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June 22, 2017

Bennet, Bipartisan Group Reintroduce Bill to Expand National Service Opportunities for Youth & Veterans

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), John McCain (R-AZ), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) this week introduced the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps of 2017, bipartisan legislation that would increase national service opportunities for America's youth and returning veterans to protect, restore, and enhance America's great outdoors.

"This bipartisan bill will help us maintain our public lands and provide new opportunities for young people and veterans to gain meaningful job training in conservation," Bennet said. "In Colorado, our public lands are an important part of our state's identity and thriving outdoor economy. The legislation will make it easier for Conservation Corps to engage with federal agencies and develop the next generation of leaders to carry on our unique public lands legacy."

21st Century Conservation Service Corps Background

Currently, there is an extensive backlog of public lands projects that have not been completed by federal land agencies. At the same time, there is also a high demand for national service positions, with applications to existing national service corps consistently exceeding the number of available positions. This legislation aims to address both of these issues by authorizing federal agencies to enter into cooperative agreements with 21CSC organizations to complete these important projects.

Specifically, the bill would enable certain federal departments and land management agencies to work more effectively with youth and veterans Corps to increase engagement, carry out important missions, and provide in-demand skills training and credentials to prepare for the 21st century workforce. It also requires participating agencies to report their progress to the Government Accountability Office to avoid duplication and inefficiency, and to ensure their activities are being completed in a cost-efficient manner.

Participating agencies and departments include the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, Transportation, Labor, Energy, Defense, Veterans Affairs and Commerce, the EPA, Council on Environmental Quality, and Corporation for National and Community Service.

Congresswoman McSally (R-AZ) also introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

This legislation is also supported by Conservation Legacy and The Corps Network.

"The 21 CSC Act will make it easier for thousands of Colorado's young people and returning veterans to complete critical projects conserving and improving Colorado's unique and vital natural assets," said Amy Sovocool, Co-CEO of Conservation Legacy and Co-Chair of the Partnership for the 21 CSC. "Each year more than 1,600 young people and veterans serve in Colorado's conservation crops building and maintaining trails, protecting communities from wildfire and improving recreation access critical for local economies. Through public-private partnership, public lands and waters are improved in public places from the Weminuche Wilderness to Colorado's magnificent 14ers to community parks in Denver, Boulder and other places on the Front Range . We greatly appreciate Senator Bennet's leadership to engage young people and veterans on projects with a common purpose of strengthening and maintaining our treasured public lands."

"On behalf of the more than 200 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) programs across the country, The Corps Network and the Partnership for the 21CSC applaud the introduction of a new, bipartisan, bicameral 21CSC Act," said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, CEO of The Corps Network and Chair of the Partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps. "We are deeply grateful to Senator McCain, Representative McSally, and all of the other original co-sponsors of this bill for championing the vision of the 21CSC. The 21CSC is a win-win: our public lands agencies can help address the maintenance backlog and meet their missions through cost-effective public-private partnerships; and young adults and veterans gain education and in-demand skills for the workforce and growing outdoor recreation, natural resource and restoration economies. We look forward to working with the congressional offices involved to see the bipartisan 21CSC Act signed in to law."

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