Focus on Job Creation and Accountability in Conservation of National Treasures
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Pledging swift, responsible implementation of President Obama’s economic recovery plan, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today estimated the $3 billion in funding allocated for the Department could create as many as 100,000 jobs and stimulate business activity in communities across America.
“With this bold initiative, we are making an investment in conserving America's timeless treasures -- our stunning natural landscapes, our monuments to liberty, the icons of our culture and heritage -- while helping working families and their communities prosper again,” Salazar said. “The President has made a commitment to transparency and accountability to the American people for this investment and I am determined to ensure our efforts adhere to those guiding principles.”
Salazar announced that he has established a Recovery Act Task Force that includes the leadership of Interior bureaus to determine which proposed projects should be funded. He also announced that he will soon name a Stimulus Czar to oversee Interior’s responsible implementation of the program. Among the major criteria for selecting projects, Salazar noted, are addressing the department’s highest priority mission needs; generating the largest number of jobs in the shortest period of time; and creating lasting value for the American public.
“These investments in our American landscapes and icons are the nation’s most significant since President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in the midst of the Great Depression, put people to work building the trails, roads, water systems, and other public lands infrastructure that we still enjoy today,” said Secretary Salazar. “Through the investments we will make in our nation’s treasures, in renewable energy, and in opportunities for youth - to create a lasting legacy for our children and grandchildren.”
The Department also is developing a web page for public information on the economic recovery plan and by March 3 will begin providing detailed reporting on these efforts through Recovery.gov, the official Administration website on the initiative.
The $750 million in the Recovery Act for the National Park Service will help preserve and protect national icons and historic landscapes, improve energy efficiency and renewable energy use at park units throughout the nation, improve roads for more than 275 million visitors, remediate abandoned mines sites on park units, and provide historic preservation funding to protect and restore buildings at historically black colleges. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will provide $1 billion to the Bureau of Reclamation, which provides water supplies and produces hydropower in the West. Funds in the Act will help fund water reuse projects and construct rural water projects that will provide clean, reliable drinking water to rural areas and ensure adequate water supplies to western localities. Funds are also expected to be used to promote water conservation, improve energy efficiency, address aging water infrastructure, and meet endangered species requirements through improvements such as fish screens and fish passage projects.
The Recovery Act includes $500 million for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to replace and upgrade Indian schools that will benefit the 47,000 Indian children who are educated in these schools. These projects will provide disabled access, replace inefficient heating and cooling systems, and create a better learning environment. BIA will provide $130-$170 million in loans to spur Indian economies in which unemployment far exceeds the national average. BIA will initiate two to three on-the-job training efforts in the construction trades in partnership with the Council on Tribal Employment Rights and the Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust and expand a pilot project in partnership with the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters to train tribal members to become certified plumbers and pipefitters.
The $280 million in the Recovery Act for the Fish and Wildlife Service will improve energy efficiency and renewable energy use on refuges and other facilities throughout the nation; restore wetlands, riparian habitat, endangered species habitat, and other important landscapes; and restore and rehabilitate facilities that are crucial to the management and restoration of wildlife and fisheries.
The Recovery Act includes $320 million for the Bureau of Land Management to expand its capacity to authorize renewable energy development on public lands while ensuring environmental protection of these areas, remediate abandoned mines, restore native plants and animals including sage grouse habitat. Funding is also included for Interior agencies to eliminate underbrush and other vegetation in fire- prone areas in order to reduce the threat and potential severity of fire.
The U.S. Geological Survey will invest $140 million under the Recovery Act to restore and rehabilitate laboratories and research facilities, improve energy efficiency of facilities, and modernize stream gauges that are critical for monitoring streamflow and providing information that is extensively utilized by water managers and the public. For example, important wildlife research facilities at Patuxent Wildlife and Research Refuge will be upgraded and two 50-year old vessels on the Great Lakes that are used for inventory and monitoring of Great Lakes lake trout and other important fisheries will be replaced.
Interior will engage and encourage the participation of young adults in these projects throughout the nation. For example, Job Corps and youth recruited by partners including the Student Conservation Association will assist in restoring trails for visitors and in controlling invasive species.
The Office of Inspector General will also receive $15 million for oversight and audit of programs, grants, and projects funded in the Act.
In addition, the Act includes $490 million under the Department of Transportation for Federal Highway Administration funds slated for road construction and repair on reservations and at Interior facilities, including $310 million for American Indian reservation roads; $170 million for national park roads and parkways; and $10 million for wildlife refuge roads.
- The Cherry Creek News -