Bennet, McCain Introduce Bill to Expand National Service Opportunities for American Youth

Washington, DC - U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and John McCain (R-AZ) today introduced the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) Act of 2015, a bill that would increase civilian national service opportunities and put America's youth and returning veterans to work protecting, restoring, and enhancing America's great outdoors. The bill would enable certain federal departments and land management agencies to more effectively work with youth service organizations to carry out their important missions, and it would do this in a cost-efficient way without creating any new federal spending of taxpayer dollars.

"Colorado's public lands are an important part of our state's heritage that also help drive our outdoor recreation economy," said Senator Bennet. "This bill will help us maintain these treasures and create new opportunities for young people and veterans who are eager to serve and learn more about conservation of these lands."

"In Arizona and around the country, young people in 21CSC organizations are providing valuable service to our national parks, public and tribal lands and waters, and countless other important areas," said Senator McCain. "From constructing new park trails to taking part in wildfire prevention, these young people are sacrificing their time and energy, and developing critical leadership skills that are needed to be competitive in the 21st century economy. But while more and more young people each year are applying for service opportunities, they are being turned away - even as our federal agencies could use their help to complete a growing backlog of critical projects. Our legislation would solve this problem by creating more opportunities for our young people to serve, while spending no additional taxpayer dollars."

"The 21CSC Act will make it easier for thousands of Colorado's young people and returning veterans to complete mission critical conservation projects protecting, restoring and enhancing Colorado's treasured public lands," said Harry Bruell, president & CEO of Conservation Legacy and Co-Chair of the Partnership for 21 CSC. "Each year more than 1,400 young people and Veterans serve in Colorado's conservation corps building and maintaining trails, protecting communities from wildfire, and restoring and conserving 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 Colorado's young people and veterans in stewarding our state's treasures."

General Stanley McChrystal, Chair of the Franklin Project, an initiative at the Aspen Institute focused on national service, also applauded this legislation:

"We applaud the bipartisan leadership of Senator McCain and Senator Bennet to make more national service opportunities available to our young people and veterans to conserve our public lands," said General McChrystal. "The last time our nation had military and civilian leaders working side by side in national service was when George C. Marshall organized Civilian Conservation Corps camps in the 1930s, the largest national service experiment in our country's history. With the goal of engaging 100,000 Americans in serving their nation, the 21st Conservation Service Corps can be a strong step toward the Franklin Project's mission of providing 1 million service year opportunities to young Americans to help heal our broken citizenship and strengthen our nation."

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 bill aims to address both of these issues by authorizing federal departments and land management agencies to enter into cooperative agreements with 21CSC organizations to complete these important projects.

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.

The bill encourages federal agencies to coordinate to identify ways to leverage existing resources and enlist the help of national service participants in the conservation corps to meet their missions. 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.

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