Just Nature NYC Releases New Report Characterizing Jobs that Support New York City’s Vital Natural Ecosystem
“Opportunities For Growth: Nature-Based Jobs in New York City” Suggests Investments in Nature-Based Jobs Offer Substantial Opportunities
Just Nature NYC, a partnership between the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance and The Nature Conservancy in New York has released a new report defining and outlining the complexity and variety of local nature-based jobs. Defined as jobs that directly contribute to natural infrastructure, nature-based jobs (NBJs) ultimately help to enhance human health and well-being while promoting biodiversity. Opportunities for Growth: Nature-Based Jobs in New York City establishes a framework to understand these roles and career paths within the New York City labor market. Notably, the report found a substantial mismatch between the scale of the city’s natural infrastructure, such as rain gardens, green roofs, community gardens, and the urban forest, and the workforce dedicated to managing it. Increased public and private investment in natural infrastructure and the nature-based jobs that support them would present enormous opportunities for the city to address environmental inequities within vulnerable communities across New York City, while adapting to climate change, and growing its green economy.
Opportunities for Growth: Nature-Based Jobs in New York City addresses the lack of a common definition for nature-based jobs, which has made data collection and statistical analysis of this type of employment in New York City challenging to quantify and define. New York City’s massive multi-billion dollar natural infrastructure includes over 30,000 acres of parks, 5,650 acres of wetlands, substantial amounts of natural coastlines, and thousands of vegetated installations on city sidewalks and other public spaces. These resources offer cost-efficient nature-based solutions to the challenges of climate change among other benefits by absorbing stormwater, reducing the urban heat island effect, and reducing energy demand. The urban forest of New York City alone, with over 7 million trees spread across the five boroughs, has been estimated to be worth $5.7 billion standing, while providing $260 million in benefits every year, yet substantial growth in this resource and other natural infrastructure is still needed for the city to adapt to the challenges of climate change. Less than 100 foresters are estimated to be employed in New York City, with lower wages compared to the national median, suggesting a need and opportunity to create more roles with better pay as the impacts from climate change increase.
"Nature-based solutions provide New Yorkers with a variety of benefits, from cleaning the air we breathe to lending shade on hot days to mitigating flooding in our communities,” said Annel Hernandez, Associate Director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. “Despite the enormous extent and importance of these natural assets, there appears to be a deficit of jobs to support them. This report creates a framework for discussing nature-based jobs in NYC, so that we can collectively work to create a resilient city, built and maintained by a growing local workforce. This focus will help address the escalating climate change crisis and the inequities faced by environmental justice communities.”
Emily Nobel Maxwell, Director of the Cities Program in New York for The Nature Conservancy, said “Nature-based jobs that sustain and advance citywide investments in nature, parks, wetlands, the urban forest, green infrastructure, and the numerous coastal resiliency projects taking place on the city’s waterfronts are urgently needed as the impacts of climate change and its threats to New Yorkers become more frequent and more intense. Sustaining and expanding this sector will provide good green jobs for New Yorkers, and we hope that City leadership will prioritize nature-based solutions and the nature-based jobs that are required to ensure NYC meets current and escalating climate and environmental challenges.”
The report organized nature-based jobs into four categories mirroring stages of project development:
Conceptualization: Jobs related to research and planning, such as Landscape Architects, Soil and Plant Scientists, and Urban Planners
Implementation: Jobs related to construction and initiation, such as Construction Laborers and Managers
Functional Maintenance: Jobs related to maintenance and monitoring, such as Landscapers, Foresters, and Horticulturalists
Value Maintenance: Jobs related to education and instruction, such as Outreach Coordinators teaching urban gardening skills, and Conservation Scientists working in education
Nature-based jobs in New York City are often seasonal or temporary with limited career pathways, particularly within Implementation and Functional Maintenance categories, which have the highest levels of Black and Latinx representation. Strategic, dedicated investments for these categories to increase salaries to meet or surpass national medians and growing career opportunities would provide the greatest opportunity for job growth in the near term. Developing workforce training curriculums and internships, addressing the dearth of nature-based degree programs in the city, advocating for the creation of nature-based Civil Service Titles, and funding research and innovation that drive demand for more advanced and sustainable nature-based jobs could deeply benefit environmental justice communities by increasing nature-based job equity, accessibility, and quality, while extending the benefits of nature-based solutions to more New Yorkers.
Opportunities For Growth: Nature-Based Jobs in New York City is the first report to be released by Just Nature NYC. This project was made possible by funding from The JPB Foundation.
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Just Nature NYC
Just Nature NYC is a partnership between The NYC Environmental Justice Alliance and the Cities team at The Nature Conservancy in New York. Established in 2020 to advance nature-based solutions across New York City, Just Nature NYC supports climate justice and equity with a particular focus on frontline communities and the most heat-vulnerable neighborhoods of New York City. Providing analysis and resources to community-based organizers and proposing remedies rooted in elevating community leadership, Just Nature NYC creates a space for The NYC Environmental Justice Alliance and the Cities team at The Nature Conservancy to collaborate, share knowledge and skills, and broaden networks of people, organizations, and institutions.
To learn more, read this blog post about the Just Nature NYC partnership.
About the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance
The NYC Environmental Justice Alliance (NYC-EJA) is a citywide membership network linking grassroots organizations from low-income neighborhoods and communities of color in their struggle for environmental justice. NYC-EJA empowers its member organizations to advocate for improved environmental conditions and against inequitable environmental burdens by the coordination of campaigns designed to inform City and State policies. Together, NYC-EJA member organizations advocate for equitable climate and environmental policies and programs that can support community resiliency and move us toward a Just Transition.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 76 countries and territories—37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners—we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.