Last Thursday, Rep. Kilmer joined in introducing legislation to provide financial relief to struggling outdoor recreation industries and make historic investments in Conservation Corps and Public Lands Service Organizations.
The 21st Century Conservation Corps for Our Health and Our Jobs Act, introduced by Kilmer and Reps. Joe Neguse (CO-02), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), and Deb Haaland (NM-01), provides critical funds to support the natural resource management and conservation workforce that underpins the health of our public lands. Additionally, the legislation bolsters wildfire prevention and preparedness to protect the health and safety of communities during the unparalleled combination of threats posed by wildfire season and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As someone who grew up on the Olympic Peninsula, I’m committed to doing everything we can to grow jobs and opportunity in rural communities. Making investments to support our public lands and to grow jobs in outdoor recreation is a win-win for regions like ours,” said Rep. Kilmer. “The 21st Century Conservation Corps for Our Health and Our Jobs Act will grow opportunities in our region by providing targeted relief for outfitters and guides to stay afloat during the shortened recreation season and by creating new jobs focused on enhancing access to our public lands. I’m proud to support it.”
“In Colorado, access to public lands and outdoor recreation are at the core of our economy, driving main street tourism, our recreation industry and our way of life. Therefore, recovery from COVID-19 must prioritize our public lands, our economy and the health of our communities. My plan does this by stimulating our outdoor recreation economy, employing hundreds of thousands of Americans to complete conservation projects, investing in programs that will lower the risk of catastrophic wildfire, and importantly, equipping our firefighters and first responders to stay healthy through wildfire season,” said Rep. Neguse. “We must ensure that we are investing in our mountain economies, our small businesses, and that climate action is not set aside as we fight for a future after the pandemic.”
The impacts of COVID-19 on public health and the economy, combined with high levels of drought throughout the West, create unprecedented wildland firefighting challenges in 2020. Those at increased risk for adverse health effects due to wildfire smoke exposure – people who suffer from heart or respiratory diseases – are also particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. The crisis also quickly brought the outdoor economy to a halt. Many forest workers, despite their essential work, were laid off and others, like outfitters and guides who rely on tourism and outdoor recreation, are unable to work during their busy season.
The 21st Century Conservation Corps for Our Health and Our Jobs Act will provide significant investment in wildfire prevention and resiliency efforts; programs that can get rural Americans back to work when it’s deemed safe by public health experts to do so; direct relief for outfitters and guides; as well as extensive resources to support public lands restoration. The legislation:
- Establishes a $9 billion fund for qualified land and conservation corps to increase job training and hiring, helping to restore public lands and watersheds, while providing important public health related jobs in this time of need;
- Establishes a $7 billion relief fund to help outfitters and guides who hold U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Department of the Interior special use permits – and their employees – stay afloat through the truncated recreation season;
- Provides $6 billion for U.S. Forest Service and $6 billion for the National Park Service maintenance accounts to both create jobs and reduce the maintenance backlog on National Forest System and National Park System lands;
- Provides $4 billion in National Forest Funding to make needed investments in landscape-scale restoration projects to improve forest health and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire;
- Provides $600 million for the Forest Service State and Private Forestry program, including $200 million for programs such as Firewise which helps local governments plan for and reduce wildfire risks;
- Provides $100 million for land management agencies to purchase and provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to their employees, contractors and service workers;
- Increases access to public lands through expanding and investing in programs like Every Kid Outdoors and the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership; and
- Provides temporary fee waivers for ski areas and public land use permit holders to aid in economic recovery.
The 21st Century Conservation Corps for Our Health and Our Jobs Act is sponsored by Senator Ron Wyden in the Senate.
Support for 21st Century Conservation Corps for Our Health and Our Jobs Act:
Lise Aangeenbrug, Executive Director of the Outdoor Industry Association: “The outdoor industry supports Congressman Neguse’s 21st Century Conservation Corps for Our Health and Our Jobs Act. Investment in the outdoor recreation economy will create jobs, expand access to recreation for all and support a sustained economic recovery in communities affected by the ongoing impacts of the pandemic.”
John Gale, Conservation Director for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: “On behalf of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and as a constituent from Pine, Colorado, I applaud Rep. Neguse for introducing the 21st Century Conservation Corps for Our Jobs and Our Health Act. By putting people back to work with shovel-ready projects and addressing the improved management of our forests and watersheds, we not only create healthier wildlife habitats; we also safeguard water resources, reduce hazardous fuel loads to protect our communities, and enhance restoration efforts by leveraging private and public investments in forest health.”
Laura Forero, Legislative Representative, League of Conservation Voters: “We thank Representative Joe Neguse for his efforts to invest in rural communities who depend on safe, healthy forests and our public lands. In light of the catastrophic wildfires of the past year as well as the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on rural economies, this comprehensive piece of legislation provides crucial investments for wildfire resiliency, supports workers affected by forest closures due to wildfires and COVID-19, and invests in the creation of green jobs in our public lands. We’re glad this bill also funds urban and tribal forestry programs and invests in the younger generation by increasing funds for the Every Kid Outdoors Program.”
Kirin Kennedy, Deputy Legislative Director for the Sierra Club: “This bill provides urgently needed funds to protect workers, support the outdoor recreation economy and increase employment opportunities, while restoring parks and public lands, reducing maintenance backlogs and helping create fire-smart communities. It will provide immediate relief while setting up sustained recovery for both our economy and our outdoor spaces.”
Diane Regas, President and CEO of The Trust for Public Land: “A historic, one-time investment in local parks would stimulate the creation of thousands of jobs and economic activity, expand park access for the one-in-three Americans who do not have a close-to-home park, while creating and improving parks in the neighborhoods where they are needed most and are disproportionally impacted by the pandemic. I’m grateful for Rep. Neguse’s leadership, and pleased that a wide ranging group of advocates and non-profit organizations are coming together to support universal access to quality, close-to-home parks.”
Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO, The Corps Network: “During the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt said that ‘no country, however rich, can afford the waste of its human resources.’ His response was to put Americans to work through popular and successful programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps. In response to this current crisis, a bold investment in Youth and Conservation Corps would offer a solution to rising youth unemployment. In times of economic crisis, our young people, especially those living in underserved communities, are often overlooked. By prioritizing national service as a means of engagement, we can improve our public lands and communities while providing young people with training and supportive services to help them achieve a bright future. We extend our appreciation to Representative Neguse and Representative Huffman for championing the critical role that Corps can play in helping our country through these unprecedented times.”