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Interior Department preps guidelines for Native youth service corps

Courtesy Office of Congresswoman Deb Haaland

The Interior Department on Thursday issued draft guidelines for a new conservation corps that will allow Native youth to work on projects that benefit their own communities. The department scheduled a series of consultations to get feedback on the guidelines from Native American tribes, Alaska Native corporations and Native Hawaiians. The Indian Youth Service Corps was created through a bill that modernized the broader conservation corps in 2019. The Interior Department was tasked with coming up with the guidelines on how it will be implemented.

Tribes and Alaska Native corporations will be able to work with the Interior, Agriculture and Commerce departments to carry out conservation projects on public land, tribal land and Hawaiian homelands. Projects can include restoring trails, removing invasive species, gardening, sampling water or soil, and preserving historic structures. Apprentices in vocational programs could work on construction, electrical or plumbing projects.

Anyone between the ages of 16 and 30, or veterans who are 35 and younger are eligible to apply for the temporary positions.

“The Indian Youth Service Corps program has the potential to transform the lives of Indigenous youth all across our country,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a news release. “Young people are the future stewards of our lands, waters, and resources.”

Congress did not appropriate funding for the program. The Interior Department said federal agencies are encouraged to redirect existing funding to support the service corps.