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Salazar: Visiting our parks is one way of bolstering an ailing economy

By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent

If the economy woes are bringing you down, take a hike in the lush Metroparks or camp in the Emerald Necklace to recuperate your senses and reconnect with the environment. Spending your family vacation visiting natural parks is one way to bolster the ailing U.S. economy.

Department of Interior is allocating $3 billion nationally under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to create 100,000 jobs that cannot be outsourced, conserve natural treasures, and generate renewable and efficient energy and protect the environment.

Speaking at the City Club of Cleveland on June 2, 2009, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar said the country’s economic recovery will begin in Ohio. The Buckeye state is slated to receive $23 million of which more than $7 million will be invested in Cuyahoga Valley National Park to upgrading nine miles of railroad, closing four hazardous abandoned oil and gas wells to restore the natural landscapes, and repairing the historic Tinker’s Creek aqueduct.

“The investment we are making in Ohio will create jobs,” Salazar said. He said Pres. Obama has made economic recovery a top priority and the administration is seeking solutions that will set the nation on a path to energy independence,

Salazar said national park sites in the Great Lakes states pump $211 million into the local economies and sustain 4,400 jobs. “At Cuyahoga Valley National Park alone, two and a half million people visit each year, spending $38 million annually in the local economy, supporting nearly a thousand jobs,” Salazar said. “Supporting our parks and refuges is something that benefits everyone.”

He added this investment enhances the quality of living, conserves natural and cultural history, renews an appreciation of the natural wonders, and makes them available for future generations to enjoy. He stressed the importance of reengaging the youth in outdoor recreational activities so they can appreciate and respect the environment and become conscientious consumers.

Salazar said U.S. lags behind Denmark, Britain, and Brazil in renewable energy use while it has more resources. “If a third world country like Brazil can become energy independent there is no reason we cannot,” he said. The Great Lakes winds have the capacity to generate 20 percent of the nation’s energy.

He applauded Ohio leaders for pursing indicatives that will harness solar and wind energy in the State and pointed to success stories like Atlantic City, New Jersey, which produces 30 percent of its energy from solar plants.

Jacob Travis, president of Solar College Initiative, challenged Salazar to utilize existing urban structures, especially college campuses, to harness solar power. Travis said colleges and universities can decrease their utility costs, engage students in renewable energy education, and improve the environment. His nonprofit organization provides consulting services to colleges looking to become solar.

Oberlin College’s Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies, completed in 2006, is one of the first 100 percent solar-power academic facility. 

Salazar said being energy independence is critical to the nation’s security and the environment. “Global warming is no longer a debate, it is happening,” he said. 

Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said climate change is disturbing the ecological balance and opening doors to diseases, fungi growth and increase in insect populations. Speaking at the City Club on June 5, 2009 she said this should a huge concern for Ohio’s $90 billion agricultural economy. She said the signs are clear and immediate action is required to reverse the environmental damage.

The Recovery Act also includes $500 million for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to replace and upgrade Indian schools that will benefit the 47,000 Indian children who are educated in there. Salazar said Native Americans are often the most overlooked and underserved population and major steps must be taken to address substance abuse, deteriorating reservations, the ‘appalling’ statistics of rape and assault, 50-60 percent unemployment, and restore the rule of law.

Salazar is the second Latino member of the Obama administration. Prior to his confirmation, Salazar served as Colorado’s 35th United States Senator, serving on the Finance Committee, which oversees the nation's tax, trade, social security, and health care systems. He also served on the Agriculture, Energy and Natural Resources, Ethics, Veterans Affairs, and Aging Committees.

As a U.S. Senator, Salazar was a leader creating and implementing a vision for a renewable energy economy that is less dependent on foreign oil. He was involved in every major bipartisan legislative effort on energy since 2005, including helping craft the Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection, and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007.

Salazar has been a champion for farmers, ranchers, and rural communities, leading efforts to pass the 2007 Farm Bill and to create food and fuel security for the United States. 

“Our best days as a country are still ahead of us,” said Salazar.

On the Net: To track the Dept. of Interior recovery process visit: http://recovery.doi.gov/press/state/ohio/?state=OH
Also, visit: www.solarcollege.org
Frances Beinecke: http://www.nrdc.org/about/fgb.asp
Cleveland Metro Parks: www.clemetparks.com
Lorain Metro Parks: http://www.loraincountymetroparks.com/
Toledo Metro Parks: http://www.metroparkstoledo.com/metroparks/
Columbus Metro Parks: http://www.metroparks.net/
National Park Services:  www.nps.gov





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