backlog, and expand access to recreation;
  • Provides an additional $3.5 billion for the U.S. Forest Service and $2 billion for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to support science-based projects aimed at improving forest health and reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire;
  • Provides $3.5 billion for reforestation projects on a combination of federal, state, local, tribal and NGO lands, with over one hundred million trees to be planted in urban areas across America by 2030;   
  • Increases access to public lands through expanding and investing in programs like Every Kid Outdoors and the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership;
  • Supports voluntary climate stewardship practices on over 100 million acres of farmland by providing supplemental funding for USDA working lands conservation programs; and
  • Helps restore and improve rangeland health by providing an additional $150 million for the North American Waterfowl Management and Joint Ventures program and $150 million for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Partners for Fish and Wildlife.

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