Taking Obama's Great Outdoors initiative a step further

J.P. Leous

The President gets it: environmental health is integral to economic health. Now it’s the Senate's turn!

Last week the Obama Administration unveiled the eagerly anticipated America’s Great Outdoors initiative. At the heart of this program is the understanding that the United States has always thrived because of our healthy natural resources—and we must protect what we have left if we are to continue to thrive in a warming world.

This is important to remember as the Senate prepares to take up a clean energy and climate bill--and those who stand to profit from a polluting status quo are preparing for a full frontal assault against America’s entry into a clean energy economy.

What these folks won’t tell you is that we can have it all: healthy wildlands, clean air and water, and economic growth--- but we can only have it all if we address climate change now.

In fact, taking care of our wildlands and helping them remain resilient in a warming world can create and protect jobs across the American economy. Removing unwanted old logging roads, tackling invasive species and removing barriers in rivers can act as a one-two punch that boosts local economies.

These projects create and protect jobs: project management, back office personnel, heavy equipment operators, engineers, wildlife ecologists, hydrologists, and so on. Then think of the equipment and material suppliers needed to get these projects completed. A study at the University of Massachusetts estimates that for a $1 million investment in forest restoration up to 40 jobs can be created and protected. Another study notes that this type of investment can lead to over $2 million in economic benefits; that’s right—doubling your money while protecting our natural resources from climate change!

But we’re not done.

Active outdoor recreation supports 1 in 20 jobs across this country (that’s about 6.5 million folks for those keeping score at home) and contributes roughly $730 billion to the US economy. All this depends on people having healthy wildlands to enjoy—so the jobs mentioned above also support another sector of America’s economy. Seems like a pretty good investment, right?

So take a moment to tell the Senate to promote job growth, and a vibrant outdoor economy – and save our planet – by passing a strong climate bill. And then take some time outdoors, and enjoy the public lands that belong to all of us, and think about how to preserve and protect these vibrant lands for the next generation.