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Sunday, February 25th, 2024

Bill eyes wildland firefighter training initiative

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U.S. Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) is touting the benefits of recently introduced legislation he said seeks to offer wildland firefighter training to Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center students.

The Civilian Conservation Center Enhancement Act would create a pipeline for Montanans to enter into careers fighting fires and caring for public lands through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of the Interior (DOI).

“As Montana faces devastating wildfires season after season and the forestry sector continues to face labor shortages, we need to be doing everything we can to ensure we have an experienced team of wildland firefighters to protect our local communities,” Daines said. “Investing in our Montana Job Corps Centers to help train and prepare young Montanans to enter this field is a great way to do that. By supporting these centers, expanding their forestry curriculum, and empowering students with a pipeline to long-term careers, we can both help create more job opportunities for young Montanans and protect our communities from fires.”

The Forest Service operates 24 Civilian Conservation Centers (CCCs) nationwide under the program, including two in Montana. They are proving vital in the fight to protect national forests and grasslands from wildfires.

Under the legislation, the USDA and the DOI would hire 300 students annually and provide a direct hire authority specific to CCC graduates to expedite the process.

A pilot program would also be created to use students at CCCs to address the lack of workforce housing for wildland firefighters, according to the USDA and DOI.