As National Get Outdoors Month begins, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Forest Service and partners have invested more than $11 million to support work and training opportunities for more than 1,500 youth and veterans on national forests and grasslands in fiscal year 2016. The funds support the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC), a public-private initiative to connect America's youth and veterans with job opportunities that conserve and sustain our natural and cultural resources.
"The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps experience transforms the lives of our veterans and youth, allowing them to connect to the great outdoors and become part of the next generation of natural and cultural resource conservationists," said Vilsack. "This public-private collaboration provides participants with new skills and inspires and connects them to the forests and communities in which they work."
Over the last two years, the Forest Service has engaged 20,000 youth and veterans through partnerships with 21CSC member organizations and other institutions. This year participants will focus on more than 120 priority projects across the country working on a range of issues from restoration, hazardous fuels management and watershed protection to trails and facilities maintenance while helping to develop the next generation of conservation stewards and the agency's workforce.
"The 21CSC program allows our youth and veterans to gain the personal and professional skills they need to build their conservation careers while protecting, restoring and enhancing some of the country's most treasured public lands," said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "These partnerships and the people who make them work are building a bright future for conservation in America."
The Forest Service and partners make investments in 21CSC throughout the year. Today's announcement includes national and regional Forest Service investments of $6.5 million with additional partner investments of $3.7 million in funding. The National Forest Foundation has also leveraged an additional $1.5 million for 21CSC projects so far in 2016. Last month the Department of the Interior, USDA, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced $3.16 million in 21CSC funding to put young people to work on 60 additional projects.
Opportunities for hands-on service include:
-Washington - Through the Mt. Adams Institute, a crew of 20 veterans will serve for 12 weeks as a Type 2 suppression hand crew on the Umatilla National Forest in the Pacific Northwest. Now in its third year, the Forest Service has hired past participants of this highly successful program as firefighters.
-Oregon - A partnership between the Ochoco National Forest, Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council and Heart of Oregon Corps will provide opportunities for 48 youth from the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs to serve on YCC crews in Warm Springs to learn about managing these lands.
-Minnesota - The Superior National Forest in Minnesota is partnering with the Northern Bedrock Conservation Corps to hire 15 youth to perform structural maintenance and rehabilitation on six buildings built by the 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps, the inspiration for the 21CSC. Youth will receive hands-on skills training, including carpentry and masonry.
-Colorado - On the White River National Forest in Colorado, more than a dozen Rocky Mountain Youth Corps members will make improvements to motorized and non-motorized recreational trails through 17 crew weeks of focused stewardship work to benefit the Forest's heavily visited trail systems.