Jobs and conservation is not an either/or choice. But you wouldn’t know that listening to the partisan rhetoric the politicians have been slinging around Washington.
At a time when presidential debates are full of political jousting over how to create more jobs, our parks and recreation areas are providing millions of home-grown jobs in communities across America. And these are jobs that can’t be outsourced.
An added benefit: Most of these jobs are in rural parts of our nation where folks are struggling hardest to make ends meet.
A recent report by the research group Southwick and Associates found that conservation and recreation provide 9.4 million jobs across America and contribute $107 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues.
In fact, during the recession of the past four years when many businesses across America were struggling or failing, businesses that support outdoor recreation activities grew by nearly six percent a year as more and more Americans went fishing and hunting, birding and boating, hiking and camping, or just strolling and picnicking.
Even the most partisan politicians have to find it hard to complain about numbers like that.
Earlier this year a poll conducted by Colorado College and two polling firms—one Democratic, one Republican—asked residents in the six western states of Colorado, Arizona, Wyoming, Utah, Montana and New Mexico whether wildlife areas, national parks and forests should be considered “an essential part” of their state’s economy. A resounding 91 percent said “yes.”
Our number one job at National Audubon Society is protecting America’s wildlife and wild spaces—for people as well as birds and other wild creatures. Our support of the Restore Act, which makes sure that fines and other money paid by BP goes to assisting Gulf Coast states in the aftermath of the catastrophic oil spill two and one-half years ago, was as much about helping people as helping birds and wildlife and their habitat. A study by the Walton Foundation estimated the Restore Act would create more than 88,000 jobs along with the conservation efforts.
In absolute contrast to what the partisan crowd in Washington would have you believe, conservation and stewardship of the environment are job generators, even in the toughest economic times.