BEGIN AMERICA'S GREAT OUTDOORS INITIATIVE
March 13, 2011
Obama has announced the creation of a community-based conservation plan,
a program called America's Great Outdoors Initiative. The goal is to "achieve
lasting conservation of the outdoor spaces that power our nation's economy,
shape our culture, and build our outdoor traditions." The initiative
seeks to get people, especially young people, outdoors on a more regular
basis so they can appreciate the importance of the nation's lands and
reinvigoration of outdoor appreciation should include an understanding
of the need for our natural environments to coexist with farming, ranching
and other agricultural endeavors. We need to rekindle an appreciation
in Americans, especially young ones, for hunting, fishing and other activities
that put families and friends outdoors. Getting youngsters away from computers
and other electronic devices for a few hours a week or month would be
in society's best interest.
Great Outdoors Initiative gives farmers, ranchers and private landowners
an opportunity to contribute by offering support for those who "help
protect rural landscapes and provide access for recreation." Likewise,
revenues from oil and gas removal will help protect parks, green spaces
and wildlife habitats, as well as promote recreational activities at the
sites. The idea is to move our country in a direction that creates "a
21st-century conservation ethic . . . for environmental stewardship"
that connects us "to our historic, cultural, and natural heritage."
plan is intended to develop local, community-level conservation and recreation
agendas. Surveys taken across the country revealed that among the steps
needed to accomplish the goals of the program were accessible parks, including
"a new generation of great urban parks," or green spaces for
children, and restoration of rivers to revitalize communities. The ideas
presented on the Great Outdoors website at http://americasgreatoutdoors.gov/
should receive widespread support.
invites comments on any aspect of being outdoors and on the many issues
involved with outdoor activities. Some links lead to debates among people
who favor outdoor activities but do not always agree on the details, such
as whether mountain bikers who pay fees should have greater access to
certain trails than do hikers who pay no fees. On another topic, someone
noted that "one of the things that drives me crazy as a hunter and
hiker . . . is the overgrazing on Forest Service lands." Should the
federal government be subsidizing cattle ranchers rather than opening
up the lands for camping, hunting or bird-watching?
thing many will ask is how such an initiative will be paid for; how will
it affect the economy? Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack addressed
the issue in part, saying, "America's farmlands and woodlands help
fuel our economy and create jobs across the rural areas of our country.
This plan seeks to work in partnership with landowners, conservation groups,
states and others to conserve our working lands and our public lands and
to reconnect Americans." The long-term economic value of a program
that engenders new appreciation of our natural environment will more than
pay for any short-term costs.
Secretary Ken Salazar noted that the program was based on "practical,
common-sense ideas from the American people on how our natural, cultural,
and historic resources can help us be a more competitive, stronger, and
healthier nation. Together, we are adapting our conservation strategies
to meet the challenges of today and empowering communities to protect
and preserve our working lands and natural landscapes for generations
to come." Clearly, this is a long-term perspective. When we think
of the environment, natural habitats and native wildlife we should always
take a comprehensive, long-term view not a myopic, short-term one.
spend half as much time outside as their parents did. Also, many Americans
live in urban communities without access to safe, open, green spaces.
You do not have to be an ecologist or an environmentalist to know that
having a society that has drifted away from its environmental roots is
not good for the economy, the environment or the country itself.
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