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Associate Director of Southwest Conservation Corps Testifies on Benefits of Veterans Conservation Corps During House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands Hearing on Recreation Not Red Tape Act”

Click here to watch a recording of the hearing
Click here to read Mr. Heiner’s full testimony

WASHINGTON, DC (October 3, 2017) – Kevin Heiner, Associate Director of Southwest Conservation Corps, a member organization of the 21CSC, testified today about the benefits of Veterans Conservation Corps during a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands hearing about H.R.3400 – the “Recreation Not Red Tape Act.”

Introduced in July by House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT), H.R.3400 aims to, as stated in a memo on the hearing, “increase access to recreational opportunities for Americans nation-wide by 1) modernizing and streamlining the special recreation permitting process; 2) holding land managers accountable for recreation outcomes; 3) establishing a new National Recreation Area System; 4) increasing veteran participation in outdoor stewardship and rehabilitation programs; and by 5) facilitating private-sector volunteer maintenance programs on our nation’s public lands. Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate (S.1633) by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Kevin Heiner, a U.S. Air Force Veteran who began working with Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) in 2008, spoke about the benefits of the Veterans Fire Corps programs operated by SCC and its parent organization, Conservation Legacy.

Veterans Corps, such as those run by Conservation Legacy, are designed to give participants the opportunity to build on their military experience and ethic for service by training for careers in resource management. The Corps model benefits veterans in a range of ways: it provides a similar structure and sense of purpose as the military; offers the therapeutic benefits of getting outdoors and working with fellow veterans; and helps participants transition back to civilian life through skills development and other supportive services.

Since 2009, Veterans Conservation Corps programs across the country have engaged more than 1,600 veterans in conservation service and job training through partnerships with such agencies as the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In his testimony, Mr. Heiner spoke appreciatively of the provisions in H.R.3400 that would expand opportunities for veterans to engage in outdoor stewardship. He also encouraged the committee to consider the 21CSC Act (H.R.2987), which would also help support and create opportunities for veterans and young adults to serve on public lands and gain in-demand skills.

An excerpt from Mr. Heiner’s testimony:

We are appreciative of the provisions in HR 3400, the Recreation Not Red-Tape Act, that would encourage information be provided on Corps opportunities to veterans and service members, expand volunteer and outdoor engagement, and opportunities for veterans and the public to recreate in new areas. We see significant potential to expand Corps’ engagement with veterans through enhanced partnerships with other Department of Interior agencies, and additional focus on recruiting with Department of Veterans Affairs, DOD and the Department of Labor. 

We also support the focus in the RNR Act on hiring veterans in land management positions. In addition to their veterans hiring preference, they can earn non-competitive hiring eligibility for two years from service in a Corps as well. Veterans Corps programs can offer an important bridge to civilian life and job skills, but also a way for veterans and their families to engage more with the outdoors, recreation, and America’s public lands. 

That is why in addition to the importance of the RNR Act provisions around veterans, we hope the committee will give additional attention to expanding the opportunity for veterans to serve in Corps, gain in-demand skills, and address high-priority projects, like would be accomplished through the bipartisan 21ST Century Conservation Service Corps Act – HR 2987 – introduced by Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) a veteran herself. We also thank Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) of this committee who is an original co-sponsor.


Click here to watch a recording of the hearing
Click here to read Mr. Heiner’s full testimony