Recovery Act Funds Help Veterans Green Corps Members Find Meaningful Work
Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture highlighted the jobs created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The evidence is clear – and growing by the day – that the Recovery Act is putting people back to work.
"President Obama’s Recovery Act has helped to create jobs and lay a new foundation for economic growth during the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression,” said USDA Natural Resources and the Environment Under Secretary Harris Sherman. “USDA has used Recovery Act funding to create badly-needed jobs and stimulate local economies; help farmers and rural businesses make it through tough times; ensure that struggling families can put food on the table; and build and revitalize critical infrastructure in rural communities across America.”
In Colorado, Forest Service Recovery Act funds are helping military veterans complete conservation projects on public lands while providing exemplary green jobs education and career development opportunities.
In 2009, Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) partnered with Veteran Green Jobs (VGJ) to create the Veterans Green Corps (VGC), an all-Veteran Conservation Corps comprised of recently returning veterans in search of meaningful work that embodies the service ethic that brought many of them into the military.
The USDA Forest Service awarded SCC $868,000 in Recovery Act funds to operate 12 VGC crews. SCC operated three of those crews in 2009, employing 25 military veterans on the San Juan and Rio Grande national forests, and will carry out the remainder in 2010 and 2011. In 2010, SCC will hire four sawyer crews and four trail crews with each assignment lasting 12 weeks.
The 2009 VGC crew work results are stunning. The first VGC crew spent 40 days in the backcountry, hiked over 150 miles, and cut and cleared over 400 trees from backcountry trails.
The veterans’ natural resource work experiences can have lifetime impacts. A former marine sniper changed his career aspirations after working with this program and is now planning to study forestry in college.
Another Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran has been so impacted by the experience of being in the natural wilderness among other understanding brothers in arms that he plans to become a mental health professional in order that he might better help others find freedom in their own minds.
Since the Recovery Act was signed into law a year ago, USDA has moved quickly to get nearly $28 billion dollars out the door. The USDA Forest Service has distributed over $1 billion dollars to create private sector jobs and produce significant resource benefits. Forest Service Recovery Act projects are focused on reducing wildfire risks; maintaining forest roads and trails; producing clean and abundant water; restoring forest health; improving energy efficiency of public and administrative facilities; converting wood to clean energy; and offering job training opportunities to youth.
“This spring and summer, over 600 Forest Service Economic Recovery projects will be going on across the nation accomplishing critical resource work and providing jobs and training to people who need them,” said Under Secretary Sherman.