President Obama recently announced an Americas Great Outdoors action plan to achieve lasting conservation of the outdoor spaces that power the nations economy, shape its culture and build its outdoor traditions.
At a time when America’s open spaces are controlled by a patchwork of groups, from government to land trusts to private citizens, its clear that conservation in the 21st century is going to take more than just what we can do here in Washington, Obama said at a Feb. 16 White House ceremony. The new test of environmental stewardship means finding the best ideas at the grassroots level. It means helping states, communities and nonprofits protect their own resources. And it means figuring out how the federal government can be a better partner in those efforts.
In making the federal government a better partner, the initiative seeks to reinvigorate the nations approach to conservation and reconnect Americans, especially young people, with the lands and waters that are used for farming and ranching, hunting and fishing, and for families to spend quality time together.
Recognizing that many of these places and resources are disappearing and under intense pressure, the President established the Americas Great Outdoors Initiative last spring to work with the American people in developing a conservation and recreation agenda for the 21st century. The action plan released in February outlines ways in which the federal government will help empower local communities to accomplish their conservation and recreation priorities.
Last summer, the administration held 51 listening sessions nationwide to gather input from Americans about outdoor places and activities they value most. The sessions, which drew about 10,000 participants and 105,000 written comments, helped shape the action plan.
The plan is designed to result in: accessible parks or green spaces for children; new urban parks and community green spaces; river restorations and recreational blueways that power economic revitalization; stronger support for farmers, ranchers and private landowners who help protect rural landscapes and provide access for recreation; reinvestment of revenue from oil and gas extraction into the permanent protection of parks, open spaces, wildlife habitat and access for recreational activities; and a 21st century conservation ethic that builds on local ideas and solutions for environmental stewardship and connects to historic, cultural and natural heritage.
The America´s Great Outdoors Initiative is about practical, commonsense ideas from the American people on how our natural, cultural and historic resources can help us be a more competitive, stronger and healthier nation, said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. In conjunction with the initiative, in late February Salazar released the Conserving the Future: Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation draft vision document for public comment.
A proud angler displays his catch at Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana.
Credit: Steve Hillebrand
Recommendations and actions in the Americas Great Outdoors action plan include: