Washington, D.C. – In order to help repair and restore our nation’s public lands while employing and training thousands of young Americans and promoting a culture of public service, U.S. Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Nick J. Rahall (D-WV) introduced the Public Lands Service Corps Act of 2009 (H.R. 1612).
This legislation would expand and reinvigorate an existing program, the Public Lands Corps, by modernizing the scope of corps projects to reflect new challenges, such as climate change, adding incentives to attract new participants, especially from underrepresented populations, and paving the way for increased funding.
“This legislation takes a decisive step forward in finishing work that is desperately needed on our national park lands, forests, wildlife refuges, historic sites and Indian lands. Though the Public Lands Corps was established in 1993 to address massive backlogs of vital maintenance work, years of inadequate funding have prevented agencies from completing this work. As a result, natural and cultural resources have been neglected and our infrastructure has continued to crumble. I am proud to sponsor a bill that not only helps us to restore our public lands, but helps us to train the next generation of public land managers and enthusiasts,” said Grijalva, Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.
“Even in times of crisis, there are opportunities. The legislation Chairman Grijalva and I are introducing today takes advantage of an opportunity to provide meaningful employment and training to young people who need it, while also improving the condition of our priceless natural and cultural resources,” said Rahall, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.
The Student Conservation Association (SCA) supports this legislation, saying it “ensures opportunity for young Americans of all backgrounds to serve our nation’s public lands while completing critical conservation projects, as well as it funnels critical resources to public lands agencies and creates a pool of trained and knowledgeable future employees and citizen stewards”.
Sally Prouty, President of The Corps Network, applauded Reps. Rahall and Grijalva for their initiative. “Service and Conservation Corps utilize the Public Lands Corps program to carry out important projects on public lands while, at the same time, providing diverse and disadvantaged young people with opportunities to pursue careers in conservation and resource management. This bill will enable the Corps to accomplish significantly more work and engage thousands of additional young people.”
The Public Lands Service Corps Act of 2009 would amend the Public Lands Corps Act of 1993 to expand the authority of the Interior and Agriculture Departments (including such agencies as the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service). The bill also adds authority for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to participate in the program; with this new authority, NOAA will be able to offer Corps members a chance to work on restoring coastal and marine ecosystems along our oceans and the Great Lakes.
The bill will ensure that, during their service term, participants receive adequate training for the work they have been assigned, including agency-specific standards, principles and practices. Language to ensure adequate housing, authorize participants in existing volunteer programs to contribute both as mentors and on Corps projects, expand the program for college and graduate students, and broaden preferential hire provisions is also included.
The bill would rename the corps as the “Public Lands Service Corps” and remove the $12 million authorization ceiling, which would lead to increased funding for this excellent program.