Green opportunities could spark North Carolina job market

Jan 28, 2010

FRANKLIN — Real estate and local economies are being threatened as the sea levels of the Albermarle Peninsula off the coast of North Carolina continue to rise. North Carolinians are feeling the effects of climate change, and critical habitats on the peninsula are also at risk.

With input from 34 conservation and wildlife organizations, The Wilderness Society has released a document called the “Green Budget” that will begin to address these problems. This document details the federal funding the groups say is needed to sustain clean air and water, lands, oceans and wildlife over the long term — an increasingly urgent priority in an era of global warming. (Click here to see a short video about the need to invest in a green economy, find full report, obtain photos, etc.)

“The negative effects that the Albermarle Peninsula has seen will only continue to get worse,” said Brent Martin, southern Appalachian senior associate for The Wilderness Society. “However, with support from Congress, North Carolina citizens would finally benefit.”

Martin is referring to a specific project proposed in the budget that would fund a $3 million restoration project on the peninsula.

Ditches and canals dug over the past two centuries are part of the reason the peninsula is at such high risk. These ditches alter the hydrology on thousands of acres, and these artificial waterways also serve as channels for saltwater to ruin local soil. If this problem is left untreated coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion will likely cause the areas soils to become unstable as well as the businesses and structures that reside above.

The money allocated in the proposal would permit different projects that would generate jobs, help the economy, and recreate the peninsula’s natural water flow patterns. The restoration projects would include planting native flood or salt-water tolerant species, and it would also reconstruct oyster reefs to minimize future storm impacts inland. Jobs ranging from biologist to engineer to surveyor to equipment operator would become available.

“The northeastern region of North Carolina is likely to affected by sea level rise from climate change as much as any area on the Eastern Seaboard,” said Chris Canfield, executive director of Audubon North Carolina “Communities are already realizing this and collaborating on green jobs initiatives. This kind of funding could build resilience for the communities and the landscape while giving newly trained green workers employment.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge would implement the project.

Multiple environmental organizations are urging Congress to fund these programs, not only to benefit public lands, but also to create stable jobs for Americans as well.

In its first year in office, President Obama’s administration has reversed many environmentally detrimental Bush policies and introduced critical legislation to transition toward a green energy economy. In order to continue this progress for the next year, adequate funding must be allocated to create green jobs, conserve our natural resources and protect wildlife. The “Green Budget” provides Congress with a potential road map to accomplish that objective while also strengthening key environmental programs. The coalition has also offered suggestions to slash spending by some $19.8 billion a year in order to offset the investments in a green-friendly economy.

“We heard President Obama and we recognize the need for the federal government to tighten its belt, which is why we’re calling on Congress and the administration to eliminate wasteful spending.” said William H. Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society. “The president and Congress have some tough decisions to make but we believe sound economic and environmental policy go hand-in-hand. So while frugality is key, we must continue to invest in the kind of environmental initiatives that create jobs and protect our natural resources.”