Council on Environmental Quality Blog

  • Protecting Marine Life, Protecting Ourselves

    Editor's Note: This blog introduces readers to Hayden Panettiere, who for the past 7 years has been the spokesperson for The Whaleman Foundation and their Save the Whales Again! Campaign.

    Hayden 2

    Hayden Panettiere and Administration officials pose after their meeting to discuss conservation of our world’s great whales. (Left to right): Celeste Connors, Director for Environment and Climate Change, National Security Council/National Economic Council; Actress Hayden Panettiere; Nancy Sutley, Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality; and Jay Jensen, Associate Director for Land & Water Ecosystems at the Council on Environmental Quality. (Photo Credit: Jeff Pantukhoff, President & Founder, The Whaleman Foundation)

    About 3 years ago, I had the great privilege of meeting President Obama for the first time while he was on the campaign trail. He told me that some of his fondest childhood memories growing up in Hawaii were when he was swimming in the ocean and saw its wondrous creatures up-close and personal, including dolphins and whales. We spoke of the need to protect them and in particular to stop whaling. Today, the Obama Administration took a step toward doing just that.

    In a meeting with the President's environmental policy advisor, Nancy Sutley, and several officials from the Administration, I thanked and applauded President Obama for taking action today against Iceland's illegal slaughter of fin and minke whales, which is in direct violation of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) commercial whaling moratorium.

    Hayden

    CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley, Hayden Panettiere and Administration officials meet to discuss President Obama's message to Congress regarding Pelly Certification and Icelandic Whaling.

    Tens of millions of U.S. citizens, including myself, have written or emailed the President and his Administration supporting these actions under the Pelly Amendment. I am grateful that the President and our government have listened and will be raising this issue with Iceland at the highest levels. They will continue to monitor the companies involved and examine other options available to us.

    These include the diplomatic measures just announced here today, such as directing the State Department to examine Arctic cooperation projects, and where appropriate, link U.S. cooperation to the Icelandic government changing its whaling policy and abiding by the IWC moratorium on commercial whaling. It also calls on Iceland to cease its commercial whaling activities.

    It has been the policy of the United States to support the conservation of the world's whale populations through science based policies and leadership within the International Whaling Commission. Just recently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which leads the U.S. delegation to the International Whaling Commission, signed a "sister sanctuary" agreement with France to support the protection of endangered humpback whales, and they are currently working with Bermuda to declare a sister humpback whale sanctuary there as well.

    Also, at the 2010 meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Agadir, The US delegation, by the request of our organization, introduced a five-year study by Dr. Roger Payne and Dr. John Wise that showed how toxins and pollutants are being dispersed throughout the world's oceans and up the food chain. It outlined how these pollutants are not only a serious health threat to marine life, including apex predators like dolphins and whales, but also pose serious health threats to humans.

    By protecting marine life and our oceans, ultimately we are protecting ourselves. President Obama recognizes this and has repeatedly supported innovative and conservation-minded efforts, not only at the International Whaling Commission, but with the unprecedented forward thinking demonstrated in his National Ocean Policy.

    Hayden Panettiere is an Actor and the International Spokesperson for The Whaleman Foundation & the Save the Whales Again! Campaign

  • Supporting Veterans: "We have a plan, now we need community progress"

    Editor's Note: This blog introduces readers to Colonel James D. McDonough, Jr., U.S. Army (Retired), President & CEO, Veterans Outreach Center, Inc., which in partnership with New York State’s Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) has successfully trained and placed 90 percent of their graduates in full-time green technology jobs.

    In the next five-to-six years over one million servicemembers are projected to leave the military and return to their communities all across this country. While today these great Americans are 'employed' by the Department of Defense they will soon leave that structured and familiar life to become veterans (and family members) of their armed forces, which for many served as the singular source of great pride, confidence and comfort throughout a decade of prolonged and grueling combat, separation and loss.

    I for one am worried, for if what we see every day in our organization continues, these men and women are in for some real challenges. In many ways, Rochester, New York is a blessed community – caring, giving, and trying to do its best - but we are just one community. Western New York is second only to Metropolitan New York City with regard to its veteran (and family member) population. Our organization – Veterans Outreach Center, Inc. – is woven into that community fabric as the nation's oldest independent and community-based non-profit serving veterans and their family members. The community tells me frequently that we're lucky in this community, because here we have an organization whose mission in life is to serve veterans and their families.

    Other communities are not so lucky and geography seemingly takes on greater importance when becoming a veteran.  Geography seems to matter because where you choose to live can ultimately have a direct bearing on the level of resources available to support veterans' needs. Some will be fortunate, others may not be so fortunate. The time has come to recognize that caring for veterans (and their families) is not just the Government's job; it is instead every community's business to embrace veterans for their example, their commitment to serving others, and their passion for service. 

    We have a plan – the President has articulated well this Administration's commitment to serving veterans and their families – whether in the form of greater and predictable funding for VA healthcare, expansion of veterans benefits (including education and job training), or the First Lady's Joining Forces Challenge for communities to become more involved in the responsibility to care for those currently serving in our armed forces or now as veterans. Just last month the President and Administration added more value to the plan by pledging to commit additional resources to specifically help all servicemembers transition from service and find meaningful employment, perhaps the biggest challenge faced by today's veterans and families.

    At a time when some question where we're headed as a Nation, I know one thing: our commitment to those who serve their country is unwavering. That commitment is on plan and now it's time for progress, real progress, not by Government so much as by communities.

    Now we need community progress – Every community has the opportunity to contribute, small and large. Employers can. Colleges can. Healthcare providers can.  Businesses can. Our community dedicates a portion of their giving every day, whether through volunteerism or otherwise. Rochester, New York has a rallying point in its arsenal of caring – Veterans Outreach Center, Inc – and all communities could have such a unifying force if they took inventory of their strengths available through citizenship and example. 

    Colonel James D. McDonough, Jr., U.S. Army (Retired), is President & CEO, Veterans Outreach Center, Inc.

  • Jumpstarting Jobs, Enhancing Education: The American Jobs Act

    Communities across the country agree that providing high-quality education for our children is critical to building a strong, sustainable economic future. To keep our nation competitive, our students need an education that enables them to succeed in a global economy. Yet, the American Society of Civil Engineers currently rates the quality of our nation's public school infrastructure a "D." Similarly, the National Research Council found that ventilation rates in many schools are inadequate, and that providing sufficient fresh air will improve students' comfort and productivity. To fulfill our commitment to high-quality education, we must start by providing our children with safe and healthy schools in which they can learn.

    Last night, the President proposed the American Jobs Act, which includes a $30 billion investment to do just that – putting Americans back on the job, and modernizing at least 35,000 public schools. Improvements range from emergency repair and renovation projects, enhancing school health and safety through abatement of environmental contaminants, greening and energy efficiency upgrades, and modernization efforts to build new science and computer labs and Internet-ready classrooms. As anchors for their communities at large, local school districts will also be able to invest in shared spaces ranging from school ground outdoor learning and play areas to adult vocational and job development centers. To ensure that schools in the most disrepair will be able to make necessary enhancements, 40 percent of these funds will be directed toward the 100 largest high-need public school districts. A portion of the $30 billion investment will go also toward modernizing facilities at community colleges. This investment will ensure that these local, bedrock education institutions have the facilities and equipment to address current workforce demands in today's highly technical and growing fields.

    Rebuilding our Nation's schools will put hundreds of thousands of Americans – construction workers, engineers, maintenance workers, boiler repairmen and women, and electrical workers – back to work. These investments will create jobs, while improving classrooms and upgrading our schools to meet 21st century needs. See the overwhelming support the President's plan has already received from groups across the Nation:

    David Terry, Executive Director, NASEO
    "The National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) strongly supports expanded energy efficiency efforts in schools. We look forward to working with the White House and Congress on the implementation of this new $30 billion proposal. The State Energy Offices have been implementing energy efficiency programs in schools for decades. This infusion of capital, coupled with private sector partners such as energy services companies, could dramatically increase these critical efforts."

    Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers
    "Congress must pass this jobs package immediately so that students will have the teachers they need and fewer rundown schools; drivers will have better roads and bridges; and Americans will have better opportunities to get and keep good jobs, and have more money in their pockets. Tonight, President Obama made clear that we can and must do better. This package will help provide good jobs that support families; public services that build communities; and resources for schools to provide students a high-quality and robust education in safe and healthy buildings. President Obama also made it clear that the path to our future is through education. We have seen a loss of 300,000 education jobs since 2008 as well as long-delayed school repairs and modernization projects."

    Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO and Founding Chair, U.S. Green Building Council
    "The President's proposal tonight will go a long way toward jump starting jobs across every sector of the building community, a sector especially hard hit by the struggling economy. Energy retrofits especially are a cornerstone to broader economic recovery in every sector, and nowhere will that be more important than in our homes, our neighborhoods and our schools. In fact, there is a long list of school infrastructure improvements ready to go and awaiting funding. Not only could this mean great things for the economy and the millions of professionals in the building industry desperate to get back to work, it means great things for the health and well being of our children."

    James Dixon, Chairman, National Association of Energy Service Companies (NAESCO) and Vice President, Legal & Compliance Services at Con Edison, New York City
    "The National Association of Energy Service Companies (NAESCO) supports the President's proposal to modernize public schools, because in addition to the obvious benefits to students and teachers of a vastly improved infrastructure we know from experience that modernization investment will create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the hard-hit construction industry. Over the past twenty years, NAESCO member energy service companies (ESCOs) have delivered about $15 billion of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects to public schools and community colleges and we estimate that every $1 million of project value creates about 10 direct jobs in engineering, construction and equipment manufacturing, professions that have been the hardest hit by the recession. The multiplier effect of the income created by these direct jobs provides another 10-12 indirect and induced jobs per $1 million of project value. Thus, we believe that the President's proposal to invest $30 billion in the modernization of public schools has the potential to create more than a half million jobs. 
    Furthermore, this potential job creation from the federal government investment can be significantly leveraged by private investment in the energy efficiency and renewable energy aspects of school modernization projects. NAESCO member companies deliver on average $3 billion of energy efficiency projects each year to schools, colleges and local governments. The projects are financed by private investment, which is repaid from the energy savings resulting from infrastructure improvement which lower energy use. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has estimated that K-12 schools across the country need at least $25 billion of energy efficiency improvements, which can be financed by private investment and paid for with energy and maintenance savings. The total jobs creation potential of a program that combines the federal government investment proposed by the President with the private investment that finances the energy efficiency and renewable energy infrastructure improvements will in all likelihood exceed 1 million jobs."

    Kevin Surace, CEO, Serious Energy
    "Improving education is a national priority that needs to be tackled with attention paid to developing the economy as a whole – including creating jobs and decreasing our overall energy consumption. There is no greater imperative, and no better place to aggressively put these initiatives in place than within our education infrastructure. The President's proposed American Jobs Act does just that. No initiative will produce more value to our schools and communities, nor provide greater energy impact to our nation. We must get serious about energy, and about delivering this energy savings in a manner that is realistic, capital efficient, and achievable in today's economic environment. Our SeriousCapital energy efficiency financing solutions break through the cost barriers that will enable our schools to fund energy efficiency projects to save money and ensure dollars are spent where they matter most – on the programs that serve our students and our teachers."

    Daryl Dulaney, CEO, Siemens Industry Inc.
    "There is little doubt that the President's proposal to improve the health, safety and energy efficiency of schools would have a tremendously positive impact, not only on students and their learning environments but also as an economic driver that will create well-paying, skilled jobs for thousands of Americans. The nation's 17,450 K-12 school districts spend more than $6 billion annually on energy. Fortunately, our experience has shown that via comprehensive energy efficiency improvements, virtually every school building in the United States has the potential to reduce energy consumption by as much as 30 percent. These savings will have a direct and immediate effect – both on the financial health and sustainability of our schools as well as the economic well-being of millions of Americans."

    David J. Anderson, Executive Vice President, Ameresco, Inc.
    "Energy smart schools with state-of-the-art technologies are a cornerstone to a quality education for all of our students and future leaders. Ameresco supports the modernization of America's educational facilities. With the proposed investments, we can restore aging infrastructure, upgrade facilities with energy efficient technology, create local jobs, significantly reduce utility costs, and provide a safe learning environment – one free of mercury, PCBs and other hazardous materials. By investing in our school districts, comprehensive energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions will help create a more environmentally friendly and sustainable future with less reliance on fossil fuels. The added benefits include lower utility costs that will allow educators to redirect those critical dollars for other important needs such as saving teachers’ jobs and funding extracurricular activities. Upgrade schools. Create more jobs. Save money. Enhance America’s educational system. Why wouldn't we invest?"

    Jeff Drees, US Country President, Schneider Electric
    "The President's plan to modernize public schools through energy efficiency upgrades is good for taxpayers, the school's financial budget, the local community and local job creation, and will improve our children’s learning environments. Alternative financing mechanisms such as Energy Savings Performance Contracts are the best way to accomplish this without capital investment, as energy improvements pay for themselves with the dollar savings they generate. What better way to educate our youth about energy efficiency and environmental responsibility than to lead by example in the schools they attend every day." 

    Dan Domenech, Executive Director, American Association of School Administrators
    "The American Jobs Act would devote $25 billion to the renovation of 35,000 schools and $30 billion to preventing the layoff of 280,000 teachers. Keeping teachers in our classrooms is essential to meeting the educational needs of our students. Creating jobs that will make much needed repairs to our schools is a win-win situation. We urge Congress to move towards the immediate passage of the American Jobs Act."

    Michael P. O'Brien, President and CEO of the Window & Door Manufacturing Association
    "The Window & Door Manufacturers Association has been a longtime proponent of improving the energy efficiency of our nation's existing building stock, which consumes nearly forty percent of the nation's energy. At the same time, investing in energy efficient building upgrades helps create and preserve jobs in the severely depressed building industry. The President's school modernization proposal has the potential for both a positive impact on energy efficiency and job creation at a time when both are sorely needed and WDMA applauds such efforts."

    David Foster, Executive Director, BlueGreen Alliance
    "We are especially pleased with the President's proposal to modernize America's schools. A green school in every community will be a living symbol of how to put America back to work, improve the health of our children and teachers, and move our economy closer to a clean energy future. School modernization creates jobs for construction workers and demand for the energy efficiency products made in America's factories."

    Johnson Controls Inc.
    "We are encouraged by the President's call to include the retrofitting of America's schools with energy efficiency upgrades in the proposed American Jobs Act. Those of us already engaged in retrofitting buildings see the impact on job creation every day: there are new jobs in old buildings, including our nation's schools. Most of the schools across the country were built long before energy efficiency was a concern. They are older, dated facilities and consume a great deal of energy. A school's largest operational expense is paying for energy and they are spending about 25-30% more than they should, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. That money could and should be redirected for educational purposes. The additional good news is that money spent on energy efficiency upgrades has a payback based on reduce energy and operational costs after the work is completed. As a leader in energy retrofits for public and private institutions, Johnson Controls has worked with school districts across the country to improve energy efficiency, enabling them to redirect savings for educational purposes, while at the same time putting people to work in local communities. Improving the energy efficiency of schools is one of the key investments we can make: it helps reduce energy costs, improves the school environment, creates local jobs and pays for itself."

    Sutley Green Ribbon Speech

    CEQ Chair Sutley speaks to students at the U.S. Department of Education's "official tree" planting and unveiling of the Green Ribbon Schools program in April 2011.

    Larry Schweiger, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, sponsor of Eco-Schools USA
    "The President's plan to modernize America's schools and make them cleaner and safer for students though the American Jobs Act is also an opportunity for them to be greener and more energy efficient. This will help student health and learning, support job creation and decrease the schools' environmental footprints."

    Anne L. Bryant, Executive Director, The National School Boards Association (NSBA)
    "In the face of massive budget shortfalls and education layoffs at school districts across the country, this new funding would provide necessary aid to America's schools. Our school children deserve a quality education and that cannot happen when their teachers are getting laid off and their school buildings are in need of repairs and upgrades that keep getting postponed due to budget cuts."

    Jeffrey King, Executive Director, Clean Economy Development Center
    "The President’s proposal to modernize 35,000 American schools will create family-supporting jobs and new public-private partnerships in communities all across the country. It is also a critical step toward making America's future workforce more skilled and more competitive. The Clean Economy Development Center will do its part by helping local leaders to build the public-private partnerships required to modernize our schools, create jobs and grow America's clean economy."

    Bob Wise, President, Alliance for Excellent Education, and former governor of West Virginia
    "The nation's schools are in need of an upgrade in order to provide students with a 21st century education. Technology is changing nearly every facet of life, and we must capitalize on the opportunities offered by technology to strengthen the nation’s schools. The President’s school modernization proposal would help schools develop the technological infrastructure to strengthen instruction and prepare our students for success in college and careers. This investment in schools today will pay large dividends in the future."

    National Indian Education Association
    "The NIEA supports the President's plan to invest $30 billion dollars in our public schools, community and tribal colleges. At present 63 of 183 (approximately one third) of federal schools for American Indians administered by the federal government's Bureau of Indian Affairs are in poor condition, making it unsafe and difficult for Indian children to learn. The NIEA supports this proposal because it will create jobs and economic development in rural and tribal communities where these BIA schools and tribal community colleges are located. The President's proposal is a win-win for Indians because it will create jobs and economic development and will enable our Indian students to attend safe schools."

    Leilani Bell, National Student President, Future Educators Association/PDK International Family of Associations
    "After hearing President Obama's speech last night, I felt inspired to continue my education and fulfill my dream of becoming a teacher. My goal is to teach in an urban school that is outfitted with cutting-edge technology like what the President described.  As a future teacher I realize the importance of not just being a quality teacher, but in having the tools and the environment that will inspire students to want to stay in school and to learn. It's encouraging to know that the President recognizes this too."

    Cheryl Scott Williams, Executive Director, Learning First Alliance
    "I fully support President Obama's initiative and agree that every child deserves a great school and that we have a responsibility to one another to act as one nation and one people in support of ensuring a great education for all our students. Modernizing aging school buildings and putting teachers back to work on behalf of America's students are key to making that vision a reality."

    Nancy Sutley is Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality

  • Investing in Communities: The American Jobs Act

    Last night, President Obama laid out a bold plan to create jobs and build a stronger economy. Urging Congress to end the political gridlock in Washington, the President called on Congress to pass the American Jobs Act to enable the Federal Government to meet its responsibilities to the American people. Across the country, I have seen firsthand how Federal investments and initiatives help businesses and communities strengthen local economies and jobs.

    Today in Rochester, New York, I will visit with workers and employers at the city's Veterans Outreach Center, a program in partnership with New York State's Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), that has leveraged a Department of Labor grant to successfully train and place 90 percent of their graduates, our Nation's military veterans, into full-time, green technology jobs. As the President has said, we have hundreds of thousands of bright, skilled Americans who return from military service with unmatched leadership and technical skills. When given the resources, our veterans successfully translate their talents to the civilian workforce. The American Jobs Act puts more people back to work – veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, teachers laid off from state budget cuts, first responders, and construction workers rebuilding our roads, bridges, and schools.

    As seen in Rochester, there is demand for clean energy and energy efficiency products, services, and jobs. As an Administration, we're making sure we do everything we can to grow those markets and jobs right here in America. The President's proposal includes robust investments to modernize at least 35,000 public schools to put Americans to work and provide our students with high-quality education and safe and healthy schools in which they can learn.

    These immediate job creation ideas also include tax cuts for small businesses to help them hire and grow. It includes a combination of direct spending, such as infrastructure investments, tax relief, and an extension of the payroll tax cut. Supported by both Republicans and Democrats, the President's package will put more people back to work and put more money in the pockets of working Americans – without adding to the deficit. With the Federal Government's investments and incentives put forth in the American Jobs Act, communities all over the country can continue to foster lasting progress for our economy and families. Congress should act immediately when they receive this legislation next week.

    Nancy Sutley is Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality

  • Doing Well by Doing Good — Remembering Ray Anderson

    The Federal Government is among the organizations that Ray Anderson's work has informed and inspired. President Obama's Executive Order 13514 challenges the Federal Government to lead by example, and to live up to its responsibilities as our Nation's single largest energy consumer. The people in military and civil service who are making the President's goals a reality – myself included – have Ray Anderson's example, and the examples of many others, to thank for making the path a little clearer.

    Ray Anderson's vision for making the $1.1 billion global carpet tile company he founded the first sustainable company in the world set a highwater mark for corporate sustainability and gave a new generation of American business leaders a model of a social enterprise – how to do well by doing good. I know it first-hand: Ray Anderson taught me the business case for sustainability.

    I grew up in LaGrange, Georgia, less than 10 miles from Interface's first carpet tile plant. I never thought I'd end up back there after grad school, but I did, and I’m very grateful it was working for him.

    It was shortly after Ray had read The Ecology of Commerce, and been so inspired that he made it Interface Inc.'s mission to become a sustainable company – taking nothing, doing no harm. "Climbing Mt. Sustainability," as he called it, began with a war on waste. And waste, by the way, was defined as "any cost that [Interface] incurred that does not add value to our customer and that translates to doing everything right the first time, every time."

    That was about 1995, and even then you could tour any Interface manufacturing plant, and whether you were talking to the plant manager or a second shift tufting machine operator, he or she could tell you exactly how their work connected to sustainability and quality for the customer.

    Of course the war on waste was just the beginning. Ray challenged the company to redesign products to use less material and last longer, reengineer processes to use less energy and water, and create a recycling program that used old carpet to create new products instead of sending it to a landfill as trash.

    But what did it do for Interface's bottom line, and for their shareholders? Ray described it this way: "Our costs are down, not up. Our products are the best they have ever been. Our people are motivated by a shared higher purpose — esprit de corps to die for. And the goodwill in the marketplace — it's just been astonishing."

    As a young person who'd always been passionate about the environment but didn't know how to connect it with my profession, seeing how Ray's vision transformed a company from the inside showed me how to marry profit with purpose.

    His influence, of course, didn't end with Interface. His evangelical zeal for using his company's success as a demonstration that green business is good business led him around the world as leading advocate for corporate sustainability and helped to inspire a green building movement that is creating better, more efficient places to live, work, and go to school in communities around the world. Ray Anderson may have passed on August 8 of this year, but his legacy will continue to grow.

    Michelle Moore is Federal Environmental Executive at the White House Council on Environmental Quality

  • Conservation, Innovation and Collaboration Creates Jobs in Rural Oregon

    As a forester, I have always believed that smart, common sense initiatives to conserve our lands and waters go hand-in-hand with growing our economy and creating jobs. Under President Obama's leadership, the health of our natural treasures and the communities and economies that they support has seen robust advancement. On a recent fact finding trip to John Day Oregon, I saw this support firsthand. On the Malheur National Forest, a collaborative partnership between local businesses, local government, the Federal Government and conservation groups has restored forest health and reduced wildfire threat while sustaining the local forest products industry and starting a local clean energy market. This allowed a local lumber company to add infrastructure and retain and create new jobs equal to six percent of the non-farm workforce in Grant County. This new clean energy industry is estimated to reduce energy costs by $4.4 million across the regional economy. 

    This rural economic development success in John Day demonstrates the interdependence of a healthy environment and a strong economy and the good things that happen when local communities and the Federal Government work collaboratively to solve complex problems. This approach is a cornerstone of the President's America's Great Outdoors Initiative (AGO), a 21st century conservation agenda built in partnership with the American people, and reinforces the work of the White House Rural Council

    Established to improve rural economic opportunity and quality of life, the Rural Council is tasked with finding opportunities to enhance collaboration for Federal investments so that innovative developments like the one in Oregon can find success across the country. Throughout August the President and the White House Rural Council have been engaging local leaders in rural America to hear directly from them about the issues and actions that matter to them most. 

    Rural Americans arguably have one of the strongest ties to, and often live off of, the land which motivates innovative solutions to complex problems. This infrastructure success in John Day represents what the President’s Rural Council will learn and build from and look to repeat across the country: an amazing bottom line of protecting the environment, reducing wildfire threat, creating clean energy, promoting energy independence, and adding local jobs, all while diversifying and strengthening the regional economy. Below local residents in Oregon share their views on how this collaboration with the Federal Government has made a difference for their communities and economy. 

    Jay Jensen is Associate Director for Land and Water Ecosystems at the White House Council on Environmental Quality 

    Oregon Truck

    Chair Sutley and Jay Jensen greet the camera before exploring the public-private partnerships that are helping to make Grant County, Oregon, a leader in advancing our Nation's clean energy future. (Photo Credit: Sustainable Northwest)

    Posted by Cassandra Moseley:

    Grant County is a dramatic, arid landscape where, for generations, people have made their livelihoods working the land. But by the late 1990s, battered by a changing global economy and a two-decade conflict over federal land management, businesses had closed, jobs disappeared, and many families had left. In the early-2000s, looking for new solutions, community leaders decided it was time to talk instead of yell. They reached out to their neighbors, environmentalists, and timber industry representatives. These conversations turned into collaboration and then into innovation. They found a willing partner in the U.S. Forest Service. In 2009, the Forest Service's Malheur National Forest began awarding innovative stewardship contracts to implement their restoration projects. Federal investments in forest restoration in Oregon create jobs and these investments create even more jobs when the byproducts of restoration – small trees – are turned into value-added products and energy. 

    With ecological goals at the forefront, the harvested trees are small. To take advantage of this new timber supply, folks again innovated. The Malheur Lumber Company partnered with an energy company to integrate a new pellet and biobrick facility into their sawmill. With little private financing available, they used a USDA Recovery Act grant, New Market Tax Credits, and other federal programs to fund construction. Today, these products are helping to cleanly heat homes, the local airport, and hospital, while reducing heating costs, decreasing dependence on foreign oil, and creating jobs.

    The President's proposed fiscal year 2012 Forest Service budget would accelerate similar innovation in communities like Grant County. By combining line items that contribute to restoration, this modernized budget structure would allow the agency to break out of its silos, address complex problems, integrate restoration and job creation, and improve partnerships.

    Cassandra Moseley is the Director of the Ecosystem Workforce Program and Institute for a Sustainable Environment at the University of Oregon

    Grant County

    Chair Nancy Sutley visits the Malheur Lumber Company to witness how its innovative pellet and biobricks are created. (Photo Credit: Sustainable Northwest)

    Posted by Maia Enzer and Chad Davis:

    Transforming our economy while stewarding vast landscapes requires local, regional and national partnerships. That is why Sustainable Northwest and our partners launched the Dry Forest Investment Zone, an initiative catalyzed by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities' $2 million investment to build strong forest-based rural economies.

    Public and private partnerships are critical to achieving results in rural communities. The addition of a pellet mill at Malheur Lumber Company in John Day is a great example. Supply is secured through forest restoration projects. Pellets are being used as a source of renewable energy to provide heat at several community facilities. The use of wood pellet fuel reduces energy costs and offsets the consumption of imported petroleum-based heating fuels keeping dollars spent on local energy.

    Throughout our history, rural America has been a stronghold of innovation and resilience. We hope the Rural Council will glean successful models from the entrepreneurial vision of communities like John Day. We need strong conservation-based rural economies. Rural America is where our food, fiber and energy come from, it's where we vacation, and it’s these places that our art and music celebrate. Ultimately, it's these places that will define the future of America.

    Maia Enzer is the Policy Director and Chad Davis is the Forest Stewardship Director at Sustainable Northwest