Public lands losing their caretakers
WASHINGTON — Just as Interior Secretary Sally Jewell started her job in April, her department was faced with across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration. Then there was the 16-day partial government shutdown last month, when the National Park Service took heat from Congress and the public for shuttering parks and monuments.
The shutdown served as a reminder of “what's at stake” for America's public lands, Jewell told a group on Thursday at the National Press Club, where she highlighted the importance of a conservation legacy amid budget cuts, tensions between development and conservation, and climate change.
“Do we want a legacy of shortsighted funding and partisan gridlock that we've witnessed in Congress over the last few years?” Jewell asked. “I don't think so.”
She called on Congress to pass a budget that does not cut funding to the Park Service, and to protect more public lands as national parks or wilderness areas, something it has not done since 2010.
“Our public lands are important in so many ways,” Jewell said. “They drive our economies, but they also drive things that fill the soul and help define who we are as a nation.”
But to leave such a legacy, she said, the administration needs to focus on engaging younger Americans, especially millennials, the people aged 18 to 33. That generation is the largest and most diverse in history, she said, but it is also the most urban.
“Research also shows that this generation cares deeply about the planet and wants to make a difference in their careers,” Jewell said, “yet they have grown up being more disconnected from the natural world than ever before.”
A third of Interior's workforce of 70,000 people is eligible to retire in the next five years, Jewell said. “What happens when we have a generation who has had little connection to our nation's public lands, yet they're suddenly in charge of taking care of them?” she asked.
She said the Interior Department plans to add 100,000 jobs and training opportunities over the next four years for young people, at a time when entry-level jobs have been severely affected by the sequester cuts, and many young people are entering a workforce where jobs are hard to find.
The new initiative will be funded by working with schools and communities, as well as corporate and nonprofit organizations, to raise the $20 million needed while the department faces budget pressures elsewhere.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
- Large pipelines proposed to carry gas from shale formations
- Prospective juror in Tsarnaev trial cites sympathy for suspect in Boston Marathon bombing
- Big Bang ‘waves’ go poof under analysis
- Hillary Clinton’s charter jet costs scrutinized
- States have marked drop in juvenile prison populations
- Pittsburgh travelers feel effects of Northeast blizzard
- Colorado to clarify benefit limits over concern welfare, food stamps used to buy legal pot
- Chris Kyle Day declared in Texas to honor SEAL of ‘American Sniper’ movie fame
- NASA satellite to track water in soil
- Internet rules in line for big shift
- Drivers, return to your car dealers for 2nd airbag fix