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In 2023, the USDA Forest Service and AmeriCorps signed a five-year agreement to establish the Forest Corps, which aims to create Job opportunities that reduce wildfire risk, support reforestation and make national forests and grasslands healthier and more resilient.

A Biden administration program called the American Climate Corps aims to hire and train 20,000 people in conservation, climate and clean-energy jobs.

Still in the early stages of development, groups in Appalachia say the program could potentially steer a significant number of young people in the region into well-paying jobs.

Director of the non-profit Green Forests Work, Michael French, said with the decline of surface mining and logging, more Appalachian communities are turning to ecological restoration and forest-based economies.

He said those industries need workers, and believes the climate corps could help.

“We really need to develop that workforce in not only native seed collection but seedling production, tree planting,” said French. “The whole supply chain around reforestation in Appalachia could benefit from this program.”

The climate corps is modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Depression-era program launched by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to alleviate high unemployment among young men.

The White House says the Climate Corps aims to attract individuals from diverse backgrounds and disadvantaged communities to work in climate-related sectors.

Annie Regan, director of digital communications with ReImagine Appalachia, said not only will the initiative bring jobs to a region hard-hit by the opioid crisis and unemployment – but participants will also receive paid training, opening the doors to opportunities for employment in both the public and private sectors.

“Of course we want younger folks to have these jobs,” said Regan, “and to have pathways to apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs, and working with our unions.”

A Yale Program on Climate Change Communication poll found more than six in 10 Ohio voters support government action to address climate change, and support developing more renewable-energy sources such as wind and solar.

Critics charge these kinds of jobs are a poor substitute for the economic impact fossil fuels have traditionally had in the region.

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Nadia Ramlagan, Ohio News Service

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