The International Labour Association (ILO) warns that rising global temperatures will result in the loss of 80 million jobs by 2030. This decrease in jobs due to a warming climate will require policymakers to create effective economic blueprints and invest in sectors that create jobs.
Why Investment in America’s Forests Matters for Economic Relief
Conversations about job creation rarely center on forests. Yet, the forestry sector is a critical driver of economic growth worldwide – so much so that the World Bank has called it “the backbone for rural development.” Research shows that investing in afforestation and restoration projects can create short- and long-term economic prosperity. A study of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) revealed that every $1 million spent on reforestation and restoration projects creates 17 jobs. This percentage is by far the highest job creation estimate per million dollars spent of any sector.
The Jobs in Forests
As the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and prepares for the future impacts of climate change, policymakers need to consider creative, effective, and cost-effective job creation alternatives. Research shows that the sectors with the potential to create future jobs are the forestry and conservation sectors. Investing in them will create wealth, drive economic growth, and make the environment cleaner.
So, what kinds of jobs do afforestation and reforestation offer us? First, some are created through direct reforestation efforts, policies, and actual physical involvement in the reforestation process. Second, there are roles that either become available or expand due to thriving forests and sustainable exploitation. Because forestry is a scientific field, a robust concentration on conservation and reforestation will trigger an inflow of professionals and an expansion of the current workforce.
Here are a few examples of jobs in forests:
- Soil Scientists
- Land Preparation Specialists
- Pest Specialists
- Forest Administrators and Planners
- Biodiversity Experts
- Water Engineers
- Forest Managers
- GIS Mapping
These are just a handful of the positions that will open up as governments, private investors, and policymakers double down on reforestation.
Beyond these, the demand for skilled workers to produce planting materials and plant the trees will provide income and inclusion for local communities where reforestation projects occur. Creating a forest requires an army of workers.
Impact on Landowners
Afforestation and restoration efforts also give landowners opportunities to generate more income through carbon markets. The global carbon market grew by 20% in 2020, and there are projections for more growth and more opportunities for landowners in the future.
Job creation potential equally exists in research and development that becomes necessary as the focus on improving sustainable and technologically-assisted restoration practices. Training and skills development becomes necessary, thereby creating openings for academics and instructors.
Investment in other forest-related projects such as the development and expansion of national parks and ranges will also provide direct jobs for park rangers, park transportation workers, park administration workers, and other park personnel. Moreso, thriving forests require forest firefighters, forest service law enforcement, and silviculturists working in tandem with forest technicians to care for the trees over extended periods.
Responsible and regulated forestry will also see more loggers working in forests in regulated tree-harvesting. The timber industry also has a lot to gain in terms of employment when forest resources are utilized under regulation.
The potential for actual jobs impact could be even greater than what is outlined here. There are more indirect job creation opportunities available in America’s forests. A 2006 report of the Outdoor Industry Association reports that the availability of active outdoor recreation generated $289 billion in retail sales and services across the United States, with a total of 6.5 million jobs supported by the recreation economy overall.
Reforestation and afforestation hold so much promise for extensive job creation and economic growth even as it brings significant impact to ecosystems – another reason to continue investing in our nation’s trees and forests. When we plant trees, we plant hope by cleaning the air, purifying the water, creating habitat, and ushering in an economic engine built on natural capital principles.