Newhouse, Merkley announce USDA won’t transfer Forest Service Job Corps centers | TSLN.com

Newhouse, Merkley announce USDA won’t transfer Forest Service Job Corps centers

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., announced today that the Agriculture Department has agreed not to transfer operations of U.S. Forest Service Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers (CCCs) to the Labor Department or close the nine of 25 CCCs that were included in a May 24 proposal.

In a news release, Newhouse noted that on June 4 the House Appropriations Committee adopted his amendment to the fiscal year 2020 Agriculture appropriations bill prohibiting funds from being used for the transfer or the closures.

He also noted that on June 4, he, Reps. Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader, both Oregon Democrats, and Merkley led a bipartisan, bicameral letter signed by 18 senators and 33 representatives to USDA and DOL, pushing them to reverse their decision and request additional information.

Finally, Newhouse said that on June 12 he and DeFazio offered an amendment to the FY2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill to prohibit funds being used to transfer the centers.

Merkley noted in a release that he had co-led legislation with Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., to require the administration to keep the centers open.

“It is with great pride that I announce the decision has been reversed,” Newhouse said in a release.

“Thank you, Secretary Perdue, for listening to the concerns of Central Washington communities and for preserving the unique and important role these centers play in rural communities. Hearing the success stories from CCCs in White Swan and Moses Lake have reaffirmed my belief that these programs — and these students — deserve our investment. I look forward to witnessing their future successes as they continue to carry out the U.S. Forest Service motto, ‘Caring for the land and serving people,’ in Central Washington and across the country.”

Merkley said, “Today’s news is a huge victory for the people of Oregon and for rural communities across the country. CCCs play an invaluable role not only in providing job training for young adults who come from low-income and at-risk backgrounds, but are also critical to protecting our communities from wildfire.”

“In Oregon alone, CCC students have provided hundreds of thousands of hours of support fighting wildfires and making our forests more resilient to fire,” Merkley said. “At a time when the West has faced devastating, back-to-back fire seasons, dismantling the CCCs was a reckless and wrong-headed decision.”

USDA and DOL confirmed the decision not to move forward in a joint email, Politico reported.

“For the time being, USDA does not intend to transfer these centers to DOL to allow management to determine a pathway that will maximize opportunity and results for students, minimize disruptions, and improve overall performance and integrity,” the USDA and DOL spokespersons said in the statement.

“DOL and USDA will conduct a robust organizational review to determine the appropriate course of action keeping in mind the [Forest Service] mission, the students we serve, and the American taxpayers.”

–The Hagstrom Report