Obama Administration: $1.4 Million in Summer Jobs Spending on Watching Birds, Counting Fish

By Matt Cover | May 29, 2012 | 9:17 PM EDT

Correction: This story initially reported that this segment of the jobs program would spend $3.7 million in federal funding when, in fact, $1.4 million will be provided by the federal government and $2.3 million by private partners working with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, for a total of $3.7 million in competitive grants.

(CNSNews.com) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced $1.4 million in spending as part of President Obama’s Summer Jobs+ program, saying the money will go to hire 500 young people, "particularly urban and minority youth," to work on government projects over the coming summer.

An additional $2.3 million will be added from private partners working with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) for a total of $3.7 million.

“This public-private partnership will help bring young people from diverse backgrounds and urban areas to the public lands for meaningful employment opportunities, mentorships, and the joy of the great outdoors,” National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Executive Director Jeff Trandahl said in a press release on May 25.

According to the USDA, this "competitive grant initiative is being funded with $1.4 million from the BLM [Bureau of Land Management] and the Forest Service, matched by $2.3 million raised by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation from private partners through the America's Great Outdoors: Developing the Next Generation of Conservationists initiative."

The per-job cost of the program is only $7,400, raising questions as to whether the positions will be paid, given the low per-job cost of some of the programs.

The USDA did not respond to CNSNews.com’s questions about whether the positions will be paid or unpaid.

According to the NFWF, the purpose of the "America's Great Outdoors" initiative is to provide "conservation job opportunities for youth which expose young people, particularly urban and minority youth, to the natural world and career opportunities available in conservation."

As for some of the work being assigned, one project will use $249,440 to hire 8 Latino interns between the ages of 18 and 25 to “engage in field research, training, and data collection at sites in California, Colorado, and Alaska” monitoring shorebirds in those states.

(Image: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

The program will give preference to "youth who live near research sites to help create long-term relationships between agencies and nearby Latino communities, serve as role models, and increase awareness of conservation issues and careers in conservations," said the NFWF.

Only 6 of the 8 interns will actually monitor the bird populations, however, while one intern will serve as a recruiter for the other 7 and a second intern will help “develop online program materials and encourage awareness and future participation” in the program, according to the NFWF.

Another project will employ 20 “predominantly Hispanic” young people from "underserved counties in Colorado"  to go into the Rio Grande National Forest in Colorado to locate and map specimens of the herb osha – a “culturally significant herbal plant” – collect “macro-invertebrates” in the water, and plant willow trees along a river bank.

Macroinvertebrates are creatures such as dragonflies, leeches, and water bugs. The project will cost $47,538.

A third jobs program will use $150,000 to employ at least 12 Sierra Native American youth to build trails, remove “invasive species,” and conduct “fish survey monitoring” in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

In all, the "America's Great Outdoors" initiative will fund 20 different conservation projects on federal lands around the country restoring trails, planting trees, and conducting wildlife monitoring of various species.

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