WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman has introduced legislation that would expand a program that provides young people with job opportunities, while helping to repair and restore the country's public lands. The legislation also includes a provision authored by U.S. Senator Tom Udall to establish the Indian Youth Service Corps.
Bingaman's Public Lands Service Corps Act of 2011 (S.896) expands on the existing Public Lands Corps by expanding the scope of corps projects to reflect new challenges such as climate change. Additionally, the bill would add incentives to attract new participants, especially from underrepresented populations, and pave the way for increased funding.
"This bill would help us restore our public lands while providing young Americans with job opportunities that could spur a life-long interest in our environment," said Bingaman, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
"Not only will this legislation allow more of our young people to learn valuable work skills, it also will help instill in them a love of our natural environment and a desire to protect our country's special places for the enjoyment of future generations," Udallsaid. "An important part of that is the creation of the Indian Youth Service Corps, which will give Native youth the opportunity to preserve the tribal lands that are so intertwined with their cultural heritage."
Among other things, the bill would:
Amend the Public Lands Corps Act of 1993 to expand the authority of the Interior and Agriculture Departments (including such agencies as the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service) to work with youth in projects designed benefit public lands.
Establish an Indian Youth Service Corps so that Indian Tribes can start corps programs on Tribal lands to carry out priority projects determined by their communities.
Authorize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to participate in the program, which would allow Corps members to work on restoring coastal and marine ecosystems.
Expand the scope of eligible projects to include activities such as assisting with historical and cultural research, working with scientists in field research, and providing visitor services and interpretation.
Authorize the Secretaries to provide transportation to and from project sites in project areas where Corps members can reasonably be expected to live at home.
Allow agencies to provide noncompetitive hiring status for Corps participants for two years after completing service. Current law allows such status for only 120 days.
Expand the age range for the program to youth 15-25 years old, who could serve either in crews or as individuals.