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The Corps Network Applauds House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands for Holding Hearing on 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) Act and Public Lands Service Corps (PLSC) Act
Testimony and comments provided by Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ), Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), Ranking Member Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) as well as Mary Ellen Sprenkel, CEO of The Corps Network and Kevin Heiner, Four Corners Regional Director for Southwest Conservation Corps.
WASHINGTON, DC (June 24, 2016) – The Corps Network thanks Chairman Tom McClintock (R-CA) of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands and Ranking Member Niki Tsongas (D-MA) for holding a hearing yesterday, June 23rd, on the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act (H.R. 5114) and Public Lands Service Corps Act (H.R. 2167).
The Corps Network also thanks Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) for introducing the 21CSC Act in the House and testifying on its behalf during the hearing. Additionally, The Corps Network thanks Ranking Member Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) for introduction of the PLSC Act and for speaking in favor of the legislation during the hearing.
This hearing was an important step towards passage of legislation that will help Corps engage more young people in service on public lands and help resource management agencies complete more work in a cost-efficient manner.
The 21CSC Act and PLSC Act would both allow for more effective formal partnerships between Conservation Corps and federal agencies with the goal of helping agencies meet their missions in a more cost-efficient manner. Both bills would also enable additional agencies, beyond the federal land management agencies that already engage Corps to complete priority work, to more easily enter into cooperative agreements with Corps. Specifically, the 21CSC Act would:
- Encourage federal agencies to collaborate, and require that they use only existing resources to work with 21CSC programs, meaning there would be no additional cost to tax-payers.
- Prioritize the engagement of recent veterans and disadvantaged youth in 21CSC programs.
- Allow military veterans up to age 35 to participate in 21CSC programs
- Establish standards for data collection and measuring the effectiveness of 21CSC programs.
- Provide two years of non-competitive hiring eligibility with federal agencies for young people and veterans who gain valuable skills through service in 21CSC programs.
The PLSC Act would:
- Permit NOAA to work with conservation corps on coastal and marine habitats
- Establish department level Corps / youth offices at DOI, USFS, NOAA
- Extend the noncompetitive hiring authority for Corpsmembers to two years
- Allow military veterans up to age 35 to participate in the Public Lands Corps program
- Establish an Indian Youth Service Corps so that Indian youth can carry out natural and cultural resource conservation projects on Indian lands
“Currently, the National Park Service has an $11.9 billion backlog of deferred maintenance projects. This backlog across our nation limits Americans’ access to their national parks, and we must do a better job leveraging existing resources to address this issue,” said Rep. McSally during her testimony before the Subcommitee. “The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act is a cost-effective solution to this problem…this would be a win for veterans, youth, local communities, and our national parks.”
“I introduced this piece of legislation along with Congresswoman McSally because, as you know, the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps is a unique program that leverages taxpayer dollars through public-private partnerships to improve our nation’s beautiful public lands,” said Rep. Moulton, providing testimony on the 21CSC Act. “This commonsense public policy allows the private sector to help solve a major public issue: the embarrassing backlog of maintenance on our public lands and forest trails. This is an important bill for many reasons. First and foremost, it is important because, at its core this bill is about affording Americans the opportunity to serve their country.”
“The Corps Network is extremely appreciative of Representatives McSally and Moulton for their leadership on the 21CSC Act, and of Ranking Member Grijalva for his leadership on the PLSC Act,” said CEO of The Corps Network Mary Ellen Sprenkel, following the hearing. “Conservation Corps offer solutions to many of America’s pressing issues: Corps train the next generation of public lands stewards and put young people to work, bringing benefits to local economies; they help returning veterans put their skills and passion for service to use in civilian life; they help resource management agencies care for our public lands and waters in a cost-efficient manner. Conservation Corps are a win-win-win for our youth, our veterans and our natural and historic treasures. We are encouraged to have strong, bi-partisan support of Conservation Corps in Congress.”
Kevin Heiner, a veteran of the United States Air Force who now manages a Veterans Fire Corps (VFC) program as the Four Corners Regional Director of Southwest Conservation Corps, also provided testimony during the hearing. Heiner specifically addressed the benefits of Corps programs for returning veterans.
“The combination of completing meaningful work, engaging in this work along with other Veterans focused on a common goal is what makes the VFC program so impactful,” testified Heiner. “It contains the mission, structure, camaraderie and sense of professional and personal purpose that is critical to helping current-era Veterans transition from a successful career in the military to a successful career back at home.”
The 21CSC Act was introduced in the House by Representatives McSally and Moulton in April 2016. The 21CSC Act was introduced in the United States Senate (S.1993) in August 2015 by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO). The PLSC Act was introduced in the House by Rep. Raul Grijalva in April 2015.
The 21CSC is a bold national initiative to annually engage 100,000 youth and veterans in service on America’s public lands by 2018. The 192 official 21CSC member organizations currently engage tens of thousands of young people every year in completing quality, cost-effective maintenance and improvement projects in city parks and on public and tribal lands and waters across the country. The programs of the 21CSC help address the backlogged maintenance needs of land and water management agencies; enhance outdoor recreation opportunities; improve the accessibility of public lands; and respond to wildfires and other natural disasters.
About The Corps Network
The Corps Network provides leadership and support to over 130 of America’s Service and Conservation Corps. Through advocacy, access to funding opportunities and expert guidance, The Corps Network annually enables over 24,000 Corpsmembers, ages 16-25, to strengthen communities, improve the environment and transform their lives through service.
To learn more about The Corps Network, please visit www.corpsnetwork.org.
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