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Ecological Restoration Is a $25 Billion Industry That Generates 220,000 Jobs

Critics like to portray environmental regulation as a job killer, but the restoration economy now provides more jobs than mining, logging, or steel production -- all while actually fixing the environment instead of destroying it
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Critics like to portray environmental regulation as a job killer, but the restoration economy now provides more jobs than mining, logging, or steel production – all while actually fixing the environment instead of destroying it – according to a new study.

By Kelli Barrett.

This story first appeared on Ecosystem Marketplace. Click here to view the original.


10 July 2015 | Powerhouse industries like agriculture and energy along with their supporters in the US legislature lined up to contest the recently-finalized Clean Water Rule. As usual, their argument is economic: expanding the Clean Water Act's jurisdiction, they argue, kills jobs. The counter-argument is also economic: regulation may kill some jobs, but it creates others – and, in the long term, it provides the clean air, clean water, and stable climate needed to support a healthy economy.

Now there are numbers to bolster that argument: according to a new study entitled “Estimating the Size and Impact of the Ecological Restoration Economy”, environmental regulation is driving a $25-billion-per year “restoration industry” that directly employs more people than coal mining, logging or steel production – but fewer than oil and gas or auto manufacturing.

"People want to know big picture numbers on industries,” said report author, Todd BenDor, an Associate Professor of City and Regional Planning with an environmental specialty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “We basically find ecological restoration is a $9.5 billion industry employing about 126,000 people directly.” On top of that, he found, the restoration economy indirectly generates $15 billion and 95,000 jobs, bringing restoration's total economic output value to nearly $25 billion.

In terms of direct employment, it ranks behind the oil and gas sector (200,000 jobs) and automaking (175,000), but ahead of coal mining (79,000), logging (54,000) or steel production (91,000).

"There are downsides to environmental regulations but there may be upsides as well. And one of the upsides may be a larger and stronger ecological restoration industry which has a major economic spillover effect," said BenDor.

Quality of Life and Job Security

"This study diffuses the jobs versus the environment debate we've had for years," said George Kelly, Chief Markets Officer at Resource Environmental Solutions, a large company that mitigates for ecological impacts.

He also noted that these jobs can’t be shipped abroad. "They have to be delivered here on the ground, domestically and locally," he said.

"Restoration of natural infrastructure is the win-win solution, creating jobs and long term benefits even after the job is done," said Amanda Wrona, the Knowldedge and Learning Lead at The Nature Conservancy.

But perhaps one of the most noteworthy finds didn't have to do with the figures directly. BenDor noticed significant momentum in certain places for ecological restoration.

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