America’s Great Outdoors in action!

Throughout the summer we’ve invited you to participate in shaping President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. Nearly a quarter million of you have engaged — either by attending one of the more than 25 “listening and learning” sessions the Administration held across the country or by sending in your thoughts and ideas to the America’s Great Outdoors website.

While we continue to be buoyed by the President’s commitment to America’s Great Outdoors, ultimately the proof is the in the pumpkin pudding and what matters is how his vision will be implemented.

In mid-November, Secretary of the Interior Salazar put the vision of America’s Great Outdoors into action. Secretary Salazar issued a secretarial order spelling out how the National Landscape Conservation System (National Conservation Lands) should be managed. Our National Conservation Lands embody what America’s Great Outdoors is all about. They contain the “vast and varied natural heritage” that President Obama cited as shaping the ‘rugged independence and sense of community that define the American spirit.” The 886 units of the National Conservation Lands abound in exactly the type of opportunities that President Obama called for to get outdoors and reconnect with the land and with our history and culture. And too, these lands have countless opportunities to advance the “job and volunteer opportunities related to conservation and outdoor recreation” that is a goal of America’s Great Outdoors.

Indeed, Secretary Salazar’s Secretarial Order explicitly states that one of the purposes of the Order is to further the purposes of the America’s Great Outdoor initiative.

Also last week, Secretary Salazar announced the Flint Hill Legacy Conservation Area, a more than 1 million acre new unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The Flint Hills unit is a unique partnership between the federal government, the state of Kansas and private landowners and conservation organizations. It represents just the kind of collaborative partnership that President Obama outlined as a goal of America’s Great Outdoors. Secretary Salazar said that the Flint Hills “will be forever protected as a crown jewel of America’s Great Outdoors.”

These two announcements are a terrific beginning to making the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative real. We had several more recommendations for the President which we sent to him this summer. We’re eager to read the final report the Administration submits to the President and will, of course, let you all know what we think.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Secretary Salazar for making the connection to America’s Great Outdoors.

photo: Family hiking in North Cascades Roadless Area. Photo by Holly Werran, Courtesy REI.