Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park NPS photo

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One Presidential Candidate Has a Plan to Boost Funding, Employment for Federal Lands

A 21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps could recruit 10,000 new personnel to care for public lands, says Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

A top-tier presidential candidate vying for the Democratic nomination has put forward a new proposal aimed at better protecting federal lands and employing more federally funded workers to maintain them.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., unveiled the policy this week, saying it would reverse recent trends that have put public lands “under threat.” One tenet of the proposal would create a 21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps by recruiting 10,000 “young people and veterans” to care for federal lands. Warren said the corps would build upon a provision of a recent measure signed into law by President Trump that allows existing conservation and service organizations to apply their efforts to federally managed lands through public-private partnerships.

The new policy, Warren said, would “turbocharge” that initiative. She suggested funding the measure by boosting the budget for one-year AmeriCorps fellowships. AmeriCorps, sometimes referred to as the domestic Peace Corps, provides volunteers with small cost-of-living stipends and student loan deferment eligibility during their service. Warren said expanding the program would create a “lifelong relationship with the great outdoors” for participants.

Another peg of her proposal would eliminate entrance fees for national parks. Doing so would strengthen local economies by drawing in more travel and tourism dollars, Warren said.

“The National Park Service is funded by taxpayers, and it’s long past time to make entry into our parks free to ensure that visiting our nation’s treasures is within reach for every American family,” the senator said.

She also vowed to eliminate within her first term the much discussed NPS deferred maintenance backlog, which now stands at $11 billion. She promised to “fully fund” NPS and all land management agencies. After a few years of declining spending, appropriations for national parks has ticked up slightly each year since fiscal 2014. Still, Warren said the maintenance backlog has led to “crumbling roads and bridges, leaking roofs, and unmaintained trails now closed to hikers.”

Finally, Warren said she would, on her first day in office, sign an executive order that would create a “total moratorium” on new drilling on federal lands. The order would block all new leases for the extraction of fossil fuels, including offshore drilling. She also suggested a tenfold increase in renewable energy production offshore and on federal lands, so it accounts for 10% of U.S. energy consumption.

“America’s public lands belong to all of us,” Warren said. “We should start acting like it—expanding access, ending fossil fuel extraction, leveraging them as part of the climate solution, and preserving and improving them for our children and grandchildren.”