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Memorandum Returning Without Approval the American Conservation Corps Act of 1984

October 30, 1984

I am withholding my approval from H.R. 999, the "American Conservation Corps Act of 1984." This legislation would establish, within the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior, conservation-related employment programs for youths.

The programs that H.R. 999 would in effect reestablish—the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) and the Young Adult Conservation Corps (YACC)—were terminated by Congress at my recommendation because they had proven to be costly and unnecessary. The American Conservation Corps (ACC) would duplicate other efforts for youth financed by the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA), such as the Job Corps, JTPA State Block Grants, and the Summer Youth program. In fiscal year 1985, the Federal Government will spend nearly $2.2 billion on these programs, which will train about 1.5 million people. This training is done at a much lower per-capita cost than would be the case under the ACC, and is much more likely to result in permanent private sector jobs for their graduates because they involve the private sector in job training.

The ACC, however, would be based on the discredited approach to youth unemployment that relies on artificial public sector employment, just as did the Public Service Employment program operated under the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act until it was terminated by Congress in 1981.

Moreover, the ACC is not a necessary or effective way of managing Federal lands. The Federal Government currently spends over $4 billion annually on land management. This amount is adequate to fund all activities needed to ensure the preservation of these precious resources for this and future generations of Americans. Any conservation project that could be performed by the ACC could be done better and for less money under existing programs, because of less overhead for residential centers and the greater productivity of existing workers who are already well trained. In addition, I have recently signed S. 864, which would expand the National Park Service's volunteer program, and allow such a program to be established in the Bureau of Land Management. Under these worthwhile programs, including those administered by the Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service, citizens offer valuable volunteer services to assist the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior in the management of Federal lands.

Finally, while the three year, $225 million ACC authorization is itself unwarranted, it would almost certainly grow. The Youth Conservation Corps began in 1971 as a $1 million pilot program, and was subsequently given a permanent authorization of $60 million annually, notwithstanding its inability to provide enduring, meaningful benefits for the trainees or the public. Moreover, the proponents of the ACC have already served notice that they intend to attempt in the next Congress to increase the ACC authorization to $300 million annually.

I believe that America's unemployed youth would be better served by reducing Federal spending so that more resources are available to the private sector of our economy to fuel a continuation of the current economic expansion that has added 6 million new jobs to the workforce over the last two years. If given the opportunity, the private sector is much more likely to offer young people promising career opportunities than temporary make-work Federal job programs such as the American Conservation Corps.


The White House,

October 30, 1984.

Ronald Reagan, Memorandum Returning Without Approval the American Conservation Corps Act of 1984 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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