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Backlash Grows In Congress Over Planned Job Corps Closures

Screen capture from the Anaconda Job Corps website, May 28, 2019.
Greeting on the road into the Anaconda Job Corps

Backlash is broadening in Congress against a plan to close or transfer management of Forest Service Civilian Conservation Centers, including two in Montana. 

A bipartisan coalition of 51 members of Congress signed a letter Wednesday asking the secretaries of Labor and Agriculture to reverse a decision to shutter nine Forest Service Job Corps across the country, including a site in Anaconda. The Job Corps program is dedicated to disaster preparedness and training for at-risk youth.

The May 24 announcement also said 16 other Job Corps would be privatized or transferred to labor department management, including the Trapper Creek Job Corps in Darby.

In addition to job training for at-risk youth, Job Corps provide support during natural disasters. In 2017, students provided more than 450,000 hours of wildfire response, according to the letter. Millions of federal dollars dedicated to that wildfire training and equipment were frozen after last month’s decision, according to the Yakima-Herald. But those funds were released Tuesday morning.

Signatories on the letter Wednesday include all of Montana’s congressional delegation, a group of Democrats from states unaffected by the announcement, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and Republicans from affected states including Washington, Colorado, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Utah.

The letter also said Job Corps provide training and education to more than 4,000 students in rural areas and employ 1,100 staff across the country. Many of the Forest Service Job Corps programs are top-ranked among more than 100 total Job Corps for measures like post-graduation employment.

On Monday, Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines announced President Trump had told him he would reverse the shutdown of the Anaconda Job Corps — the fate of the 24 other corps remains murky.

Then, on Tuesday, Democrat Jon Tester introduced legislation that would prevent the closure and transfers of all the corps. Daines signed on as a co-sponsor to that bill.

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