New Report Highlights Need to Reclaim Degraded, Abandoned Working Lands

Every $1 Invested in Restoration Yields Up to $30 in Benefits for Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C.. — Reclaiming abandoned mines and other degraded lands will help people and wildlife thrive, address the climate crisis, restore outdoor recreation opportunities, and create jobs in rural and frontline communities, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation. 

Over 4 million degraded sites, such as abandoned oil and gas wells and polluted brownfield and Superfund sites, can be found across the country. These lands have either lost their value to provide habitat, absorb carbon, or provide recreation area or are actively harmful due to pollution and contamination. Investing in reclamation and restoration, however, can reap environmental, economic, and community benefits. According to the report, for every $1 invested in land restoration, anywhere from $7 to $30 dollars can be returned in the form of improved food production, water quality, and carbon sequestration.

“The burden of degraded lands falls heavily on frontline communities and wildlife — clean air and water are compromised, carbon sequestration is lost and economic value is obsolete,” said Jessica Arriens, co-author of the report and program manager at the National Wildlife Federation's climate and energy program. “Reclaiming these lands can mitigate environmental damage and remove hazardous toxins while bringing jobs, restored habitat, and economic recovery to communities. While the scope of America’s degraded lands problem is vast, so are the opportunities — to fight climate change, revitalize local economies, and remove ongoing threats to people and wildlife.” 

Along with an overview of the degraded land issue and its costs, the report lays out the benefits of reclamation, federal and state policy approaches to reclamation, and the importance of climate-informed principles to reclaim individual sites. 



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