Tuesday, April 20, 2010

America's Great Outdoors program

Last week, the White House hosted a conference that focused on land conservation and ways to increase Americans' affinity for natural spaces. At the April 16 event, President Obama signed a memorandum to launch America's Great Outdoors and briefly spoke to the crowd at the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C.:

In the months ahead, members of this administration will host regional listening sessions across America. We’ll meet with everybody -- from tribal leaders to farmers, from young people to businesspeople, from elected officials to recreation and conservation groups. And their ideas will help us form a 21st century strategy for America’s great outdoors to better protect our natural landscape and our history for generations to come.


Understand, we’re not talking about a big federal agenda being driven out of Washington. We’re talking about how we can collect best ideas on conservation; how we can pursue good ideas that local communities embrace; and how we can be more responsible stewards of tax dollars to promote conservation.

First, we’re going to build on successful conservation efforts being spearheaded outside of Washington -– by local and state governments, by tribes, and by private groups -– so we can write a new chapter in the protection of rivers, wildlife habitats, historic sites, and the great landscapes of our country.

Secondly, we’re going to help farmers, ranchers, property owners who want to protect their lands for their children and their grandchildren.

Third, we’ll help families spend more time outdoors, building on what the First Lady has done through the “Let’s Move” initiative to encourage young people to hike and bike and get outside more often.
And fourth, we want to foster a new generation of community and urban parks so that children across America have the chance to experience places like Millennium Park in my own Chicago.

We’re launching this strategy because it’s the right thing to do -– because, as [Teddy Roosevelt] said, we must not mar the work of the ages. But we’re also doing it because it’s the right thing to do for our economy. It’s how we’re going to spur job creation in the tourism industry and the recreation industry. It’s how we’ll create jobs preserving and maintaining our forests, our rivers, our great outdoors.
What will that mean for the nature tourism and birding industries? What challenges will the initiative face?

The Washington Post said: "It remains unclear how much the government can afford to spend on such programs in the future. The National Park Service alone estimates that it would need an extra $9.5 billion to clear a backlog of repairs and improvements."

ABCNews.com said the first listening sessions are planned for Los Angeles and Florida's Everglades. Because the Los Angeles meeting will take place in the initiative's early stages, some see that as a sign for the administration's interest in urban conservation. That DenverPost.com article also said:
The conference follows nearly two months of controversy over a leaked Bureau of Land Management memo that appeared to outline ambitious plans for several new national monuments, plans that Republicans blasted as a land grab. The tone of Friday's event — launching what was officially known as America's Great Outdoors initiative — appeared to be a response to that criticism.
America's Great Outdoors seeks your input and "your ideas for protecting the places you love." After registering, you're welcome to join the conversation and share stories (with photos and videos, even) about places that are special to you.

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