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A report on the the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative to "promote and support innovative community-level efforts to conserve outdoor spaces and to reconnect Americans to the outdoors."


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arrow More information on the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative


Department of the Interior reports on "Connecting Americans to the Great Outdoors"

From American Trails

Editor's note: Funding, as always, is the big issue with new Federal programs. Mary Coulombe, Chief of Natural Resources Management for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a member of AGO working groups, spoke on this topic June 1, 2011. She noted that AGO is not supported by any additional funding, so federal agencies must implement AGO within the context of their existing organization and programs.

photo of president and onlookers

"President Barack Obama signs the Presidential Memo
on the America's Great Outdoors Initiative in 2010


The goal of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative (AGO) initiative, wrote Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, "is about the government empowering and partnering with people and communities to protect and restore the places they cherish. In formulating this plan, we reviewed the comments and ideas from the public, analyzed existing federal programs, and reviewed successful non-federal approaches to produce a set of recommendations that will support conservation partnerships and reconnect Americans to our natural landscapes and our history."

According to the Department of the Interior, "Under the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, Interior will play a leading role in developing and implementing this partnership to restore and protect the health, heritage, natural resources, social and economic value of the Nation’s most significant ecosystems and provide greater public access to these natural areas. The 2012 Budget calls for a landmark investment of $5.5 billion for Interior's AGO programs and requests full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) land acquisition and grant conservation programs."

The report cites the role of outdoor activities in the economy: "At all of the listening sessions, people spoke about the realized and potential economic benefits provided by the outdoors, including recreation and tourism, rural and urban economic redevelopment, and lower health-care costs. Recreation and tourism and related businesses and enterprises have become powerful elements of rural and urban economic development. In 2006, recreationists spent $122.3 billion on their activities, including equipment, licenses, user fees, and trip-related expenses. This is one percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP)."


This report to the President contains three chapters: Connecting Americans to the Great Outdoors; Conserving and Restoring America’s Great Outdoors; and Working Together for America’s Great Outdoors. It also includes a special section, Youth and America’s Great Outdoors: What We Heard from America’s Young People. Each chapter includes goals, recommendations, and actions:

1. GOAL A: Develop quality conservation jobs and service opportunities that protect and restore America’s natural and cultural resources.

2. GOAL A: Increase and improve recreational access and opportunities.

3. GOAL A Cultivate stewardship and appreciation of America’s natural, cultural, and historic resources through innovative awareness-raising partnership initiatives and through education.

4. GOAL A: Build stewardship values and engage youth in conservation and recreation.

5. GOAL A: Invigorate the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to better meet conservation and recreation needs.

6. GOAL A: Create and enhance a new generation of safe, clean, accessible great urban parks and community green spaces.

7. GOAL A: Catalyze large-scale land conservation partnership projects through economic incentives and technical assistance.

GOAL B: Significantly increase the pace of working farms, ranches, and forest lands conservation.

GOAL C: Increase financial incentives for land stewardship for farmers, ranchers, forest landowners, and tribes.

8. GOAL A: Conserve, restore, and manage federal lands and waters to ensure access and enjoyment for future generations while contributing to the protection of a larger natural and cultural landscape.

GOAL B: Advance national, regional, and community-supported efforts to preserve and enhance unique landscapes, natural areas, historic sites, and cultural areas while ensuring openness and transparency in any land designations.

GOAL C: Protect America’s historic and cultural resources.

9. GOAL A: Empower communities to connect with America’s great outdoors through their rivers and other waterways.

10. GOAL A: Improve federal government performance as a conservation partner.

GOAL B: Amplify the impact of the AGO Initiative by creating the Partnership for AGO.

photo of kids on trail

Lewis and Clark National and State Historical


The appendices contain a wealth of background material. We were pleased to see in Appendix D - Summary of Effective Partnerships and Programs: "The National Trails Training Partnership is an alliance of nonprofit trail organizations, federal agencies, training providers, professional contractors, and providers of products and services to enhance training for trail planning, design, construction, maintenance, and management."


America’s Great Outdoors Vision Statement

Americans envision a future in which:

All children, regardless of where they live, have access to clean, safe outdoor places within a short walk of their homes or schools, where they can play, dream, discover, and recreate.

Americans participate in the shared responsibility to protect and care for our unique natural and cultural heritage for the use and enjoyment of future generations.

Rural lands—our working farms, ranches, and forests— are conserved and restored through incentives and local partnerships.

Our national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, and other public lands and waters are managed with a renewed commitment to sound stewardship and resilience.

Our natural areas and waterways, whether publicly or privately owned, are reconnected, healthy, and resilient and support both human needs and the wildlife that depend on them.

Communities work together to restore and protect healthy rivers and lakes to provide recreational opportunities and to contribute significantly to a vibrant economy.

arrow Download the full 167-page America’s Great Outdoors Report (pdf 11.4 mb)

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