Proposal Would Create Millions of Jobs by Scaling Up Forest and Watershed Restoration Efforts
Denver –– Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet announced building support for his Outdoor Restoration Force Act, new legislation to create jobs by investing in our natural infrastructure — our public lands and water — through collaborative forest health, wildlife habitat, and watershed restoration projects across the West. Since introduction last week, Coloradans, westerners, and national organizations have expressed their support for the bill as a solution to the challenges facing our forests, watersheds, and wildlife.
“This is a great first step in recognizing and acknowledging the problem that was created over 30 years ago. The lack of proactive management and the ‘hands-off’ approach is now clearly having devastating effects on our communities, forest heath and sustainable watersheds. This bill addresses this problem, provides much needed funding, and hopefully is the beginning of a new era in resource management.” – Merrit Linke, Grand County Commissioner and Club 20 Chair
“The Colorado River District’s highest priority is to protect the water security of Western Colorado. Water security starts with our forests. Our largest source of water is the snowpack that develops in our forests above 9,000 feet in elevation, mostly on federal lands. Sen. Michael Bennet’s $60 billion Outdoor Restoration Force Act proposal is a direct water security initiative through the funding of proactive watershed protection actions. These actions would help prevent catastrophic fires and start restoration work where warming temperatures and fires have already done harm. It’s noteworthy that $20 billion will be available to fund projects generated at the state and local levels. We applaud Senator Bennet for advocating for important western priorities in the Senate.” – Andy Mueller, General Manager, Colorado River District
“This legislation is vital to the health and safety of our mountain communities which have been ravaged by drought and wildfires in recent years. The health of our forests is important to our drinking water — and that of millions of people across the Southwest — as well as for our recreation-based economy. We have the most visited forests in the United States and they desperately need active restoration.” – Jon Stavney, Executive Director, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments
“The Outdoor Restoration Force Act is critically important to our outdoor recreation economy, and our wildfire mitigation and restoration work. This common sense bill provides long needed prevention management, needed jobs and will save taxpayer dollars as we adapt to climate change realities and the massive costs of fighting wildfires, and rebuilding infrastructure.” – Karn Stiegelmeier, Summit County Commissioner
“While the City of Glenwood Springs was fortunate enough to be saved from the flames of the Grizzly Creek Fire, Glenwood Canyon and our watersheds were deeply impacted. Even before the fire was significantly contained by the Incident Management Team, we knew our City would struggle with providing clean water to our residents for years to come. Being able to access the assistance available in the Outdoor Restoration Force Act to reduce fire risk and funding to increase restoration and resiliency would be lifesaving for my city and throughout the West.” – Jonathan Godes, Mayor of Glenwood Springs
“The San Juan Headwaters Forest Health Partnership commends Senator Bennet and his team for visiting local communities, talking with stakeholders, and getting boots on the ground while developing the Outdoor Restoration Force Act. The bill highlights a cross-boundary, watershed approach to land management and includes local voices and collaborative efforts. It advances applications of science to land management planning and activities and strives to promote the social, ecological, and economic wellbeing of communities.” – Dana Hayward, Partnership Coordinator for San Juan Headwaters Forest Health Partnership
“The Outdoor Restoration Force Act would make investments in forests and watersheds that align with the mission of conservation corps to employ and create career pathways for young men and women with outdoor jobs protecting waterways, communities and our outdoor economies from wildfire, drought and other natural disasters.” – Rob Spath, CEO, Conservation Legacy.
“We all live in a watershed. The investment delivered by this legislation will protect and enhance the American way of life. This meaningful effort is the leadership that we need at this crucial time to keep our rivers healthy and flowing. A focus on the local level is the most effective way to strengthen our communities as we tackle the problems that we face in the years to come.” – Ben Beall, Board of Directors, Friends of the Yampa
“The Outdoor Restoration Force Act is exactly what Southwest Colorado needs to achieve the pace and scale in forest restoration that we have been preparing for. We have three forest health collaboratives across the San Juan Forest and adjacent communities. We have been selected as the focal area for the Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative (RMRI) planning treatments on 300,000 acres over the next 10 years for community wildfire resilience, water, wildlife and recreation. Wood products businesses have taken root to produce commercial value that will help underwrite our efforts. We are participating in Statewide RMRI efforts in Workforce Development and Biomass Utilization and Shared Stewardship. We have made active use of the Southwest Conservation Corps. The Outdoor Restoration Force Act will contribute essential funding and policy support that will catalyze the capacity that we have built.” – Mike Preston, Water Representative, Steering Committee, Southwest Colorado RMRI
“Colorado communities derive extraordinary economic and social benefits from the ongoing health and beauty of our natural environment. Respecting this heritage, the Outdoor Restoration Force Act aims to strengthen our economy in diverse, collaborative, and sustainable ways that fit the particular context of our communities. We thank Senator Bennet for his leadership in supporting this legislation that supports the natural environment as well as the economy of local communities.” – Chris Romer, ACE, President & CEO, Vail Valley Partnership
“As a Colorado River headwaters-based organization working to protect local streams, Eagle River Watershed Council sees firsthand the impacts of climate change and drought on our streams and surrounding lands. These streams provide the water we drink, support the diverse wildlife we value and fuel the recreation we all love as well as the economy that is based upon them. The funds provided through the Outdoor Restoration Force Act, if passed, would broaden the capacity of local nonprofits and government, as well as their partners in federal agencies, to find real solutions to complex problems that are only getting bigger. The Act, which also creates new jobs at a time when unemployment is at an all-time high, could help to strengthen our local, natural resource-based economy.” – Holly Loff, Executive Director, Eagle River Watershed Council
“We appreciate Sen. Bennet’s strong leadership on these issues – forest health, invasive species control, and Western wildlife–which are so important to farmers and ranchers throughout the West. We recommend paying particular attention to the importance of water generated in watersheds. We look forward to working with him further as this important legislation is vetted and refined.” – Patrick F. O’Toole, President of the Board, Family Farm Alliance
“The Outdoor Restoration Force Act would provide critical funding to expand forest restoration projects in Colorado and across the West. Through our leadership in the Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative, the need for both increasing the scale of forest restoration and creating critical workforce capacity have become apparent, and this bill addresses both. This bill will help the partner organizations of the Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative address the four core values of: water, healthy wildlife and forests, robust recreation opportunities and resilient communities. Senator Bennet’s bill provides a path to addressing these important natural resource concerns while also creating jobs and bolstering rural economies. The National Wild Turkey Federation is proud to support this timely piece of legislation, and we look forward to working alongside the Senator to see it enacted into law.” – Becky Humphries, CEO, National Wild Turkey Federation
“The Outdoor Restoration Force Act will restore our public forests, rangelands and watersheds, while creating good-paying jobs and empowering local and Tribal leaders to advance restoration and resilience projects. Restoration of our public lands is key to combating our nation’s wildlife crisis, maintaining clean air and water, protecting public health, and mitigating the effects of climate change. This common-sense legislation will get Americans back to work while putting our nation on the road to recovery from the impacts of the global pandemic.” – Tracy Stone-Manning, associate vice president for public lands at the National Wildlife Federation
“As the largest regional park system in the nation and established with the assistance of Civil Conservation Corps, the Outdoor Restoration Force Act would provide significant funding to reduce wildfire threats, restore wetlands, and nature-based infrastructure. During the pandemic, parks and nature have been an essential outlet and now is the time to reinvest in local communities and create new jobs.” – Robert Doyle, General Manager, East Bay Regional Park District (California)
The bill is also supported by Colorado State Department of Natural Resources, Western Resource Advocates, Western Alliance of Landowners, Audubon Rockies, the National Audubon Society, and Russell George, a lifetime citizen of Western Colorado and former elected and appointed public servant.
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 also 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 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 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.