USDA and partners are committed to providing work opportunities for young people while accomplishing critical infrastructure projects for the U.S. Forest Service.
USDA and partners committed $20 million to provide 4,000 work opportunities. The funding represents investments by USDA of $13 million and $7 million from partner organizations. Contributions by the Forest Service and partners are expected to reach $40 million by the end of 2017 and provide 11,000 work opportunities. Some funds are already placed with 21st Century Conservation Service Corps partnership agreements; other funds will continue to be obligated throughout the summer.
“The 21st Century Conservation Corps is not merely a summer jobs program,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “This is about nurturing our public lands as well as our veterans, youth and young adults through a variety of opportunities to develop leadership potential and professional and personal connections through work across many diverse landscapes.”
The work accomplished by participants will include hundreds of miles of trail maintenance and improvements, watershed protection, removal of vegetation as part of wildfire prevention, improvements to recreation facilities, and other essential work on lands managed by the Forest Service.
Since the program started in 2014, the Forest Service generated nearly 30,000 opportunities for youth and veterans to work on projects that benefit public lands. Corps partners provide hands-on service and job training while working with the Forest Service and other land management agencies to build America’s rural and urban economies, strengthen America’s infrastructure, and modernize the way government works.
Involving veterans in these opportunities helps them learn new skills while continuing to serve their nation and local communities. In FY2016, 910 veterans were engaged on Forest Service volunteerism and service projects, of which 170 participated in 21st Century Conservation Corps projects. In FY2017, the agency expects to hire 186 veterans.
About 20% of the 4,000 opportunities funded by this year’s commitment will be for Youth Conservation Corps jobs, a summer employment program on public lands that employ high school-aged youth. About 25% of the dedicated resources will support high-priority trail maintenance and improvements.
Projects will be on public lands in rural communities from coast to coast and will include diverse work experiences. Some examples among potentially hundreds of projects funded through this initiative include:
- Fishlake National Forest Accessibility Survey: Utah State University and Utah Conservation Corps Accessibility Crews will conduct accessibility surveys on Fishlake National Forest in Richfield, Utah. The project helps managers understand how the forest can improve access for people with varying ability levels and promote outdoor recreation and economic development.
- Green Mountain and Finger Lakes National Forests Youth Conservation Corps: The forest will host a residential crew of teenagers from the Lexington School for the Deaf to work on restoration projects and learn about wilderness practices in Vermont and New York. Residential programs make it possible for underserved youth from urban and rural communities who are not within commuting distance of a forest to experience natural and cultural resources work while earning at least minimum wage.
- Mt. Adams Veterans Wilderness, Suppression, and Outreach: Mt. Adams Institute will hire two veterans as rangers to make trail improvements, and conduct education and outreach with volunteers and others visitors to the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Washington State. Five VetsWork interns will support special uses and communication outreach projects on the Deschutes National Forest while another 20 veterans will be engaged through Mt. Adams as a Type 2 suppression crew through Mt. Adams GreenCorps program on the Umatilla National Forest. Mt. Adams Institute was recognized as a recipient of the 2015 National Volunteers & Service Annual Awards program for expanding engagement of veterans on agency lands.
- Soldier for Life – Transition Assistance Program: Four current-era veterans from Joint Base Lewis-McChord will work as wilderness rangers on the Willamette and Deschutes National Forests in Oregon for three months. Veterans earn a living wage as part of the assistance program.
- Trail Work Along the Appalachian: Groundwork USA and Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Conservation Leadership Corps will jointly field a crew of six participants and two crew leaders to work on segments of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia and North Carolina. This project is part of renewed Forest Service efforts to address backlogged maintenance work on historical trails across the country.