COLORADO, USA — U.S. lawmakers, including two from Colorado, introduced the Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act late last year, a $60 billion proposal that aims to reduce wildfire risk in Western states.
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and U.S. Reps. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) discussed the proposal, which is included in President Joe Biden's American Jobs Plan, on Tuesday morning.
It would create and sustain millions of jobs and reduce wildfire risk by supporting locally led forest health and watershed restoration projects, according to its sponsors.
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, Bennet's office said in December.
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,” Bennet said.
“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," he said. "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.”
According to the bill sponsors, if passed, the act would do the following.
- Empower local leaders by making $20 billion available to state and local governments, tribes, special districts, and nonprofits to hire individuals who can plan, implement and monitor restoration and resilience projects.
- Spur federal investment by providing $40 billion to popular and proven conservation and restoration efforts across the USDA, DOI and 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 2 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 three to six 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.
"If it doesn't pass the infrastructure bill, we're gonna have to find some other place to do it, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the agriculture committee to figure that out," Bennet said.
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