U.S. Senator Bennet Unveils Bill to Dramatically Scale Up Forest and Watershed Restoration Across the West
Proposal Would Create Jobs, Save Money, and Sustain Outdoor Economy
Washington, D.C. –– Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet introduced the Outdoor Restoration Force Act to create or sustain over two million jobs in the outdoors through forest and watershed restoration. Public land and water constitute the natural infrastructure that sustains our economy in the West. The Outdoor Restoration Force Act would represent a major investment in the resilience of this infrastructure and create jobs for people throughout Colorado and the West in the process. The bill would provide direct support to local collaborative efforts to restore forests and watersheds, improve air and water quality, enhance wildlife habitat, and expand outdoor access.
“For years, Congress has failed to invest in the outdoors – undermining our forests and watersheds, which sustain our economy and western way of life,” said Bennet. “The Outdoor Restoration Force Act begins to change that with an injection of funding to create new, good paying jobs in the outdoors, while reducing the risk of wildfire and other natural disasters. Our bill provides funding that local governments can use to hire individuals for projects that meet local needs––whether that’s improving forest health, cleaning up abandoned mines, or removing invasive species. It also ensures that our communities have a willing and able partner in the federal government in these restoration efforts. Our economy and our environment go hand in hand in Colorado and now is the time to double down and restore both.”
“The Outdoor Restoration Force Act is a trailblazing investment in Colorado’s natural resources and Colorado is proud to support its introduction in the US Senate. In a year where we are experiencing major drought and the three largest wildfires in state history, there’s no better time to invest in Colorado’s forests, watersheds, and landscapes that drive economic activity across the west, employ thousands of Americans, and provide environmental and ecological benefits to our communities and wildlife.” – Dan Gibbs, Executive Director at the Colorado State Department of Natural Resources
“As Western communities continue to fight dueling threats of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impacts of the climate crisis, now is the time to pursue initiatives that will help us rebuild better. The Outdoor Restoration Force Act will provide badly needed resources to help Western states mitigate wildfires, restore forests, improve air and water quality, and advance equity, all while pumping billions of dollars into local economies and supporting millions of good-paying jobs; it’s a true win-win. We applaud Senator Bennet for his leadership and look forward to supporting this legislation to build a more resilient West.” – Jon Goldin-Dubois, President of Western Resource Advocates
“The United States has been blessed with abundant land and natural resources, but in our rise to prosperity and global leadership we have also spent heavily from this natural capital. The Outdoor Restoration Force Act of 2020 represents a long overdue re-investment in the critical natural infrastructure that sustains us.” – Lesli Allison, Executive Director of Western Landowners Alliance
“The Outdoor Restoration Force Act respects the importance of empowering local citizens and leaders that have an ability to bring diverse voices to the table. Planning and implementing projects from the ground up, while engaging the people with the most at stake, is how we make progress and build resilience in the West. Our communities need a reliable partner for the urgent effort of recovering and restoring the health and stability of the place where we live and work. I am reassured and grateful for this critical step forward.” – Russell George, lifetime citizen of Western Colorado and former elected and appointed public servant
“Rangelands and watersheds are the backbone of our western communities, supporting our wildlife, culture, and economies. And yet their health has been ignored far too long, as we’ve seen with the devastating drought, wildfires and dramatic spread of invasive annual grasses. This bill is exactly what our nation needs right now – creation of meaningful jobs that result in lasting benefits for both small towns and urban centers. Like the Civilian Conservation Corps, which employed millions of Americans during the Great Depression, this bill presents real solutions to today’s challenges by helping us restore the West.” – Alison Holloran, Executive Director and Vice President, Audubon Rockies
The bill is also supported by the National Audubon Society.
The Outdoor Restoration Force Act would establish a $60 billion outdoor restoration fund to dramatically increase funding available for restoration and resilience projects across the country. The bill establishes a national advisory council to advise on funding priorities, coordinate with regional entities, and administer grants – giving a voice to local governments, industry leaders, conservation groups, and experts on restoration and resilience. Eligible entities, which include state, local, and tribal governments, would have the opportunity to apply for funding to plan, implement, and monitor collaborative restoration projects that create jobs and address shared priorities. A portion of the fund is made available to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of the Interior (DOI), and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to supplement popular and proven restoration and resilience programs at the agencies.
The Outdoor Restoration Force Act would:
- Empower local leaders by making $20 billion available to state and local governments, tribes, special districts, and non-profits to hire individuals who can plan, implement, and monitor restoration and resilience projects. Empowering local leaders that have an ability to bring diverse voices to the table is the path for progress in the West.
- Spur federal investment by providing $40 billion to popular and proven conservation and restoration efforts across USDA, DOI, and the EPA to ensure that the federal government is a willing and able partner to support forest health, watershed restoration, and climate resilience projects across public and private land boundaries.
- Create or sustain over two million good-paying jobs, primarily in rural areas, to support existing industries like agriculture and outdoor recreation, while providing new opportunities for communities to address long-standing concerns and draw in new business.
- Save landowners and local governments money by investing in mitigation, which can be 3 to 6 times more cost effective than recovering from natural disasters like wildfires or floods.
- Generate over $156 billion in economic output, with a return of up to $15 for every dollar spent on restoration, while upgrading our natural infrastructure – forests, watersheds, and rangelands – for the millions of people whose livelihood, health, and wellbeing rely on them.