Since the first Earth Day celebration in 1970, the event has expanded to include participation by citizens and governments in more than 190 countries around the globe. Thursday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack marked the 40th anniversary of Earth Day by announcing that 69 water and environmental projects in 36 states will receive $268.5 million to provide critical water and wastewater infrastructure improvements.
"Through USDA's Water and Environmental program, we continue to make investments in rural water infrastructure projects that support local communities by providing greater economic opportunities while protecting natural resources for future generations," Vilsack said.
USDA officials were spread out around the country for Earth Day and according to Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager officials were in nearly 50 locations to announce projects made possible by stimulus funding.
Tonsager says Recovery Act funds have allowed USDA to accelerate the care of existing projects and creating new projects. It’s this benefit and more that Tonsager says USDA is trying to highlight around the nation.
"I want to do my best to advocate with people that the funds we have received have been used well, that they've been used for rural people and rural projects," Tonsanger said. "We're getting the money out as fast as we can because the creation of these projects also creates jobs, and right now that' probably the highest priority thing we can do."