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Spanberger spearheads legislation to create Civilian Climate Corps

Abigail Spanberger
Abigail Spanberger

This year marks the 88th anniversary of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt establishing the Civilian Conservation Corps.

The CCC employed millions of Americans during the Great Depression to complete conservation projects across the country. Last week, the White House announced support for $10 billion to mobilize the next generation of conservation and resilience workers and establish a Civilian Climate Corps as part of the proposed American Jobs Plan.

Seventh District Democrat Abigail Spanberger — chair of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee’s Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee —  announced Wednesday new, bicameral legislation to formally establish the Civilian Climate Corps, which would both help American communities address the climate crisis and create additional jobs for American workers.

The Civilian Climate Corps Act builds on President Biden’s call for a climate-focused national service program by authorizing the administration to utilize existing national service programs and coordinate with federal and non-federal entities to create a Civilian Climate Corps.

The Civilian Climate Corps would facilitate projects to help disadvantaged communities build resilience to climate change, including efforts to conserve and restore public lands, assist natural disaster-prone communities, utilize natural climate solutions, replace vulnerable infrastructure, protect biodiversity, and enhance ecological resilience.

“The urgency of the climate crisis requires a new level of creativity and ambition. As the next generation looks to tackle climate change head on, we must invest in opportunities for Americans to acquire the skills they need to build a stronger and healthier planet,” Spanberger said.

“In this moment, we need to focus on nurturing a talent pool of American workers that can gain valuable expertise in conservation, restoration, resiliency, and more. That’s why I’m proud to help lead this bicameral legislation to establish a Civilian Climate Corps. These dedicated Americans would spearhead the charge in preventing future catastrophes, reducing the long-term economic costs of this ecological crisis, and bringing enthusiasm and purpose to our fight against climate change,” said Spanberger, who co-led the introduction of the Civilian Climate Corps Act in the U.S. House with Joe Neguse (D-CO-02).

A companion bill is led in the U.S. Senate by Chris Coons (D-DE), Marin Heinrich (D-NM) and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM).

“Eighty-eight years ago, President Roosevelt tapped into the power of national service to address the unemployment crisis caused by the Great Depression and restore our environment when he created the Civilian Conservation Corps,” Coons said. “Now, as our country faces the COVID-19 pandemic and the threats posed by climate change, we have another opportunity to address both challenges simultaneously. The Civilian Climate Corps Act will provide opportunities for people across the country to help the most vulnerable communities prepare for the impacts of climate change.”

“Establishing a Civilian Climate Corps will provide national service opportunities to a new generation and help power our economic recovery. We can put thousands of Americans to work right away rebuilding crumbling infrastructure on our public lands—some of which dates back all the way to the original Civilian Conservation Corps. This will keep growing our outdoor economy, which was fueling some of the fastest job growth in rural communities before the onset of the pandemic. The new CCC members can also make vital contributions to restore the health of American landscapes and improve our resilience to climate impacts like more extreme wildfires and floods,” Heinrich said. “In times of crisis, Americans have always embraced service to their nation. We will be a stronger country if we both ask Americans to serve and give them meaningful opportunities to do so. There is so much work we need to do to tackle the climate crisis and to rebuild our country. Let’s make national service a central part of every plan for change.”

“When President Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corps, he did so to put Americans back to work and unite them through national service. Now, as our nation confronts the climate crisis, I’m proud to introduce legislation alongside my colleagues to create the Civilian Climate Corps to give our young people the resources they need to tackle climate change,” Luján said. “The threats that climate change poses must be taken seriously to protect our Mother Earth, create new opportunities, and preserve our way of life.”

“The launch of a 21st Century Civilian Climate Corps would put many Coloradans, and hundreds of thousands of Americans back to work addressing our public lands maintenance backlog and restoring our forests in the wake of devastating western wildfires,” Neguse said. “I’ve been engaged in efforts to establish a reimagined 21st century corps for many months, and we’re grateful for President Biden’s eagerness to fund this proposal, as outlined in this week’s American Jobs Plan through a $10 billion fund to create the civilian climate corps. I’m proud to lead today’s legislation, the Civilian Climate Corps Act, which would authorize existing national service programs to create the Civilian Climate Corps. A reimagined civilian climate corps would create jobs, help us tackle the climate crisis and engage the next generation in efforts to restore our lands and communities. As we navigate the COVID-19 recovery, this proposal will be crucial for the west to get back to work meeting the challenges faced by our communities.”

The Civilian Climate Corps Act is endorsed by the Corps Network, Voices for National Service, National Wildlife Federation and the National Audubon Society.

“We know what our country can accomplish when Americans have the opportunity to serve. Every year, Service and Conservation Corps partner with federal, state and local government agencies to engage young people and veterans in meaningful service activities. With the establishment of a Civilian Climate Corps initiative, we are hopeful to see opportunities for many more Americans to gain hands-on work experience while completing projects to build our climate resiliency and improve our infrastructure,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, president & CEO, The Corps Network. “We extend deep appreciation to Sen. Coons, Sen. Heinrich, Sen. Luján, Rep. Neguse and Rep. Spanberger for their longstanding support of national service. The Service and Conservation Corps community stands ready to scale up and expand our public-private partnerships to meet the needs of this moment.”

“President Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps, a precursor to AmeriCorps, in the 1930s to meet a clear and critical need. In that tradition, and with equally pressing needs today, the Civilian Climate Corps would use people-powered solutions to address the effects of the climate crisis on our most vulnerable communities,” said AnnMaura Connolly, president, Voices for National Service. “We commend Senators Coons, Heinrich, and Lujan and Representatives Neguse and Spanberger for leveraging the strong and nimble national service network of AmeriCorps programs, and look forward to working with them as the bill moves through Congress.”

The bicameral Civilian Climate Corps Act would also reserve funding for Tribal and Native American communities, encourage diversity within the Corps, and require a report describing the proposed number of Corps members and funding needs.

Full text of the bill is available here. A summary of the bill is available here.


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