Martin Kidston – Missoula Current
Sen. Steve Daines on Monday said a phone call to President Donald Trump over the weekend convinced the commander in chief to keep the Anaconda Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center open, saying it plays an important role in southwest Montana.
Daines told reporters during a media call that he phoned Trump on Saturday to discuss the site’s significance to the Montana economy and it’s top ranking within the Civilian Conservation Corps.
“The president gratefully overruled the decision made by Secretary (Alex) Acosta,” Daines said. “This is about jobs. The decision would have been devastating, and I’m glad the president listened to the argument I made to him and decided to keep the site open.”
Last month, the Labor Department said it was closing nine CCC locations across the country and privatizing the others. The Department of Agriculture said the U.S. Forest Service would no longer oversee the sites due to budget cuts.
Daines sent a letter on May 24 to Acosta urging the secretary of labor to keep the location open, calling it a valuable source of skill labor and training in certain industries. He also expressed concern over the Labor Department’s plan to transition other CCCs, including Trapper Creek in Darby, to new contract operators.
Daines said Monday the fate of the Darby site remains uncertain.
“That was never on the closure list, but I know there’s some administrative transfers going on from Agriculture to DOL,” Daines said. “My focus was on Anaconda. That would have had an impact of roughly 250 lost jobs, along with the role they play on wildland firefighting and the role they play with our trade unions and apprentice programs.”
Tester also has expressed frustration over the DOL’s plans to close the Anaconda site. Last week, he urged members of Montana’s Republican delegation to get more involved saying, “Hopefully, they’ll call the president, grab his ear and talk to him.”
“I think this decision is reckless, I think it is clueless,” Tester said last week. “Last Friday, when I got the news, I immediately urged USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and Labor Secretary Alex Acosta to reverse course. But in the week since, it’s been nothing but crickets from both agencies.”
Daines said he was patched through to Trump minutes after placing a call to the White House on Saturday.
“He listened to the argument I made to him,” Daines said. “We had a great conversation. When I called him, he listened and he saw the important role the Anaconda site played, and was also impressed with the fact that they’re ranked in the top 10 percent of all Job Corps in the county, and in the top 10 percent of all CCCs specifically.”