Bypassing opposition from Interior Secretary James G. Watt, a House committee voted yesterday to create a new youth jobs program modeled on the Civilian Conservation Corps--and to place it in Watt's department.
On a unanimous voice vote, the Interior Committee called for a new American Conservation Corps to enlist unemployed youth, ages 16 to 25, in conservation projects around the country.
Participants would work at minimum wage to refurbish parks, forests, waterfronts and neighborhoods and to protect natural resources.
The program would represent a merger of a defunct Comprehensive Employment and Training Act conservation program and Interior's Youth Conservation Corps, a summer jobs program that Watt wants to abolish in fiscal 1983.
It has drawn support from Republicans and Democrats, industry and environmental groups, who call it a response to high youth unemployment and to dwindling federal budget support for conservation efforts.
With 100 cosponsors in the House, including key Republicans, the bill now goes to the House Labor and Education Committee, where chairman Carl D. Perkins (D-Ky.) has indicated it is likely to be approved.
Half the House committee's members are cosponsors.
In the Senate, the measure also has bipartisan support, with Sens. Charles McC. Mathias (R-Md.) and Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) as prime sponsors.
The bill would create conservation centers across the country, and participants would work for state and federal agencies engaged in conservation.
It proposes a budget of $50 million for 1983--the amount the Interior Committee proposed for the Youth Conservation Corps when Watt attempted to abolish it--and $250 million a year for the next five years.
The money would come from federal leases in national forests, on the Outer Continental Shelf and on other public lands.
Interior officials testified against the bill at hearings this year.
In judging applicants, "special consideration" would be given disadvantaged youth but those who are not poor would not be excluded.