H.R. 1612: Public Lands Service Corps Act of 2009

H.R. 1612

Public Lands Service Corps Act of 2009

Sponsor
Rep. Raul M. Grijalva

Date
March 19, 2010 (111th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

H.R. 1612 is expected to be considered on the floor of the House on Friday, March 19, 2010, under a structured rule. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) on March 19, 2009. The House Committee on Natural Resources ordered the bill to be reported by voice vote on June 10, 2009.

Bill Summary

Public Lands Service Corps:  H.R. 1612 amends the Public Lands Corps Act of 1993 to rename the Public Lands Corps program the "Public Lands Service Corps" and expand it.  The bill would require the Secretaries of Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce to each establish an office to coordinate Public Lands Service Corps activities within their agency. The Secretary of each department would also designate a Public Lands Service Corps coordinator for each agency within that department that administers these activities.

Recruitment:  The bill allows the Secretary to enroll in the Public Lands Service Corps individuals between the ages of 16 and 25 who are either hired by an agency to perform work authorized under this Act or who are members of a qualified youth or conservation corps with which the Secretary has entered into a cooperative agreement to perform authorized work.  Enrollees may serve for a term of up to 24 months of service.  The Secretary is allowed to establish a preference for the enrollment individuals who are economically, physically, or educationally disadvantaged.  The Secretary would undertake a program to attract eligible youth to the Corps by publicizing opportunities through high schools, colleges, employment centers, electronic media, and other appropriate institutions.

Training Program:  The Secretary would establish a training program based at residential conservation centers or at other regional Federal or other appropriate facilities to provide training for Corps participants.

Visitor Services:  The Secretary may enter into or amend an agreement with a cooperating association, educational institute, or similar nonprofit partner organization for providing training and work experience to Corps participants in areas including sales, office work, accounting, and management if it directly relates to the protection and management of the public lands.  The Secretary could also allow Corps participants to help promote visitor safety and enjoyment of public lands and assist in the gathering of visitor use data.

Interpretation:  Corps participants would be able to provide interpretation or education services for the public including providing orientation and information services to visitors, including services for non-English speaking visitors and visitors who use American Sign Language.

Residential Conservation Centers and Program Support:  The Secretary may establish residential conservation centers for housing, food service, medical care, transportation, and other services as the Secretary deems necessary for the Public Lands Service Corps.  The Secretary may make arrangements with other federal agencies, states, local governments, or private organizations to provide temporary housing as needed.  In areas where Corps participants can reasonably be expected to reside at their own homes, the Secretary may fund or provide transportation to and from project sites.

Mentoring:  The Secretary may recruit from agency retirees, veterans groups, military retirees, active duty personnel, and from appropriate youth-serving organizations, adults to provide training, mentoring, and crew-leading services to Corps participants.

Guidance:  Within 18 months after funds are made available, the Secretaries must issue guidelines for the management of the Public Lands Service Corps programs. 

Living Allowance:  The Secretary would provide each Corps participant with a living allowance in an amount established by the Secretary.  Secretaries may apply a cost-of-living differential and provide reimbursement for transportation at the beginning and end of a participant's term.  The bill also broadens existing preferential hire provisions and authorizes agencies to provide alumni services and other career development assistance.

Authorization of Appropriations:  The bill repeals the $12 million appropriations ceiling contained in existing law and authorizes the appropriation of "such sums as may be necessary" to carry out the legislation.

 

Background

Background:  H.R. 1612 builds on an existing program established in the Public Lands Corps Act of 1993 (P.L. 103-82).  The program provides youth service opportunities to carry out repair and restoration projects in national parks.  The program has employed thousands of young people to repair and restore national parks.   Funding for the programs are derived from the collection of a 20 percent Recreational Fee Demonstration Program, initiated in 1997.  The program is currently authorized at $12 million annually for conservation projects by Department of the Interior land management agencies and the U.S. Forest Service.  Until Fiscal Year 2009, no money had been appropriated for the program.  The National Park Service has thus utilized its authority to use fee revenues for backlog maintenance work to finance projects.

Possible Concerns:  Members may be concerned that as national unemployment stands at 9.7 percent, this legislation would spend millions of dollars to expand a national parks program.  According to Natural Resources Ranking Member Doc Hastings (R-WA), "We are also deeply concerned that the recent CBO scoring of this bill estimates that implementing the legislation would cost $120 million over the 2010-2014 period-a huge increase over current spending levels and the President's requested amount."

 

Cost

CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 1612 would cost $120 million over five years, assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts.

Amendments

1) Rep. Bishop (R-UT):  Would retain the existing authorization level of $12 million per year and only authorizes the program for five years.

2) Rep. Cole (R-OK):  Would allow the Secretary to enter into arrangement with tribal governments in order to provide temporary housing for Corps volunteers.