The legislation would put New Mexicans back to work in conservation, make significant investments for wildfire resiliency, and provide an economic boost for New Mexico’s rural economies
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), the first AmeriCorps alum to serve in the Senate and a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, today unveiled legislation to expand national service programs to help address the historic COVID-19 joblessness crisis by establishing a 21st Century Conservation Corps.
“As a former natural resources AmeriCorps Member who worked primarily in rural New Mexico, I know firsthand the value of conservation work in rural communities,” Heinrich said. “National service members make a major difference by conserving our public lands, building resilient landscapes, and helping grow the outdoor economy, which was fueling some of the fastest job growth in rural communities before the onset of the pandemic. When he established the original Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt understood that a generation of out-of-work Americans were not without worth, but rather that they could leave an indelible mark on our country. We need to expand national service opportunities in this moment to provide a new generation of Americans with the opportunity to get back to work, leave their mark, and play a major role in our national recovery.”
The 21st Century Conservation Corps Act, originally introduced in July 2020, would provide critical funds to support a natural resource management and conservation workforce. The legislation would also bolster 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. The legislation also supports President Joe Biden's climate and economic agendas.
Senator Heinrich recently commended the Biden administration for signing an executive order, that mirrors legislation Senator Heinrich introduced last year to significantly expand national service programs, including initiating a Civilian Climate Corps to mobilize the next generation of conservation and resilience workers.
The impacts of COVID-19 on public health and the economy, combined with high levels of drought throughout the West, created 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 COVID-19 crisis has also quickly brought the outdoor economy to a halt – and with it lost jobs – as Americans are limiting travel.
The 21st Century Conservation Corps Act aims to address these challenges directly by investing in workforce training and jobs to support conservation programs and reforestation to restore our public lands; address deferred maintenance and expand recreation access on our public lands; provide direct relief for outfitters and guides; improve access to clean drinking water; and mitigate the risk of catastrophic wildfires.
Original cosponsors of the legislation, led by U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and U.S. Representative Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), include U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), and Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.).
A one-page summary of the bill is available here.
A section-by-section summary of the bill is available here.