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Jan 212009

By Shermakaye Bass
Green Right Now

It’s about jobs.

America’s newly inaugurated President, Barack Obama, has a Herculean task ahead of him, no question. Virtually everyone from the far right to the hard left agrees that if the new leader wants to rescue America’s economy, it’s all about jobs.

And as Mr. Obama promised, the buzz is about green jobs – a green economy, greening our buildings, revamping parks, wildlife refuges and public spaces. These involve “shovel-ready” jobs, some of which can be started within 90 days of Obama’s inauguration, say eco-leaders, who’ve been lobbying Washington to fund what could amount to an environmental restoration of the United States.

Last week, when the U.S. Congress presented its $825 billion recovery package, legislators gave the first hint that they are listening. The package proposes $90 billion for infrastructure and $54 billion to support renewable-energy production and research — all aimed at modernizing the economy and stopping the river of pink slips that claimed two million jobs in just the last four months of 2008. As Appropriations Committee chairman, Rep. David Obey, (D-Wisc.), pointed out – without the recovery plan, the country could face 12 percent unemployment in 2009.

That’s precisely why now is the time to bust out the shovels and dig in, say people like Noah Kahn, manager of the national wildlife refuge program for the nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife. We’ve definitely got our work cut out for us, he adds. And what’s being proposed by Congress is only the tip of the iceberg, in terms of what could be achieved in a green-jobs economy.

Defenders of Wildlife has joined with 21 other groups in the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE) to propose a massive, ambitious jobs-creation plan, a Green Jobs for Refuges plan,  which CARE is urging Congress to include in its economic recovery package.

And considering that CARE is made up of nonprofits ranging from the American Birding Association and American Fisheries Society to the Nature Conservancy and the National Wildlife Refuge Association to the National Rifle Association and Ducks Unlimited – a broad mix of environmentalists, wildlife conservationists and sportsmen – its 14 million combined members carry considerable freight among lobbyists on Capitol Hill.

CARE calls for a two-prong plan – one portion on “Greening Facilities” and another for “Habitat Restoration.” The details:

  • Spend $443 million for removing non-native, invasive species and restoring native habitat. Create 5,644 jobs
  • Spend $243 million for dramatically improving the energy efficiency of existing facilities. Create 5,103 jobs
  • Spend $201 million for new “green” construction of visitor centers, environmental education and equipment storage facilities. Create: 5,025 jobs
  • Spend $60 million for increasing renewable energy capacity, such as tapping solar, wind and geothermal energy to power refuge facilities. Create 1,260 jobs
  • Total: Nearly 20,000 jobs.

“With about $950 million or a $1 billion investment, about 20,000 jobs could be created in 90 days,” says Kahn, who works closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS), which oversees 550 national wildlife refuges.