Economic revitalization package opens door for green jobs; But will federal agencies use the money well?

Park restoration. Photo by George Frame, Courtesy NPS.

It’s official. After months of Congressional back-and-forth, the nation finally has an economic revitalization plan for its ailing economy.

We’re very pleased that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed by the President on Feb. 17, includes funding to create green jobs! However, there is still much work to do to ensure the money is used for jobs that help fight global warming by restoring the health of our wildlands.

Through the act, the nation’s land management agencies, including the Forest Service, the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management, will receive more than $2 billion. The agencies can use the funding for much needed land, habitat and watershed restoration projects. However, the downside is that agencies can also choose to pump the money straight into infrastructure projects, such as beefing up facilities.

Among the many important jobs to be done, workers employed through these funds would remove invasive species, restore watersheds, repair fish culverts, remove damaged and unwanted roads in forests and plant native trees.

These jobs will employ thousands of engineers, foresters, construction crews, biologists and more.

The challenge now is to ensure that federal land management agencies actually use the money to fund wise projects that help stressed lands become more resilient to climate change, thereby allowing them to play a larger role in removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, and serve as habitat for species affected by a warming world.

The Wilderness Society is already encouraging our nation’s land agencies to use the money to create jobs that defend against global warming.

Inspired by Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps, The Wilderness Society spearheaded the effort to include land restoration jobs in the economic stimulus package with the aim of funding the vast backlog of work on our refuges, in our parks, in our national forest and other public lands.

“We are particularly encouraged by provisions of the stimulus that will invest in making our national forests, grasslands, national parks, and conservation areas more resilient to the changing climate,” said David Moulton, The Wilderness Society’s Climate and Conservation Funding Director.

Our economy is dependent upon thriving natural systems. Economic sectors tied to outdoor recreation contribute more than $700 billion to the U.S. economy every year. More broadly, ecosystems also contribute to trillions of dollars of economic benefits through services they provide, cleaning our air and water, pollinating our crops and storing heat-trapping pollution.

“If we don’t protect these critical lands, watersheds and habitats, they will not longer be able to protects us,” Moulton said.

photo: Park restoration. Photo by George Frame, Courtesy NPS.