USDA abandoning oversight of forest Job Corps ‘misguided,’ say Washington state GOP members

U.S. Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA) expressed anger with a decision by the U.S. Department of Agricultureto withdraw from operating the Forest Service Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers (CCCs) in rural areas for at-risk youth.

“This misguided decision is a betrayal of the administration’s commitment to bring prosperity to rural America and the rural communities of Washington state,” Reps. McMorris Rodgers and Newhouse said in a joint statement released on May 28.

The nation’s 25 Job Corps CCCs provide youth with technical training on how to conserve, develop and manage public natural resources and public recreation areas and teach them how to respond to natural disasters.

USDA’s decision to transfer operations of the Job Corps CCCs to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) will target nine of the 25 centers for closure and deactivation, including Fort Simcoe in White Swan, Wash., which is one of three in the state, according to the DOL.

“This decision will not make the government more efficient — it will only do damage to our rural communities and the national forests these students serve,” the lawmakers said.

The majority of CCC operations will be replaced by new contract operators or a partnership overseen by the DOL, which said “centers with new operators will implement new policies and approaches that will offer students the skills they need to earn an independent living and succeed in meaningful in-demand jobs.”

The CCCs operate in 17 national forests and grasslands across 16 states and train more than 4,000 youth yearly, providing support to the U.S. Forest Service, as well as job training and economic opportunity in rural areas.

“We pledge to pursue every possible legislative effort to keep these centers open and operating,” Reps. Newhouse and McMorris Rodgers said on Tuesday.