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Improving Infrastructure to Benefit Communities—Without Harming the Environment

By Jim Lyons ~ Center for American Progress

Improving and upgrading U.S. roads, bridges, and transportation networks; energy production and transmission systems; and other elements of human-made infrastructure is long overdue. As the new Congress begins its bipartisan, bicameral effort to pass an infrastructure bill, it’s important that it not come at a cost to the natural resources that benefit society. Instead, policymakers should view the infrastructure package as an opportunity to protect bedrock conservation laws and reinvest in America’s natural resource infrastructure.

Parks, forests, and public lands are not only an essential part of the American landscape—they are also foundational to its economy and well-being. They clean our water and air, and they buffer against the effects of climate change by sequestering carbon and mitigating natural disasters. For these reasons, any infrastructure proposals must be managed with natural resources’ short- and long-term benefits in mind.

Below are three ways that Congress can structure the infrastructure package to benefit people and foster a healthy and resilient environment.

1. Don’t allow infrastructure legislation to undermine bedrock environmental laws

For decades, a framework for weighing the effects of growth and development on the environment and natural resources has protected communities from potential harm.

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