Durbin Introduces Bill To Create Civilian Conservation Corps

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced the RENEW Conservation Corps Act, a bill that would create a civilian conservation corps that provides valuable job training and work experience to Americans while also completing needed maintenance and restoration of parks, trails, and natural areas. Modeled after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps – which employed, educated, and trained three million young men during the Great Depression – Durbin’s bill would create a new conservation corps run though the U.S. Departments of Interior and Agriculture and authorize more than $55 billion over a five-year period to put one million Americans to work to address the backlog of deferred conservation projects.

“If we want to pass on America’s cherished outdoor spaces to the next generation, we have to take responsibility in protecting them,” Durbin said. “This bill is a straightforward approach to creating one million jobs that can address maintenance and restoration of our greatest natural resources and recreation areas. This is an investment in America’s natural treasures, which have provided people much-needed respite in the outdoors during the pandemic.”

“RENEW Conservation Corps Act is flexible, efficient and comprehensive.  It will play well across the nation—in cities, rural areas, and wilderness, including U.S. territories and tribal lands,” said Gerald Adelmann, President and CEO of Openlands.

“We have a chance to reverse the climate and nature crises, but only by working together and embracing bold solutions—and that’s what this plan is about,” said Sharon Buccino, senior director for Lands at the Natural Resources Defense Council.  “Historically, conservation corps have helped this country tackle some of its biggest challenges.  This smart legislation will put people back to work with good jobs conserving our public lands and waters and protecting biodiversity, and building resilience to climate change.”

“A 21st-century version of FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps will help address our 21st-century challenges — from the current economic crisis, to the nature gap, to the climate crisis. The RENEW Conservation Corps Act would put us to work on our public lands, hiring from within our communities, expanding our access to nature, and helping protect 30% of lands and waters by 2030. Through the RENEW Conservation Corps Act, we will be able to take a step toward mitigating the worst effects of climate change while providing our communities with jobs and an economic boost that we desperately need," said Kirin Kennedy, Sierra Club Deputy Director of Legislative and Administrative Advocacy.

The bill provides anyone 16 years or older at least two weeks of training for positions lasting a minimum of twelve weeks, but no longer than one year. All participants will receive at least $15 an hour, with some wages determined based on work performed.  In addition, those participating in the program that complete a full year of work would be eligible to receive up to $5,500 credit for post-secondary education.  To ensure a diverse workforce, the bill requires participants be reflective of the demographics in the area where the project is being completed. 

The bill would help fund and complete various projects, including: Tree planting; restoration and management of wildlife habitat; invasive species control; prescribed burns; restoration of streams wetlands, and other aquatic ecosystems;  monitor water quality in streams and lakes; conduct fish and wildlife surveys; construct trails, bridges, campgrounds, picnic shelters or other recreation amenities; maintenance and construction of park playgrounds, restoration of brownfield sites; creating rain gardens;  creating pollinator gardens; construct green schoolyards; upkeep/creation of urban gardens and farms; plant native grasslands; and any other projects determined by the Interior and Agriculture Department secretaries.