Restoring Natural Areas = Economic Stimulus & Job Creation

wetlands photo

photo: Dean Forbes

Everybody and his brother in the green movement seems to be recommending that President-elect Obama make investing in clean energy and improving the United States’ infrastructure by making it more energy efficient and eco-friendly. The Nature Conservancy has taken the idea of green infrastructure one step more and is recommending that the federal government should also focus on rehabilitating natural areas.

Bob Bendick, Director of US Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy, responded to the following questions:What Does Green Infrastructure Mean to The Nature Conservancy?

Green infrastructure involves restoration of natural systems to provide human and ecological benefits. For example, restored freshwater marshes hold water in times of flood, retain water in times of drought and filter out pollutants.

Coastal marshes and oyster reefs are nursery grounds for fish and buffer the land against storms. Green jobs include those needed to design and restore natural systems and all sorts of other employment needed to move to a more sustainable, lower carbon economy.

Are Conservation and Economic Growth Compatible?
Not only are they compatible, they are interdependent. The nation’s rivers, coasts, and estuaries are linked to billions of dollars in economic productivity and provide important habitat and natural services.

Unfortunately many natural areas have been in decline for years. We can produce a more sustainable long-term economy by reversing those declines and restoring those areas. Also, the development and deployment of less damaging technology can, in itself, be an important element of economic recovery.

The bottom line is: If our natural systems are suffering, our national economy will soon be suffering too.

What Sorts of Jobs Could Be Created by Rehabilitating Natural Areas?
Ecological restoration is a high-growth sector of our regional and national economy and more investment will provide significant job-creation. It’s an emergent, dynamic industry comprised of a variety of applied sciences and a diverse set of skills.

Ecological restoration employs everyone from non-skilled laborers, to restoration design engineers, ecologists, landscape architects, hydrologists and even botanists who work in nurseries that offer local seedlings and other specialized plants for restoration.

The sector also employs lots of people working on the ground to do the physical work of restoration from heavy equipment operators to laborers.

A recent example of job creation through restoration are the jobs being offered to watermen in the Maryland blue crab fishery, which was declared a commercial fishery failure earlier this fall. Here, federal and state disaster aid is helping provide over 520 jobs to affected watermen, employing them to carry out oyster restoration work in the Chesapeake Bay.

Read the complete list of questions and answers at: The Nature Conservancy
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