Wednesday, April 19, 2023

By:  Brandon Kamerman


The focus on wildfire prevention in Oregon and throughout the West has been amping up as the summer approaches. That is also the case in Washington, D.C. where Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) is working to enhance the workforce. Merkley is partnering with Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) in introducing the Civilian Conservation Center Enhancement Act of 2023. The bill would offer specialized training, specifically wildland firefighter training, to Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center students.

“I love the Civilian Conservation Corps. You have so many students who basically are trying to get their feet back on the ground and have a path forward in life, a lot of 18-21 year old’s,” said Sen. Merkley. “These training programs are excellent, but an area we can expand, that is important to Oregon and other Western states with a lot of forest fires, is having more firefighters, and when you’re not working as a firefighter you can work in forest management.”

“We should always be really worried, even when we have a lot of snow and water early in the summer. All that can mean a lot more grass and brush later in the summer that can dry out and make fires even worse, and so we’re never safe from a bad fire season, and we need to prepare by doing as much forest management as possible, particularly near our towns. We need to prepare to have as many people trained as possible. That’s why I’m emphasizing training folks so that there’s more hands on deck to put out the fires when they happen.”

Merkley hopes to include the Job Corps legislation in the 2023 farm bill.