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America's Great Outdoors

President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum on April 16, 2010 establishing the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative (AGO). The AGO Initiative focuses on reconnecting Americans to the outdoors and promoting community-level efforts to conserve and restore outdoor spaces.

As part of the AGO Initiative, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Interior (DOI) were joined by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in soliciting public input on how the federal government can better serve the conservation interests of communities across the country. At President Obama's request, these groups published a report summarizing their findings (learn more ).

Public Listening Sessions

To collect input from the public, the USDA, the DOI and the CEQ hosted a series of public “listening sessions” across the country in which their staff engaged in dialogue with the full range of interested groups, including tribal leaders, farmers and ranchers, sportsmen, community park groups, foresters, youth groups, businesspeople, educators, State and local governments, and recreation and conservation groups. Outdoor Alliance worked to turn out leaders from the active outdoor recreation community to these public meetings.

Home-Grown Listening Sessions

As a supplement to the official AGO “listening sessions” that the administration hosted, Outdoor Alliance worked with a coalition of outdoor recreation clubs and user groups along with the outdoor recreation industry to organize informal, "home-grown", listening sessions across the country during July and August 2010. The purpose of these sessions was the same as the official listening sessions but more focused on the active outdoor recreation community and particularly in areas that the administration sessions did not cover. Outdoor Alliance collaborated with the outdoor recreation industry and other partners to compile the input from these meetings sent a report to the CEQ in September 2010 with specific suggestions from our community that were incorporated into the report to the President.

Suggestions for the America's Great Outdoors Initiative Report

The federal agencies involved with AGO sought concrete and specific suggestions from the public on outdoor recreation and conservation policy in America. They were interested in hearing ideas related to improving the effectiveness of existing federal programs as well as establishing new partnerships with local/state governments and private business leaders.

The following is a list of the President’s questions followed by perspectives from Outdoor Alliance that were included in our report back to the Administration.

1. Reconnect with the Great Outdoors  - What are your ideas for helping Americans get outdoors and reconnect with the nation’s land, water, wildlife, culture, and history?

2. Private Lands Conservation - How can the United States better support the voluntary efforts of farmers, ranchers, and private landowners to conserve their land, water, and wildlife?

3. Public Lands Conservation - Which open spaces, watersheds, historic or cultural sites, wildlife habitat, or other public lands are most important to you, and what can be done at the local, state, or federal level to improve their management?

Basic Principles from Outdoor Alliance

When making public land management decisions, always cover the basics – clean air, clean water, healthy wildlife.

Public lands should be managed for their experiential value as well as their extractive value (mining, timber and energy).

Community engagement should be a material part of how we define successful public land management.

Public land management decisions should be made with public input that has a streamlined process and sticks to deadlines.

Sometimes the small fixes and unglamorous infrastructure can enhance things much more than the big fancy projects.

Prioritize trail systems -- they are how most people interact with the great outdoors.

Put things back the way you found them - if you cut down trees, plant new ones, if you dig a giant hole, fill it up.

Don’t let the built stuff we have fall into disrepair.

Different land managers should work together to protect big landscapes or watersheds.

Multiple benefits accrue from engaging youth, minorities and urban populations in outdoor pursuits and active lifestyles.

Accessible, interconnected outdoor infrastructure and amenities encourage active lifestyles.

Every year the federal government collects billions of dollars in royalties from oil and gas companies that operate on public lands and waters (more than $7B last year).  The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) lets Congress spend up to $900M of this royalty money on conservation and recreation projects and this should be directed to land conservation and recreation every year.
The Rivers and Trails Conservation Assistance (RTCA) is a program that lets the National Park Service give expert advice to local communities on how they can preserve and protect open spaces.  NPS should have the funding it needs to run RTCA properly.
If a land manager or land owner wants some assistance from the user community to help manage a recreational activity we should help.

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Related News Items

» America's Great Outdoors Progress Report Released
» Outdoor Alliance Attends White House Conference on Conservation
» Outdoor Alliance Provides Perspectives on America's Great Outdoors
» America's Great Outdoors Listening Sessions to Open June 2nd
» Obama Administration Officials Announce White House Conference on America's Great Outdoors

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