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Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Passes the Late Sen. John McCain’s 21CSC Act

Bill would help expand national service opportunities that engage young adults and post-9/11 veterans in maintaining and improving public lands and waters

Hannah Traverse
Communications Manager
The Corps Network  |  202-737-6272

[WASHINGTON, DC] – A version of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act, or 21CSC Act (S.1403), passed by voice vote October 2 in the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources with bipartisan support. Originally introduced by the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the bill can now move forward for consideration by the full Senate.

“The 21st Century Conservation Corps will create a much-needed pathway to meaningful careers in conservation for America’s youth and veterans,” said Sen. Michael Bennet. “It was a privilege to work with Senator McCain on this legislation, which will honor his legacy of service by developing the next generation of leaders to protect and enhance our public lands.”

The Partnership for the 21CSC (P-21CSC) applauds movement on the 21CSC Act and extends appreciation to the original co-sponsors – Sens. Michael Bennet, Lamar Alexander and Tom Udall – as well as to Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell for their leadership in advancing the legislation. The P-21CSC also thanks the co-sponsors and supporters of S.1403: Sens. Roger Wicker, Steve Daines, Jon Tester, Angus King, Patty Murray, Mazie Hirono, and Martin Heinrich.

The P-21CSC urges the full Senate to pass the 21CSC Act in honor of Sen. McCain, a lifelong advocate of military, national, and public service. As the bill progresses, the P-21CSC encourages lawmakers to consider a Sense of Congress within the bill that honors the late Senator’s legacy and renames the bill appropriately. Additionally, the P-21CSC supports efforts to reconcile the Senate and House versions of the bill. We urge that the final bill include provisions from the original version that would expand national service and AmeriCorps opportunities for young adults and veterans, and enable Corps to better address unmet community and national needs. In June of this year, the House Committee on Natural Resources passed the full 21CSC Act (H.R.2987) with unanimous bipartisan support.

“On behalf of the Corps community, thank you Chairwoman Murkowski, Ranking Member Cantwell, and all the co-sponsors of the 21CSC Act. We look forward to seeing a version of the 21CSC Act signed into law that supports expanding national service opportunities that engage young adults and post-9/11 veterans in maintaining and improving public lands and waters,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO of The Corps Network and Co-Chair of the Partnership for the 21CSC. “As the late Sen. John McCain wrote with Gen. Stanley McChrystal, ‘We are convinced that, if [national service] experiences are made available to young people, they will embrace them for what they are — occasions to elevate the nation while elevating themselves.’ It is our hope to see a strong 21CSC Act signed into law in honor of Sen. McCain’s commitment to expand opportunities for military, national, and public service.”

Corps are community-based programs that provide young adults and recent veterans the opportunity to serve our country, advance their education and obtain in-demand skills. Serving in crews or individual positions, Corpsmembers complete meaningful terms of service working on projects that address conservation and infrastructure concerns, wildfires and natural disasters, outdoor recreation access, and a range of other issues. During their service, Corps participants gain hands-on work experience and prepare for careers in the growing recreation, natural resource and restoration economies.

The 21CSC is a national initiative to expand Corps to annually engage more young adults and veterans in outdoor work and national service, including service opportunities supported by AmeriCorps. The backbone of the 21CSC is a membership of more than 220 local and regional 21CSC organizations (Corps) across the country that, every year, collectively enroll more than 25,000 young people and veterans.

Through public-private partnerships between 21CSC organizations, resource management agencies, and the private sector, the 21CSC builds rural and urban economies by engaging young adults and veterans in service projects that increase access to public lands and enhance the natural resource infrastructure that supports our country’s $887 billion outdoor economy. America’s main resource management agencies have a maintenance backlog totaling over $18 billion, but, by partnering with 21CSC organizations, these agencies can leverage their funding to cost-effectively engage Corps in building trails, fighting wildfires, supporting productive fish and wildlife habitat, and generally maintaining parks for public access.

Corps are presently authorized to partner with federal land management agencies through the Public Lands Corps Authority, which was passed as part of the National and Community Trust Act of 1993. The 21CSC Act would update this authority to recognize the need for a new 21st Century Conservation Service Corps that will expand national service opportunities in order to address modern conservation, recreation, forestry, and infrastructure needs on public lands and communities across the country.

The 21CSC Act would allow federal land and water management agencies to create formal, more flexible partnerships with 21CSC member organizations; ensure better data and tracking of accomplishments; and allow more veterans to participate, while ensuring more participants transition to future employment. It would also enable additional federal agencies to more easily partner with 21CSC organizations to accomplish their goals, and require greater coordination within and between agencies.

The bipartisan 21CSC Act was introduced in the United States Senate (S.1403) and House of Representatives (H.R.2987) on June 21, 2017. The bill was introduced in the Senate by Sens. John McCain, Michael Bennet, Lamar Alexander and Tom Udall. It was introduced in the House by Reps. Martha McSally, Seth Moulton, Scott Tipton, and Raúl Grijalva. Additional co-sponsors have since joined in both the House and Senate. An earlier version of the 21CSC Act was introduced in the Senate in August 2015 (S.1993) by Sens. McCain and Bennet, and in the House in April 2016 (H.R.5114) by Reps. McSally and Moulton.

Sen. McCain, a Navy veteran, served in the House of Representatives and Senate for more than 30 years. During his time in Congress, he was an advocate for veterans and military families, and a strong supporter of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the agency that oversees AmeriCorps. Sen. McCain introduced the 21CSC Act as a means to improve America’s public lands, engage more young Americans in service to our country, and provide pathways to fulfilling civilian careers for military veterans. Sen. McCain passed away from cancer earlier this year at the age of 81.