Maybe They Should Shoot Smokey, Too

Maybe They Should Shoot Smokey, Too

So the Trump Administration is closing nine of its 25 Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers [JCCCC] and transferring the remaining 16 to the U.S. Department of Labor, thus severing the U.S. Forest Service’s half-century connection to America’s youth.

The Department of Labor?

Why not just ship the kids that work in these 16 camps to some far off Gulag?

What’s next on the Administration’s budget chopping block?

Maybe they should shoot Smokey, too. Hell, he’s 75 years old, more than twice the lifespan of your ordinary, garden variety black bear.

Never mind the fact that his image – the most recognizable advertising image on earth - helped reduce wildfire damage from 22 million acres in 1944 to an average 6.7 million acres today.

Add me to the long list of people who know what the Trump Administration stands against, but have no damned idea what it stands for.

This decision makes no more sense than the earlier announced decision to sever all federal financial ties to Special Olympics, an ill-advised decision from which the President himself later retreated. Good move, Mr. President.

The Administration’s May 24 decision has already been roundly criticized by many: our colleague, Michael Rains, the National Association of Forest Service Retirees and god only knows how many parents who had crossed their fingers and enrolled a troubled child in the JCCC in hopes that working and learning in the great outdoors would help them find their way forward in life.

I don’t know how much taxpayers have invested in the JCCC, but I guarantee you the cost of housing, feeding and training more than 3,000 kids per year is chump change compared to the cost of housing them in prison cells or treating them for drug addictions.

Reading between the lines of a press release quoting Agriculture Secretary, Sonny Perdue, leaves me thinking the administration hopes its decision will miraculously refocus the Forest Service’s attention on its core mission: Caring for the land and serving the people. We’re all for that. Not much caring or serving has gone on over the last 30 years, though the reasons why go well beyond anything the Forest Service could have done on its own steam.

The JCCC is the Forest Service’s last tangible link to rural America and the only federal program that looks even remotely like the legendary Civilian Conservation Corps [CCC], a New Deal program that took millions of destitute young men out of Depression-era bread lines and put them to work, mainly in our national forests.

Franklin Roosevelt had sketched his CCC idea on Oval Office scrap paper for his newly-minted cabinet only days after his March 4, 1933 inauguration. Congress funded his vision in a scant 10 days.

When a reporter from Forestry News Digest asked the President to explain his vision, Roosevelt said, “Forests, like people, must be constantly productive. The problems of the future of both are interlocked. American forestry efforts must be consolidated and advanced.”

Boy, howdy. Time to reverse course, Mr. President. Time to double down on FDR’s vision.

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