Bill Would Boost Rural Communities

The 21st Century Conservation Corps for Our Health and Our Jobs Act recently introduced by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) provides more than $15 billion for a wide variety of public lands projects that benefit rural communities and wildfire risk communities that includes everything from mechanical thinning and forest restoration to a relief fund for public lands guides and outfitters who have been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis.

The pending legislation provides $5.5 billion to the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management to increase hazardous fuels reduction and thinning efforts, including commercially viable timber, with previously approved and environmentally reviewed projects taking priority. The bill would also create a $9 billion fund to train and hire people to restore watersheds and public lands, plus another $6 billion to put people to work tackling maintenance  projects and a maintenance backlog on Forest Service lands. The proposal also includes fire-related funds such as $100 million for agencies to purchase personal protective equipment for their employees, contractors and service workers; $150 million to the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program for community forest restoration and fire risk reduction; and another $500 million for restoration projects across federal, state and private lands.

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