America’s Great Outdoors: A great idea, improved

Exactly 10 months after President Obama introduced America's Great Outdoors, he rolled-out the inclusive report at the White House in front of a diverse crowd of interested stakeholders.  I was one of the many people looking forward to the event, as we've been working to shape the initiative since it was announced on April 16th. 

America’s Great Outdoors represents a renewed approach to conservation and an affirmation of the importance of the wild, historic and working lands that belong to every American.

From coast to coast, from urban to rural, from all political stripes, Americans are saying they want to protect and have access to the places that enrich their lives. America’s Great Outdoors answers that call, fulfilling our responsibility to ensure that every one has access to their favorite fishing hole or picnic spot in order to quench their need to connect with the outdoors.

Camping in the Pacific Northwest.There is no better time to protect our natural and cultural heritage.  America’s public lands are a driving force in many local economies, fueling jobs in recreation and restoration. A recent study found that every federal dollar invested in national parks generates at least four dollars of economic value to the public, and the Outdoor Industry Association estimates that 6.5 million jobs are created in the outdoor industry every year.

America’s Great Outdoors is the result of more than 50 listening sessions held across the country, where ranchers, tribal leaders, youth, and others contributed ideas.

And after the release of the report, local people in California, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and other places spoke out in favor of this bold conservation plan.

For example, Peter Metcalf, the CEO/president and co-founder of Black Diamond Equipment said, “Our public lands not only provide unparalleled outdoor recreation opportunities, but they also provide a $730 billion dollar economic generator that can’t be done more cheaply in China or copied in Bangladesh."

Protecting the lands that belong to all Americans means that cleaner water will run downstream to nearby communities. These special places also scrub the air and provide a home for fish and wildlife saving us billions in infrastructure and health costs.

Women enjoying a lake in Glacier National Park, Montana. Photo by Jeff L. Fox.These economic and ecological benefits are greatest when national and regional groups work together and existing programs are more strategically aligned. Through America’s Great Outdoors, federal agencies will partner with communities to allocate resources according to local needs. Programs will reconnect youth to the land and will ensure that children are among those who gain the most.

AGO promotes hugely successful programs that provide jobs through restoration of watersheds, support recreational opportunities and provide critical technical assistance to private working lands. Many of these needed and overwhelmingly supported programs are under threat, and Congress should continue to fund them, for America’s great outdoors is our common ground.

In the beginning of the 20th century, Theodore Roosevelt responded to the threats facing America’s wild areas with a revolutionary agenda that has transformed the American landscape. America’s Great Outdoors advances this legacy, ensuring that America’s wild places and cultural icons will continue to provide economic, ecological and spiritual benefits to future generations of Americans.

Editor's Note: The Wilderness Society's Emily Diamond-Falk made an appearance on ABC News' Now You Know segment to talk about America's Great Outdoors. Watch the video below:

Camping in the Pacific Northwest.
Women enjoying a lake in Glacier National Park, Montana. Photo by Jeff L. Fox.