California communities bring green job ideas to capitol
TRUCKEE ” Representatives of business and conservation groups from California and other western states arrive in Washington D.C., this week with economic stimulus policy recommendations that include ways to create green jobs for rural communities, which currently suffer the highest unemployment rates in the state ” and the nation.
Counties like Trinity have unemployment rates higher than 20 percent. Working together as the Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition, the groups are meeting throughout the week with members of Congress and Obama administration officials to highlight “shovel-ready” green job opportunities in rural areas.
“Rural communities struggle with a lack of economic diversity, so when times get tough, the effects are immediate and recovery is slow. We want to make sure the new administration knows there opportunities for green job development in rural areas, and long-term health of rural communities and natural ecosystems depends on building strong, sustainable, place-based economies,” said Betony Jones, from the Sierra Business Council.
Jones mentioned several opportunities for rural green jobs include improving energy efficiency in buildings, increasing access to rural broadband to reduce commute traffic, redeveloping brownfield mill sites as manufacturing plants for renewable energy equipment, locating data centers near clean sources of power, and providing support for local family farmers. “In some areas, we need to invest in green job training, apprentice programs, and vocational schools. In other areas, there are skilled people, ready to work now.”
Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition policy recommendations include a $5 billion investment to improve the health and productivity of public forests, which provides multiple benefits such as employment for forest workers who have been displaced by the decline of logging and can also reduce the cost of fighting forest fires in the future and save taxpayer dollars.
Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition also recommends funding for land management activities including fire hazard reduction, restoration of watersheds and wetlands, wildlife habit improvements, control of noxious weeds and invasive species, range restoration, and recreation site maintenance, wildlife surveys, and the planting and maintaining of river and riparian areas.
“It’s just sound public policy to invest in our public lands while acknowledging the world class stewardship workforce that exists in our rural communities today. These pivotal investments can be transformative for rural communities who have the right and the responsibility to manage the land for all of society. There is no greener job than a natural resource job,” said Lynn Jungwirth, from the Watershed Center in Trinity County, California.
Jungwirth also identified “shovel ready” capital improvement opportunities that include road decommissioning and maintenance that will reduce the risk of catastrophic road failures during storms and reduce stream sedimentation and replacing decaying bridges with modern timber bridges. Facilities improvements could include improvements at recreation sites and campgrounds as well as energy efficiency retrofits to USFS buildings. “Public land communities are skilled and ready to go to work,” added Jungwirth.