WASHINGTON — The Wilderness Society (TWS) joined four other national conservation groups today in making a case to include jobs restoring America’s public lands in any economic recovery package being proposed by Congress and the new Obama administration. In a news conference this afternoon, the groups argued that work to restore the nation’s critical “green infrastructure” — America’s national forests, parks, wildlife refuges, BLM lands, wilderness areas, and other public and private parklands, wetlands, and open spaces — could create tens of thousands of jobs while providing the nation a much-needed economic boost and helping to maintain the health of the land in the face of global warming.
“America’s public lands face an unprecedented backlog of chronically unfunded projects,” said David Moulton, TWS Director of Climate Policy. “A program of Green Jobs Restoring the Land could immediately put nearly 37,000 Americans to work — many of them in the rural places hit hardest by the current economic downturn. These are ‘made in America’ jobs that invest in America’s workers for the benefit of America’s lands.” Moulton noted that there is critical work to be done on public lands in all 50 states that includes restoring native forests, grasslands and wetlands; eradicating invasive species; repairing damaged watersheds; replanting native trees and grasses; and restoring fish habitat. “Wild lands are our first and best defense against the impacts of global warming,” he said. “Among other benefits, they provide clean air and drinking water for our communities, help store carbon, and provide crucial buffers against hurricanes and powerful storm surges that threaten our coastal cities.”
Scott Brennan, Director of TWS’ Northern Rockies Forest Program, noted that The Wilderness Society has worked with the U.S. Forest Service’s regional office to identify $100 million in forest restoration projects in Montana and Idaho that have already undergone all the necessary environmental reviews and are ready to begin. Funding these projects would immediately provide more than 1,300 new jobs in these hard-hit rural states. These projects include trail maintenance, reforestation, cleaning up abandoned mine sites, removing invasive species, and thinning timber to improve forests’ resilience to fire. Brennan noted that the jobs created would provide work for foresters, environmental engineers, heavy equipment operators, and fish and water quality experts, to name a few.