President Obama joined Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and other members of his Cabinet to advance several conservation and outdoor recreation initiatives at a White House Conference on Conservation on March 2.

Growing America’s Outdoor Heritage and Economy brought together boaters, hunters, anglers, farmers, ranchers, small business owners, local governments, tribal leaders and other stakeholders in land conservation, historic preservation and outdoor recreation. Interior Secretary Salazar noted that, “People across the country are coming together to protect and preserve the places that nurture our souls, provide opportunities for recreation, and power our economies.”

The Obama administration announced several new programs before and during the conference:

  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Ducks Unlimited will work with the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission to focus resources on wildlife habitat in the Prairie Pothole region of the Northern Plains breeding grounds for most of the ducks in North America. Resources will be used to slow the rate at which native grasslands and wetlands are being converted to agriculture and other uses.

  • A new National Water Trails System will increase access to water–based outdoor recreation, promoting tourism and encouraging community stewardship of local waterways. The Chattahoochee River Water Trail in Georgia is the first to join the new system. A designated water trail must provide:
  • public access points for recreation and education,

  • opportunities for communities to restore the health of local waterways,

  • information about cultural, historic and natural features along the water trail, and

  • a sustainable maintenance plan.

The Department of the Interior is accepting applications for other trails that could be added to the system. For more information, contact or 703–358–2205.

  • The Departments of the Interior and Education will work together to use national wildlife refuges, national parks and other public lands as 21st century classrooms, in both rural and urban areas. These programs are intended to improve environmental literacy, support learning outside the classroom and encourage local conservation partnerships.