On May 24, the Trump Administration announced it will close nine Forest Service vocation centers—including one in Oregon—that train disadvantaged youth in wildfire fighting and other rural jobs.
The Timber Lake Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center in Estacada and the Fort Simcoe CCC near Yakima, Wash. are two centers that will shutter in September, Oregon Public Broadcasting first reported.
The centers provide free job training programs for at-risk young people in a variety of vocational fields—including forestry and wildfire management. CCC centers employ over 3,000 a year in small towns across the U.S. and 1,100 federal employees will lose their jobs as a result of the cut.
Brian Hickman, the Timber Lake center employee responsible for training fire crews, says the closure will affect 180 students and 45 staff members—12 of whom are military veterans.
“There are a lot of veterans who work at Job Corps centers across the country,” Hickman says. “It’s a slap on the face, especially considering the timing of the announcement on Memorial Day weekend.”
The program’s shutdown, the Washington Times reports, will result in the largest layoff of civil servants in nearly a decade. Sixteen remaining centers, including two in Oregon, that are not shuttered will be taken over by private partnerships overseen by the U.S. Department of Labor and they will stop accepting students.
The cuts to the fire management training program come on the brink of what will likely be another deadly wildfire season in the West. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) on May 29 unveiled a $1 billion plan to attempt to curb the catastrophic effects of fires, which have been made more extreme by climate change.
“U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s abrupt decision to close Civilian Conservation Centers harms thousands of students and puts every state facing another disastrous wildfire season at further risk,” Merkley tweeted on Friday.