Wolf Creek Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center will not be privatized.
The U.S. Department of Labor had announced in May that it would be taking over administration of the CCC program. The plan called for nine centers to be closed while 16, including Wolf Creek, would remain open but run by a private contractor or partnership.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, announced Wednesday afternoon that Wolf Creek and 15 other CCCs like it will remain under U.S. Forest Service control. At the same time, the nine centers that had been slated for closure will remain open.
The prospect of privatization had raised alarms at Wolf Creek Job Corps in Glide, in part because of the importance of its training program in forestry conservation and firefighting, which could have been jeopardized if it were separated from the Forest Service. CCCs like Wolf Creek provide training to more than 3,000 young people across the country. Oregon has three CCCs and one of them, in Estacada, had been slated for closure.
Merkley announced the programs will remain intact after he had a conversation with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. The Forest Service falls under the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Today’s news is a huge victory for the people of Oregon and for rural communities across the country,” Merkley said. “CCCs play an invaluable role not only in providing job training for young adults who come from low-income and at-risk backgrounds, but are also critical to protecting our communities from wildfire.”
He said CCC students in Oregon have worked hundreds of thousands of hours to help prevent and fight forest fires.
“At a time when the West has faced devastating, back-to-back fire seasons, dismantling the CCCs was a reckless and wrong-headed decision. That’s why as soon as I heard the announcement last month, I pushed back aggressively, and I am pleased my colleagues on both sides of the aisle joined me in this fight. Oregonians can breathe a huge sigh of relief that our beloved CCCs are safe and our students will remain on the job.”
Merkley, who is the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, lobbied Perdue and other officials to reverse their original decision to shut down or privatize the CCCs. A broad, bipartisan coalition in both the Senate and the House opposed the shutdowns and privatizations.
The director of Wolf Creek could not immediately be reached for comment.