America’s Great Outdoors can keep Colorado’s money local

Feb 16, 2011

Local ski-guide sees green in conservation plan

COLORADO - Colorado conservationists and outdoor recreation professionals applauded the release of the America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) report, a conservation initiative aimed at reconnecting Americans to nature.  The report has been nearly a year in the making; President Obama established AGO last April to support local efforts to conserve outdoor spaces.  Administration officials traveled across the country, including two stops in Colorado, listening to every-day-citizens’ best ideas about conservation as they prepared to draft this report. 

“Our local economy, outdoor recreation and health are sustained by the Yampa River and other shared lands and waters,” said Kent Vertrees, a backcountry ski guide with Steamboat Powdercats. “Our continued protection of these places through initiatives like America’s Great Outdoors will ensure that our jobs and recreation activities stay local.”

The report, “America’s Great Outdoors: A Promise to Future Generations,” reflects what Americans care about: protecting our lands and waters for healthy, economically strong communities now and for future generations. Working with local communities and using all available tools, such as the Antiquities Act and the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), AGO will protect the places that define our natural and recreational legacy. AGO provides funding for hugely successful programs that connect our young people to nature through jobs and education and provide critical technical assistance to private working lands. Many needed and overwhelmingly supported programs are under threat, and Congress should continue to fund them, for America’s great outdoors is our common ground.

The Wilderness Society welcomes the following recommendations from the report:

  • Establishing a 21st century Conservation Service Corps: Reconnecting our young people to our public, private and working lands promotes a new generation of conservation stewards, and boosts local economies by providing jobs that partner a healthy economy with a healthy environment.
     
  • Provide full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund: LWCF fosters conservation on private lands that keep wildlife habitat intact, connect wild areas and protect lands around lakes, rivers and streams. Coordinating LWCF investments across shared landscape-scale conservation goals is an important step toward collaboration and alignment. 
     
  • Manage Federal lands with larger landscape context to conserve and restore ecosystems and increase their resiliency to climate change: Protecting, connecting and restoring our public lands helps protect clean water supplies and adapt to the effects of climate change. 
     
  • Establish AGO National Recreational Blueways Trails: Protecting our rivers at the local level will keep clean drinking water running throughout communities, while providing bountiful recreational opportunities. 
     
  • Establish an interagency AGO Council and non-governmental Partnership for AGO: Improved collaboration and cooperation amongst agencies is vital to achieve the conservation and recreation goals across large landscapes. Too often, agency plans and project implementation stop at agency borders, failing to coordinate with adjacent public land agencies or private landowners.

“It is foolish in a time of belt tightening to neglect our forests, rivers and deserts that supply us with clean air and water for free,” said William H. Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society, who was at the White House for President Obama’s speech today and at the unveiling of AGO last April. “I have seen firsthand how investing in our parks and rivers protects our communities now and pays long-term dividends with billions and billions of dollars. America’s Great Outdoors will ensure that families have places and opportunities to fish, picnic, and take vacations now and forever, whether they go to a city park or a national park.”

The cornerstone of the AGO report is protecting our shared public lands and waters by connecting people – especially our youth – with nature. And every year, people from across the United States visit Colorado for its spectacular outdoor recreation opportunities. By protecting our public lands and waters, America’s Great Outdoors will help to ensure that these opportunities continue to exist to benefit our health and wellbeing.

Colorado is home to some of America’s most breathtaking scenery, such as the San Miguel River corridor, Western Colorado’s Gateway area and the Wildlands of the Arkansas River Watershed. Protecting these public lands and rivers will provide our best hope for addressing loss of species and open space, preserving water quality and adapting to climate change while preserving the wildlife and lands we enjoy today. This will give us the opportunity to reconnect our children to their incredible natural heritage.