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New report on the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative announced by President Obama to develop a 21st Century strategy for America's Great Outdoors
Download the full 167-page America’s Great Outdoors Report (pdf 11.4 mb)
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.
"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)."
GOALS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
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.
- Recommendation 1.1: Catalyze the establishment of a 21st- Century Conservation Service Corps to engage young Americans in public lands and water restoration.
- Recommendation 1.2: Work with the Office of Personnel Management to improve career pathways and to review barriers to jobs in natural resource conservation and historic and cultural preservation.
- Recommendation 1.3: Improve federal capacity for recruiting, training, and managing volunteers and volunteer programs to create a new generation of citizen stewards and mentors.
2. GOAL A: Increase and improve recreational access and opportunities.
- Recommendation 2.1: Support outdoor recreation access and opportunities on public lands by establishing a Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation (FICOR).
- Recommendation 2.2: Support community-based efforts to increase access to outdoor recreation.
3. GOAL A Cultivate stewardship and appreciation of America’s natural, cultural, and historic resources through innovative awareness-raising partnership initiatives and through education.
- Recommendation 3.1: Launch a public awareness initiative to show that experiencing America’s great outdoors is fun, easy, and healthy.
- Recommendation 3.2: Work with the Department of Education and other federal agencies to align and support programs that advance awareness and understanding of the benefits of nature.
- Recommendation 3.3: Promote and support replicable programs that teach about and connect children and families with their natural and cultural heritage.
4. GOAL A: Build stewardship values and engage youth in conservation and recreation.
- Recommendation 4.1: Engage young people in the implementation of AGO.
5. GOAL A: Invigorate the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to better meet conservation and recreation needs.
- Recommendation 5.1: Provide full funding for LWCF programs.
- Recommendation 5.2: Focus a portion of federal LWCF funds on projects that achieve AGO goals related to large-scale land conservation, urban parks and community green spaces, and river restoration and access.
- Recommendation 5.3: Broaden guidelines for Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plans (SCORPs) to align with AGO priorities.
6. GOAL A: Create and enhance a new generation of safe, clean, accessible great urban parks and community green spaces.
- Recommendation 6.1: Establish the AGO Great Urban Parks and Community Green Spaces initiative by targeting increased funding for the NPS LWCF stateside grant program to leverage investment in new and enhanced urban parks and community green spaces.
- Recommendation 6.2: Support and align federal agency programs and initiatives to promote the creation, expansion, and enhancement of urban parks and community green spaces.
- Recommendation 6.3: Target technical assistance support to communities to create and enhance urban parks and community green spaces.
- Recommendation 6.4: Connect people with urban parks and community green spaces.
7. GOAL A: Catalyze large-scale land conservation partnership projects through economic incentives and technical assistance.
- Recommendation 7.1: Support collaborative landscape conservation through competitive processes, including increases in LWCF funding and other programs.
- Recommendation 7.2: Support landscape partnerships by targeting existing federal dollars, policies, and other resources toward conservation of private and tribal working lands and coordinating expenditures, where appropriate, across federal agencies.
GOAL B: Significantly increase the pace of working farms, ranches, and forest lands conservation.
- Recommendation 7.3: Extend the enhanced deductions for conservation easement donations beyond 2011.
GOAL C: Increase financial incentives for land stewardship for farmers, ranchers, forest landowners, and tribes.
- Recommendation 7.4: Develop and expand new markets, including those for the environmental services provided by working lands, for local agricultural or sustainable forest products, sustainable energy, and others.
- Recommendation 7.5: Support financial and other incentives to encourage access for hunting, fishing, hiking, recreation, and other outdoor activities on or across private working lands.
- Recommendation 7.6: Promote tools such as safe harbor agreements that provide certainty to landowners who agree to carry out stewardship activities that benefit fish and wildlife and protect water resources.
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.
- Recommendation 8.1: Manage federal lands and waters within a larger landscape context to conserve and restore ecosystems and watershed health.
- Recommendation 8.2: Manage federal lands and waters to increase their resilience to climate change.
- Recommendation 8.3: Manage federal lands and waters to create and protect critical wildlife corridors and maintain landscape connectivity in collaboration with other public and private stakeholders.
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.
- Recommendation 8.4: Engage the public to identify and recommend potential sites on existing federal lands for protection under the 1906 Antiquities Act.
- Recommendation 8.5: Identify potential areas for congressional designation that have strong local support.
GOAL C: Protect America’s historic and cultural resources.
- Recommendation 8.6: Provide financial and technical support to states and local communities, tribes, and private sector organizations for historic preservation and cultural resources protection.
- Recommendation 8.7: Continue to protect and interpret historic sites and cultural landscapes on federal lands.
9. GOAL A: Empower communities to connect with America’s great outdoors through their rivers and other waterways.
- Recommendation 9.1: Establish the AGO National Recreational Blueway Trails Initiative to increase access to recreation.
- Recommendation 9.2: Facilitate recreational access to the nation’s waterways. GOAL B. Support restoration and conservation of rivers, bays, coasts, lakes, and estuaries for
recreation, healthy fisheries, and wildlife habitat.
- Recommendation 9.3: Enhance and restore local waterways and the surrounding land by partnering with state, local, and tribal government, and the private sector to support community efforts.
- Recommendation 9.4: Coordinate and align federal water resource management programs and resources
10. GOAL A: Improve federal government performance as a conservation partner.
- Recommendation 10.1: Establish the interagency AGO Council to achieve more cooperation and collaboration among federal agencies engaged in conservation and recreation.
GOAL B: Amplify the impact of the AGO Initiative by creating the Partnership for AGO.
- Recommendation 10.2: Launch the Partnership for AGO.
Lewis and Clark National and State Historical
Park, OR and WA (NATIONAL PARK SERVICE PHOTO)
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.
Download the full 167-page America’s Great Outdoors Report (pdf 11.4 mb)
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