Green Spaces, Urban Parks, Blueways Highlight Great Outdoors Initiative

Following more than 50 listening sessions with local communities, the federal government has devised a plan to support community-based conservation and recreation in the "great outdoors."

President Barack Obama announced the administration’s action plan, under the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, to achieve lasting conservation of the outdoor spaces that power the U.S. economy, shape the culture, and build outdoor traditions.

The initiative seeks to reinvigorate conservation and reconnect Americans, especially young people, with the lands and waters that are used for farming and ranching, hunting and fishing, and for families to spend quality time together. Recognizing that many of these places and resources are under intense pressure, the president established the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative last April to work with the American people in developing a conservation and recreation agenda that makes sense for the 21st century.

The report released Feb. 16 outlines ways in which the federal government will help empower local communities to accomplish their conservation and recreation priorities by recognizing that the best ideas come from outside of Washington.

President Obama said: "Over the last 10 months, members of my administration have held more than 50 listening sessions with over 10,000 people – from hunters and fishermen to tribal leaders and young people. And together, we’ve laid the foundation for a smarter, more community-driven environmental strategy.

"To make it easier for families to spend time outside no matter where they live, we’re going to work with cities and states to build and improve urban parks and waterways, and make it easier to access public lands.

"To encourage young people to put down the remote or the video games and get outside, we’re going to establish a new Conservation Service Corps so they can build a lifelong relationship with their natural heritage.

"To help set aside land for conservation and to promote recreation, we’re proposing to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, for only the third time in our history. And we’re intending to pay for it with existing oil and gas revenues, because our attitude is if you take something out of the Earth, you have a responsibility to give a little bit back to the Earth," Obama concluded.

When implemented, the action plan also will result in:

  • Accessible parks or green spaces for children.
  • A new generation of great urban parks and community green spaces.
  • Newly restored river restorations 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.
  • A 21st century conservation ethic that builds on local ideas and solutions for environmental stewardship and connects to our historic, cultural, and natural heritage.

“With children spending half as much time outside as their parents did, and with many Americans living in urban areas without safe access to green space, connecting to the outdoors is more important than ever for the economic and physical health of our communities,” said Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “Through the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, this administration will work together with communities to ensure clean and accessible lands and waters, thriving outdoor cultures and economies, and healthy and active youth.”

“This initiative is an effort to reconnect Americans with the valuable resources all around them and shape a 21st century plan for protecting our great outdoors,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “It is important that our waters, lands and greenspaces are brought back into our daily lives. President Obama’s initiative will help make these critical resources a national focus once again, and involve people of every background in conservation of the places that we hold dear.”

Specifically, the report calls for fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund, establishing a 21st century Conservation Service Corps to engage young Americans in public lands and water restoration, and extending the deduction for conservation easement donations on private lands beyond 2011, among other measures.

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