RELEASE: Build Back Better is a Game-Changer for Outdoor Equity


Biden’s Plan Includes Transformational Investments in Urban Parks, Community Green Space

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Monday, November 1, 2021

Contact: Ian Brickey (202) 675-6270 or ian.brickey@sierraclub.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Biden has unveiled the framework for the Build Back Better Act, including major investments in urban and community parks and green spaces. The package includes $100 million for the creation and maintenance of urban parks across the country, $2.5 billion for urban and community tree planting, and robust funding, supporting 300,000 jobs, for an ambitious Civilian Climate Corps program, among other major green space investments. Taken together, these investments will be a major advancement towards closing the nature equity gap and taking on climate change.

In response, members of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) released the following statements:

“This framework lays out a bold vision towards creating healthy and safe communities where all can benefit from connecting with nature,” said Jackie Ostfeld, founder and chair of OAK and director of Sierra Club’s Outdoors for All campaign. “For too long, we have neglected urban communities and our public lands and waters. This ambitious proposal will provide much-needed investment and help us take on the overlapping crises of our time — the climate crisis, the biodiversity crisis, and the nature equity crisis. We must not let this opportunity slip by.”

“This framework is an historic opportunity to mobilize a powerful workforce of young people and veterans to address climate change, expand tree cover to cool communities, and increase access to nature and the outdoors for millions of Americans,” said Paul Sanford, OAK Vice Chair and Director of Recreation Policy at the Wilderness Society. “We urge Congress to seize this opportunity to address the existential threat of climate change and provide close-to-home outdoor recreation and learning opportunities for everyone.” 

“We’re facing daunting challenges that are resulting in the severe deterioration of our natural environment and societal wellbeing. I believe that as a society, we’re finally approaching a meaningful understanding of the interrelated nature of these challenges and how to go about addressing them,” said Luis Villa, Executive Director of Latino Outdoors. “Investing in initiatives that boost our climate resilience and simultaneously help build a more robust and diverse community of outdoor enthusiasts and conservation constituents is a critical part of a comprehensive solution, one that we have no time to waste in implementing if we want to ensure a livable future for our children and their children.”

“On behalf of The Corps Network, I extend appreciation to President Joe Biden and his administration for including a Civilian Climate Corps (CCC) in the Build Back Better framework. For decades, Corps programs have engaged thousands of diverse young Americans in national service projects that strengthen the resilience of our communities. Through a CCC initiative, our country has an opportunity to make a significant impact on our climate future by completing critical projects and training the sustainability-focused workforce we need,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President & CEO of The Corps Network. “We commend the administration for emphasizing the importance of investing in a CCC that looks like America, focuses on environmental justice, and leads to good-paying jobs. The Corps Network is grateful to the many champions that have promoted this vision of a modern CCC. We encourage the House and Senate to pass this historic legislation. We look forward to working with the White House and Congress on implementation of an equitable Civilian Climate Corps.”

“Enjoying the outdoors and reconnecting with nature in comunidad has always been essential to our Latino/a/x communities. Being in nature is critical to the mental health and wellbeing of our families and children- providing solace, a way to reconnect and reduce the stress in our everyday lives. We know that nearly 100 million Americans, including 28 million children, do not live within walking distance to open space,” said Mariana Del Valle Prieto Cervantes, Water Equity and Ocean Program Manager with GreenLatinos. “That is why we must make sure that the Build Back Better Agenda continues to maintain bold investments to ensure that everyone has access to the outdoors regardless of where they live and their social or economic status -this includes investments to the Civilian Climate Corps and urban green space programs. These programs are crucial to building up the infrastructure we need to build healthy and safe communities while taking on the climate crisis.” 

“Parks are an essential part of improving public health, protecting vulnerable communities from the impacts of the climate crisis, and building strong community cohesion,” said Alex Schaefer, Sr. Legislative Representative at the Trust for Public Land. “Including urban parks funding in the Build Back Better Act will have a major impact on our nation’s nature gap and ensure resources go to communities who would benefit most.”

“Throughout the pandemic, people have turned to the outdoors for respite and found renewed strength in nature. We have seen the power of outdoor recreation to buoy communities and local economies during unprecedented challenges, as well as the urgency of addressing disparities in access to nature,” said Taldi Harrison, Senior Manager of Government Affairs at REI Co-op. “At the same time, this past year has made clear that our climate crisis threatens life outside for everyone, with severe wildfires, drought, flooding and hurricanes devastating communities across the country. At REI, we’ve committed to ambitious targets to address equity, climate, and access to the outdoors. However, to fully reach these goals, we need our federal government to do the same. The Build Back Better Act is an historic opportunity to harness the power of the outdoors to advance our national climate strategy, enhance health wealth and well-bring in urban and rural communities alike, and ensure that future generations enjoy a healthy and vibrant planet. We urge Congress to maintain robust funding for outdoor programs in the reconciliation bill that benefit us all.” 

“America is on the cusp of making transformational investments in our infrastructure, our people, and our environment,” said Joel Pannell, Vice President of Urban Policy at American Forests. “Equitable investments in urban tree canopy and outdoor access will create jobs, build resilient infrastructure, and make our neighborhoods cooler, cleaner, and healthier. Tree Equity is climate action we can take now to address the life and death consequences of extreme heat and air pollution while generating economic opportunity in the very communities that have been historically underserved and are suffering most from the combined impacts of climate change.”

“It is time to break down the barriers to ensuring all children, all families, and all communities have access to safe and healthy natural spaces everywhere they live, work, and play,” said Sarah Bodor, Director of Policy for the North American Association of Environmental Education. “Investments in green infrastructure and workforce development are essential to achieving our climate goals and building a more just and sustainable future.”

WHAT THIS FRAMEWORK INCLUDES:

  • Robust funding for a modern Civilian Climate Corps, set to support 300,000 jobs. An ambitious CCC is necessary for reaching the goal of protecting 30% of lands and waters by 2030 to stave off the worst effects of climate change. An ambitious CCC would create essential jobs paying a $15 per hour wage with full health care, access to transportation, housing and childcare for young people and veterans.
  • $2.5 billion for urban and community forestry support programs. These programs are essential to building up the green infrastructure we need to build healthy and safe communities and to take on the climate crisis.
  • $100 million for urban parks. Nearly 100 million Americans, including 28 million children, do not live within walking distance of a quality park.

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About the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK): OAK is a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with a common interest in connecting children, youth, and families with the outdoors. The members of OAK are brought together by the belief that the wellness of current and future generations, the health of our planet and communities and the economy of the future depend on humans having a personal, direct, and life-long relationship with nature and the outdoors. OAK brings together more than 100 businesses and organizations to address the growing divide between children, youth, and the outdoors. www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org