America's Great Outdoors Initiative Report Released
How will we steward our natural treasures in the 21st century? America's Great Outdoors Initiative sought ideas from all Americans.
After 51 listening sessions, with 10,000 Americans providing more than 105,000 comments, the results of a nationwide conversation about protecting and playing in the great outdoors are now in.
Last spring, the heads of four federal agencies--the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency and the White House Council on Environmental Quality--set out on a road trip across the country, to listen to people's opinions and ideas about "America's Great Outdoors." Perhaps you were able to share your comments with these federal officials during the listening session held in Seattle on July 1.
On Wednesday, when these agencies made their final report to the President, REI CEO Sally Jewell introduced the President at the White House press conference. As Jewell said, "The America’s Great Outdoors Initiative offers an important opportunity to build a vision of the future. It was inspiring to be with such a diverse gathering of leaders united in their desire to reconnect Americans to this country’s great outdoors and it was my great honor and privilege to introduce the President." Obama kiddingly asked if Jewell had brought him any gear; Jewell said the gear didn't make it through security. Watch the video.
WTA was pleased to see that several of our recommendations featured prominently in the report, including a focus on partnerships with local organizations, expanded technical assistance from federal partners and collaboration across land management agencies. Follow this link for the full report, titled America’s Great Outdoors: A Promise to Future Generations.
The most prominent recommendation in this report is the call for fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a portion of which would be used to improve recreational access to federal lands. As stated in the report, many public comments expressed a desire for more recreational access on local, state, tribal, and federal lands. For participants, increased access means better public transportation, roads, trailheads, signage, and trails as well as better information about recreational opportunities. At the same time, participants want that increased recreational access to be balanced by conservation and stewardship.
Other key recommendations in the report include establishing a 21st century Conservation Service Corps to engage young Americans in public lands and water restoration and various efforts to connect and collectively manage landscapes that fall under the jurisdiction of multiple agencies. When implemented, the AGO initiative should lead to:
- New urban parks and community green spaces
- Newly-restored rivers and recreational “blueways” that power economic revitalization in communities
- Stronger support for farmers, ranchers, and private landowners that help protect rural landscapes and provide access for recreation
- The reinvestment of revenues from oil and gas extraction into the permanent protection of parks, open spaces, wildlife habitat, and access for recreational activities.
- A 21st century conservation ethic that builds on local ideas and solutions for environmental stewardship and connecting to our historic, cultural, and natural heritage
The overarching goals of this initiative are to support local, community-based conservation ideas, to make the Federal Government a better partner with states, tribes, and local communities and to reconnect Americans, especially young people, with public lands. We certainly hope to see this initiative succeed.