The Trillion Dollar American Job Engine

Jeremy Riding

America's wild places are a wonder to behold, from the stark, jagged peaks of the Grand Tetons in Wyoming to the flame-colored leaves across the rolling slopes of Shenandoah National Park.

What they aren't known for is the tremendous economic boost that they give to the American economy each and every year -- more than $1 trillion dollars (yes, with a T). From jobs restoring forests to the still-growing outdoor recreation industry, there are billions of dollars worth of jobs and economic activity in the communities and villages near America's public lands -- and Congress should be supporting these jobs, not undermining them.

In our new report, Rural Jobs and America's Public Lands: Putting Rural America Back to Work, we highlight some of the many monetary and employment benefits that are provided by forests, plains, deserts and wetlands to the American people. And we aren't stopping there -- we are delivering this message directly to the deficit-reduction Super committee on Capitol Hill.

For months we have heard the mantra of "job-killing environmental regulations" from politicians looking to gut protections for clean air, clean water, and healthy wild lands. However, the very areas that are seen as ripe targets for the oil and gas industry (and their supporters in Congress) are the very ones that are the fuel for this $1 trillion engine.

Take the outdoor recreation industry for example. Even with the tough economy we've had, this industry has not only stayed afloat but grown. This growth is due, in part, to the reliable network of wild landscapes that are open to public for hiking, camping, hunting, and fishing. These are lands that can be enjoyed by all, and provide jobs for guides, retailers, and for the communities nearby, which thrive off of lodging and restaurant sales.

Or look at the restoration economy: investments here have a more than 2-to-1 return, generating $2.1 million for every $1 million put in, and creating up to 29 jobs in the process. These are real numbers, real jobs for real people, and they are more than the jobs that can be created by the fossil fuel industry

Reducing our dependence on fossil fuels also creates jobs and helps keep wild lands safe from development. Renewable energies like wind and solar are some of the fastest growing job sectors, and if done right, reduce the amount of fossil fuels we need to run America, and keep it beautiful. Another way to protect the lands that drive this economic engine is to use less energy overall -- upgrading and improving energy efficiency through weatherization and more efficient appliances. Already these improvements have accounted for more than 340,000 jobs, and could grow thousands more in the years to come.

There are American jobs that depend on America's lands -- jobs that keep America running, and protect our natural heritage for generations to come. These lands are the fuel for a powerful economic engine -- one that is defying the recession that is gripping the rest of the nation. We must continue to protect and preserve this heritage and the jobs they provide.