Wildlife refuges can provide shovel-ready green jobs

Conservation groups outline proposals for green economic stimulus

(01/14/2009) - WASHINGTON – Restoring the ability of the National Wildlife Refuge System and other public lands to protect America’s wildlife and habitats would also help President-elect Barack Obama create good jobs and boost the economy, conservation groups said in a press call today. The groups outlined how the Obama administration can both jumpstart the faltering economy by creating green jobs on wildlife refuges and other environmentally sensitive lands while also helping to address global warming.

“Funding shovel-ready projects on wildlife refuges could quickly create green jobs for nearly 20,000 Americans,” said Noah Kahn, the refuge program manager for Defenders of Wildlife. “These are profitable jobs that can’t be shipped overseas. And this investment would also help the Obama administration reduce global warming pollution.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) could put around 20,000 Americans to work in as little as 90 days through restoration projects in national wildlife refuges across the country. A $1 billion investment would create work for people with varying skills, including construction workers, engineers, electricians, biologists, renewable energy specialists, landscapers and unskilled or younger workers eager to learn useful job skills.

These jobs would improve America’s water quality and wildlife habitat, eradicate costly non-native invasive species, make aging facilities more energy efficient and develop renewable energy capacity, such as solar, wind and geothermal systems, at refuges across America.

The refuge job-creation plan includes calls for investing:

        * $443 million for removing non-native, invasive species and restoring native habitat: 5,644 jobs

        * $243 million for dramatically improving the energy efficiency of existing facilities: 5,103 jobs

        * $201 million for new “green” construction of visitor centers, environmental education and equipment storage facilities: 5,025 jobs

        * $60 million for increasing renewable energy capacity, such as tapping solar, wind and geothermal energy to power refuge facilities: 1,260 jobs

          “Refuges already provide educational and recreational opportunities for nearly 40 million annual visitors, who spend more than $1.7 billion each year,” added Kahn. “Investing in the refuge system would not only put Americans back to work, but would do it in a way that boosts these numbers even higher, benefitting wildlife habitat, local communities and the national economy.”


          Don Edwards San Francisco Bay NWR in California
          A hundred years ago, vast reaches of the southern San Francisco Bay were altered to produce salt, which killed most of the marsh and wildlife. Now large areas are part of the refuge, and the area is actively being restored. The refuge would use stimulus dollars to create jobs that restore the marsh and eradicate costly invasive species, providing not only fish and wildlife benefit but also improving Bay water quality and recreational opportunities for millions of people.   

          Hailstone NWR in Montana
          The wetlands at Hailstone have been devastated by saline and selenium seeps caused by surrounding agriculture activities. The situation has grown so dire and the water quality so poor that animals are becoming encrusted in salt and sometimes dying. The refuge has determined that it may be necessary to drain and restore the entire reservoir to save the refuge and its wildlife. In restoring these vital wetlands, FWS could create good local jobs while spending approximately $1 million to restore environmental health.

          Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge
          This refuge spans a large portion on the Mississippi River in Iowa, Minn., Ill., and Wis.  FWS would use the stimulus money to control non-native invasive plants like leafy spurge and purple loosestrife. Habitat restoration would also benefit the overall health of the river and wildlife such as river otters. The area is also home to large numbers of the iconic bald eagle. 

          Sabine NWR in Louisiana
          This refuge has been battered by frequent hurricanes in last few years, including Katrina, Rita and Ike. It is in desperate need of restoration and repair. With stimulus dollars, Sabine could start down the road to recovery while creating good local jobs in both conservation and construction. In addition to many other species, Sabine provides habitat for American alligators, river otters and hundreds of bird species including pelicans, egrets, roseate spoonbills and several types of heron.

          Learn more about what Defenders is doing on the green economic stimulus and green projects in national wildlife refuges.

          Learn more about green projects Audubon has in mind to restore coastal habitats and ecosystems. 

          Visit the National Parks Conservation Association for more information on green projects in national parks.

          Learn more about investing in natural resources with the National Wildlife Federation


          Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org.








          James Navarro, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 772-0247