Trump administration about-face: All Job Corps centers to remain open, under USDA

The Anaconda Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center (File photo)

The Anaconda and Trapper Creek Job Corps centers will remain open and under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s management, spokespersons for the departments of Agriculture and Labor told Politico late Wednesday.

Citing heavy pressure from members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, the spokespersons made the announcement in an email to the online news source.

“For the time being, USDA does not intend to transfer these centers to DOL (Department of Labor) to allow management to determine a pathway that will maximize opportunity and results for students, minimize disruptions, and improve overall performance and integrity,” the statement said. “DOL and USDA will conduct a robust organizational review to determine the appropriate course of action keeping in mind the (Forest Service) mission, the students we serve, and the American taxpayers.”

The move won praise from Montana Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines, as well as Rep. Greg Gianforte and Gov. Steve Bullock.

The Anaconda Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center was one of nine nationwide slated for closure starting in September. The other 16 centers, including Trapper Creek outside Darby, were to be transferred to private contractors.

Nationwide, more than 1,100 federal employees were to be laid off in the months ahead. Because of budget cuts, all oversight and management responsibilities for the centers were to be transferred from the USDA to the Department of Labor.

Trapper Creek Job Corps, outside Darby. (USDA)

Wednesday’s announcement came after Tester said he would add language to the National Defense Authorization Act preventing closures of the Montana centers. His move already had support from both Democrats and Republicans, who intended to expand the language to include all such centers nationwide.

Last month, Daines reported talking by phone with President Donald Trump to secure his promise that the Anaconda Job Corps would not be closed. None of the affected agencies had made that promise official until Wednesday.

In an email to the Missoula Current, Daines said the administration had been working through the details leading to Wednesday’s announcement.

In a news release after the Politico story appeared online, Daines said he spoke with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue earlier Wednesday about the importance of keeping Montana’s Job Corps sites open and designated as Civilian Conservation Centers.

Daines released this statement: “This is a big win for Montana and our country. I’m glad that President Trump, Secretary Perdue and (Labor) Secretary Acosta listened, and are keeping these critical centers open and under the Department of Agriculture. Our Job Corps centers are critical. They provide hundreds of jobs in Montana and provide future generations of young Montanans the tools they need to succeed in the workforce. I greatly appreciate President Trump working with me to save these Montana jobs.”

Tester also released a statement following the announcement.

“Suddenly, without any real reason or justification, the President pulled the plug on one of the most successful initiatives in rural America and my office was flooded with stories and objections from Montanans. That’s why I fought so hard to reverse this decision and today I’m extremely proud to have helped make their voices heard. But too often this Administration acts without regard for the real-world consequences of their decisions—consequences overwhelmingly suffered by folks in rural America. I’ll continue to fight for the hardworking Montanans and businesses that rely on Job Corps centers like Trapper Creek and Anaconda, so we can make sure they’re around for future generations.”

Late Wednesday night, Gianforte emailed this statement to Montana media:

“This is a welcomed decision by the administration and good news for Montana. Thousands of young Montanans learn valuable skills through the Civilian Conservation Corps programs at Anaconda and Trapper Creek. Many of those are at-risk youth and the Job Corps program provides them with an opportunity to overcome their challenges and have success in their lives. CCC’s play an important role in rural states like Montana helping the U.S. Forest Service train wildfire and natural disaster first-responders and fulfill its mission. I’m thankful the administration responded to our requests and reversed its decision. It’s the right thing to do.”

Bullock also issued the following statement:

“It’s unclear why the unnecessary decision to close Job Corps centers was made in the first place, but I’m glad the administration has come to the realization how much these training centers mean to rural Montana, rural jobs, and the young men and women who have had their lives positively impacted by attending these centers. I look forward to seeing the workers and students with the Anaconda and Trapper Creek Job Corps continue to benefit our economy and our state, particularly as we enter wildfire season.”