COLUMN: Caring for the Land and Serving People

June 3, 2019
Weekly Column and Op-Ed

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) motto is, “Caring for the land and serving people.” That is exactly what the students of USFS Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers do.

With 25 locations across the country, these Civilian Conservation Centers (CCCs) provide skills and job training to “at-risk” young people who need a hand up to find gainful employment or receive their high school GED. Students are taught real skills they use to serve and bring economic prosperity to their local communities and our national forests. Central Washington is lucky to be home to two Centers: Fort Simcoe CCC in White Swan and Columbia Basin CCC in Moses Lake.

The U.S. Forest Service has the responsibility of maintaining our public lands, actively managing our forests, and helping restore communities affected by wildfires. They are uniquely qualified to teach conservation efforts and the specialized skills that are required to prevent and mitigate the risk of catastrophic wildfires we face each summer, which they pass along to students in these Job Corps programs.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced that the operations of USFS Job Corps CCCs would be transferred to the Department of Labor (DOL). USDA’s proposal also included the deactivation of nine Centers in rural districts across the country, including Fort Simcoe. 

This is unacceptable. The Trump Administration has promised to revitalize and bring prosperity to rural America, but this USDA decision is a betrayal of that commitment. I have visited both Fort Simcoe and Columbia Basin CCCs, learned about their training programs, met with the students, and spoke at graduation ceremonies. These students deserve our investment.

Fort Simcoe CCC is located on the Yakama Nation reservation in White Swan, where higher education is often seen as a pipe dream and job opportunities are traditionally limited. Students who enroll in Job Corps gain valuable skills and contribute to community projects that give them a sense of pride and value. Shutting down this Center is simply not an option.

While the ownership and operation of Columbia Basin CCC is slated to be contracted through DOL, this provides absolutely no certainty about the future of the program. My staff attended a community meeting in Moses Lake to discuss the potential outcomes of the proposal for Moses Lake. Surrounded by concerned parents, members of the community, and the fifty Job Corps students who had just completed their fire maintenance training, it was even more clear that this program has a huge impact on Central Washington.

I am working with a bipartisan group of Members in Congress to pursue legislative action against this proposal and keep USFS Job Corps CCC caring for the land and serving the people of the communities that need them most.  

It is also important that local voices are heard on this issue. You can submit public comments on the proposal to deactivate the Fort Simcoe CCC at