By managing more than 671 million acresroughly onethird of the lands in the United Statesthe federal government is the nations biggest land caretaker. How well the National Wildlife Refuge System manages the 150 million acres we stewardincluding natural, cultural and historic resourcesis critical to the physical and social wellbeing of the nation.
Thats why the Refuge System has worked so hard for the better part of a year to solicit Americans opinions about our future direction and management.
Thats also why the Americas Great Outdoors (AGO) Initiative spent months last year conducting 51 public listening sessions across the country. More than 10,000 people participated live; more than 105,000 comments were submitted. The national conversation that President Obama started through AGO will reinvigorate Americas enjoyment, conservation and stewardship of the nations outdoors.
The Refuge Systems Conserving the Future conversation is doing much the same thing for lands and waters that are visited annually by more than 44 million people and create tens of thousands of private sector jobs.
The land we steward belongs to the American people. That principle is at the heart of the Refuge Systems Conserving the Future vision and the AGO Initiative action plan, which is available at http://americasgreatoutdoors.gov/.
Apparent in both the Refuge System vision and the AGO Initiative action plan is the concept that the federal government must be a better partner and supporter of local conservation. We have to maximize the conservation benefits of every taxpayer dollar, bring private landowners and a broad range of conservation partners into the picture and, ultimately, engage a new generation of Americans.
Americans are seeking a 21stcentury approach to conservation. The Refuge System stands ready to deliver. In todays economic climate, the Refuge System and other government agencies must be wise in how we spend taxpayer dollars. But the nation must also be wise enough to understand that investment in natural resources protection is an investment in the future.
That the land we steward belongs to the American people is the principle at the heart of both the Refuge Systems Conserving the Future vision and the Americas Great Outdoors Initiative.
Credit: Steve Hillebrand
Those who have commented via the Conserving the Future Web site,
http://americaswildlife.org/, clearly understand that. Government working in partnership with state agencies, private landowners, sportsmen and interested citizens can ensure that future generations will have the benefits of the conservation legacy we inherited. That is the most important message we heard from both the Conserving the Future process and the Americas Great Outdoors Initiative.