Democratic News

Bipartisan legislation introduced today by Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) aims to help repair and restore our nation’s public lands while employing and training thousands of young Americans and promoting a culture of public service. A companion bill, H.R. 1612, already is advancing in the House of Representatives.

The Public Lands Service Corps Act of 2009 would expand an existing program, the Public Lands Corps, by modernizing the scope of projects to reflect new challenges, such as climate change, adding incentives to attract new participants, especially from underrepresented populations, and paving the way for new funding.  The Public Lands Corps, established in 1993, is an Interior Department and Forest Service program which provides community service, training and education opportunities for youth to carry out critical conservation projects and maintenance work in national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, historic sites and Indian lands.

Sen. Bingaman:   “This bill that Senator Snowe and I have worked together on will allow a new generation of young Americans to engage in meaningful work restoring our parks, forests and other public lands.  It will create educational and professional development opportunities for our youth to pursue careers in conservation and resource management while stimulating regional economies and providing communities with improvements in forest health, watersheds, flood control, fire protection and overall community safety.”
Sen. Snowe:  “The Public Service Lands Corps legislation builds on the proud tradition of public service towards our natural, cultural and historic resources.  The state of our National Parks and Wildlife Refuges are a testament to the volunteers who tirelessly work to protect these natural jewels for future generations.  I am proud to be a part of this initiative to build on this program and I applaud the leadership of Chairman Bingaman.”

The Public Lands Service Corps Act of 2009 would amend the Public Lands Corps Act of 1993 to rename the corps as the “Public Lands Service Corps,” and it would improve the authority of the Interior and Agriculture Departments (including such agencies as the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service) to manage the program.  The bill also adds authority for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to participate in the program; with this new authority, NOAA will be able to offer Corps members a chance to work on restoring coastal and marine ecosystems along our oceans and the Great Lakes.

The bill will ensure that, during their service term, participants receive adequate training for the work they have been assigned, including agency-specific standards, principles and practices. Language to ensure adequate housing, authorize participants in existing volunteer programs to contribute both as mentors and on Corps projects, expand the program for college and graduate students, and broaden preferential hire provisions is also included.     Age range for the program is 16-25, and participants may serve either in crews or as individuals.

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