U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) today announced that U.S. Forest Service vocation training programs for disadvantaged youth will not be shut down.
That means nine Civilian Conservation Centers across the nation, including one in Estacada, Ore. will continue to teach students wildfire management and rural job skills. And, remaining CCCs that didn't face closure but would have stopped accepting students, had they been taken over by the U.S. Department of Labor, will remain under the control of the U.S. Forest Service.
Merkley, who serves on the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, has been aggressively lobbying the Trump Administration to keep CCCs open.
Sara Hottman, Merkley's spokesperson, says the senator called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a few days ago to pitch an idea for a bill to block the closures and to "make sure the pressure was intense."
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) to prohibit the feds from pulling funding from Job Corps centers for the rest of the fiscal year.
Today, Merkley said in a statement that pressure from Oregon lawmakers was successful. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue called Merkley this afternoon to inform him of a reversal in the feds' decision—meaning the vocation training centers will stay open and under Forest Service control.
"Today's news is a huge victory for the people of Oregon and for rural communities across the country," Merkley said in a statement. "In Oregon alone, CCC students have provided hundreds of thousands of hours of support fighting wildfires and making our forests more resilient to fire. At a time when the West has faced devastating, back-to-back fire seasons, dismantling the CCCs was a reckless and wrong-headed decision."