Sherry Devlin – Missoula Current
The Anaconda and Trapper Creek Job Corps centers will remain open and under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s management – at least temporarily, 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 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 Anaconda Job Corps Civilian Conservation 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.
The announcement came two days after Montana Sen. Jon 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.
In a news release moments after the Politico story appeared online, Montana Sen. Steve Daines said he spoke with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue earlier Wednesday about the important of keeping Montana’s Job Corps sites open and designated as Civilian Conservation Centers.
Late last month, Daines had 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, though, had ever made that promise official.
After Wednesday’s announcement, 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.”