U.S. SENATE—U.S. Senator Steve Daines introduced the bipartisan “Civilian Conservation Center Enhancement Act” to direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) to offer specialized training, specifically wildland firefighter training, to Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center students. This would create a pipeline for young Montanans to enter into careers fighting fires and caring for public lands.
“As Montana faces devastating wildfires season after season and the forestry sector continues to face labor shortages, we need to be doing everything we can to ensure we have an experienced team of wildland firefighters to protect our local communities,” Daines said. “Investing in our Montana Job Corps Centers to help train and prepare young Montanans to enter this field is a great way to do that. By supporting these centers, expanding their forestry curriculum, and empowering students with a pipeline to long-term careers, we can both help create more job opportunities for young Montanans and protect our communities from fires.”
The Job Corps is the nation’s largest job training and education program for students from 16 to 24 years of age. The U.S. Forest Service operates 24 Civilian Conservation Centers (CCCs) nationwide under this program—including two in Montana—which are proving vital in the fight to protect national forests and grasslands from wildfires. Recent data released by the U.S. Department of Labor, which leads the Job Corps, shows CCC students provided 204,633 total hours of support to federal firefighters in 2022—a 20 percent increase over the previous year.
The “Civilian Conservation Center Enhancement Act” would further build on this critical program by setting a goal for both the USDA and the DOI to hire 300 students a year and provide a direct hire authority specific to CCC graduates to expedite that process. It would also create a pilot program to use students at CCCs to address the lack of workforce housing for wildland firefighters.
Last year, Senator Daines sent a letter to the Secretaries of the Department of Labor, Department of Agriculture, and Department of the Interior urging them to make greater use of CCCs to meet the needs of wildland firefighter and wood products workforce development, recruitment, and retention challenges.
The final bill text can be found HERE.