“And when we see America’s land, we understand what an incredible bounty that we have been given. And it’s our obligation to make sure that the next generation enjoys the same bounty.”
President Obama, April 16, 2010
America’s Great Outdoors Overview
In April 2010, President Barack Obama and the Department of the Interior launched the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative (AGO) as an ongoing Administrative Branch effort to promote America’s connection to the outdoors and to bolster current conservation practices nationwide. A series of listening and learning sessions were held around the country to engage the recreation and conservation community in development of a 21st century conservation plan. The goal of these listening sessions was to let the public weigh in on what our national conservation strategy should look like, in three broad categories:
- Public lands conservation
- Private lands conservation
- Reconnecting Americans with the outdoors
American Hiking Society applauds the Obama Administration as well as leadership within the Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Council on Environmental Quality for their efforts. American Hiking Society programs and partnerships have been contributing to the achievement of the following AGO goals for over 34 years.
- Reconnecting the American people to their public lands and special places;
- Preserving and restoring iconic landscapes and open spaces;
- Promoting community-based recreation and conservation;
- Advancing job and volunteer opportunities related to conservation and outdoor recreation; and
- Supporting existing programs and projects that educate and engage Americans in our history, culture, and natural bounty.
Participation by the General Public and the Outdoor Recreation Community
More than 10,000 individuals attended a series of AGO Listening Sessions (facilitated by senior administration officials) that were held during the summer of 2010. The public also had the opportunity that summer to submit relevant comments and 105,000 comments were received. American Hiking applauds all the trails, hiking and recreation enthusiasts who attended a session or submitted comments to the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). On November 15th, 2010, CEQ presented a report to the President on what was heard/learned from the sessions and with recommendations for a 21st century conservation agenda.
American Hiking Society and Outdoor Alliance (OA) Submit Report
American Hiking and the Outdoor Alliance (OA) submitted a report in September, 2010, to the U.S. Department of the Interior and other federal agencies on President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative. The recreation-focused report was based on information gathered throughout the summer at eight “homegrown” listening sessions (sponsored by Outdoor Alliance and Outdoor Industry Association). These sessions engaged over 300 outdoor recreation users. The report was meant to inform the CEQ’s final report on AGO to President Obama. Our recommendations were centered around the following 4 items:
- Complete the National Trails System: Our National Trails System consists of National Scenic Trails, National Historic Trails, and National Recreation Trails. National Scenic Trails and National Historic Trails interpret the natural, cultural, and historic resources along their routes in a variety of ways. In addition, more than 1100 National Recreation Trails crisscross the American landscape on federal, state, municipal, and private lands; at least one trail in each of the 50 states. See our talking points for more information about the Partnership for the National Trails System.
- Fully Fund the Administration and Management of Non-Motorized Trail and Recreation Programs: The National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Wildlife Refuge System and US Forest Service all have a variety of trails programs and they are integral in providing recreation, transportation and economic benefits to residents, visitors and communities.
- Fully Fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF): Established in 1965 by Congress as a bipartisan commitment to investing in our natural areas, working lands, and historic and cultural heritage, and to increase access to recreational opportunities for all Americans. Despite its success in adding millions of acres to our national recreation and historic areas, the LWCF program has been dramatically underfunded.
- Protection of Cultural and Historic Resources: Cuts in funding for Save America’s Treasures, Preserve America grants and the Historic Preservation Fund are jeopardizing the protection of our cultural and historic resources. Assessing what protections work now, which obstacles prevent protection, and what else the federal government can do are important questions moving forward.
- Public Lands Management: Some simple guidelines for the management of all public lands can make everyone’s time outdoors safe, fun, and a memory to look back on with a smile.
Outdoor recreation supports over 6.5 million jobs and contributes $646 billion annually to the U.S. economy, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. These AGO listening sessions provide an excellent opportunity to let the government know how important landscape conservation and recreation are to the health of our economy (local & national) and to our individual physical and mental health. See this OIA report for more information on the economic benefits of outdoor recreation.
For More Information About America’s Great Outdoors
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