Merkley, Wyden, Bipartisan Senate Colleagues Team Up to Protect Civilian Conservation Corps from Closure

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden are teaming up with a bipartisan group of Senate colleagues to protect the country’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) centers from closure, introducing bipartisan legislation to prevent the removal of funds from these critical programs. CCC centers in Oregon provide job training to youth and young adults and provide critical wildfire prevention and response services.

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) employees 126 people at Oregon’s three CCCs. Between 2016 and 2018, 923 students from these centers provided 118,491 hours of fire support in the region.

The Job Corps Protection Act blocks the Administration from using federal funds in 2019 or 2020 to close any Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers in the United States. The bill will also prohibit any federal government agency from making changes to agreements that operate Job Corps facilities—preventing them from being transferred out of the USFS.

Merkley and Wyden were joined by U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wa.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).

“We must reverse the Trump Administration’s reckless decision to undercut Civilian Conservation Centers,” Merkley said. “In Oregon, these facilities not only make our communities safer by reducing the risk of wildfires, but also provide valuable job training for at-risk youth in rural areas. We should be supporting these centers, not jeopardizing public health and eliminating meaningful job opportunities by closing or privatizing them.”

“These programs have a proven track record of helping young Oregonians get the job training they need to succeed while supporting essential management of our treasured public lands and wildfire prevention,” Wyden said. “Keeping Job Corps up and running for future generations shouldn’t be controversial. Congress should act and stop the dangerous efforts of this administration to undermine the program’s success.”

On May 24, 2019, the USDA suddenly announced the closure or alteration of all 25 CCCs—without the consultation, notification, or approval of Congress. These centers are an important part of Forest Service culture and currently employ 1,100 people, operate in 17 national forests and grasslands across 16 states, and provide training to over 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.

Merkley on Wednesday led a bipartisan, bicameral group of 18 senators—including Wyden—and 33 representatives in pushing USDA Sec. Perdue and DOL Sec. Acosta to reverse their decision to shut down CCCs and end the program in its current form.

Last year, the Senate Appropriations Committee, on which Merkley serves, passed legislation that invested $1.7 billion in Job Corps programs across the country.