America’s Great Outdoors: Lessons for President Obama

Otero Mesa, New Mexico. Photo by Nathan Newcomer.

In April, President Obama launched a conservation initiative that would span all 50 states, several governmental agencies and connect thousands of people back to the natural heritage that defines us. America’s Great Outdoors, a conservation strategy for the 21st century, holds the opportunity to protect, connect and restore our public lands for future generations.

As Obama administration officials traveled across these United States learning about your success stories and conservation ideas during “listening sessions,” The Wilderness Society staff and you – Wilderness supporters—were there advocating for what we believe to be the cornerstone of America’s Great Outdoors: our treasured public lands. The Wilderness Society has advocated that America’s Great Outdoors achieve these core objectives:

  • Address Conservation at a Large Scale
  • Protect our wilderness
  • Improve Watersheds and Wildlife Habitat
  • Connect people with Nature
  • Provide Increased Access and Recreational Opportunities, and
  • Fully Fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Click here to send a letter to the Obama Administration to support these goals.

During the listening sessions, The Wilderness Society and local partners eagerly told the stories of local, collaborative success in some of our most special places. Read about them here:

Address Conservation at a Large Scale – The Crown of the Continent, Montana
Listening Session: June 2

Crown of the Continent.The Crown of the Continent is a large that landscape that connects working lands and pristine wildlands. It is central to achieving land connectivity at a continental scale, being a key part of linking the Canadian Rockies with Greater Yellowstone and Central Idaho – providing connectivity for nearly 60 million acres of forested mountain ecosystems. Through public-and-private partnerships, Montanans are helping to protect this treasured land that provides clean drinking water, healthy air, working lands and a variety of recreation activities to the communities surrounding it.

Protect our wildlands – Otero Mesa, New Mexico
Listening Session: July 17

America’s wildlands represent some of our healthiest and most intact lands. Permanent protection of Otero Mesa as a National Monument -- the largest remaining wild grassland left in New Mexico -- will not only preserve a rich hunting tradition in the area, but will also help safeguard a vast source of precious water. Local governments, the governor and hunting and recreation groups all support protecting this amazing area.

Improve Watersheds and Wildlife Habitat – the Pisgah-Nantahala national forest, North Carolina
Listening Session: July 15

Nestled in western North Carolina lies the treasured Pisgah-Nantahala national forest. This forest contributes to the health of the Southern Appalachian ecosystem that supports and sustains us and the wildlife that inhabits this region. Millions of visitors come to enjoy all that the Pisgah-Nantahala has to offer every year. Restoring the Pisgah -Nantahala national forest will help protect clean water supplies, healthy air, countless recreation activities and adapt to the effects of climate change.

Connect people with Nature – North Cascades, Washington
Listening Session: July 1

A young girl enjoying the North Cascades. Photo by Holly Werran, Courtesy REI.Today, youth are underrepresented on our public lands. But all children, no matter where they live, deserve the opportunity to learn about and experience the wildlands that belong to all Americans. Rising from lush valleys to Mount Baker’s 10,778-foot peak, the North Cascades are in greater Seattle’s backyard and can serve as a classroom for those with limited exposure to nature. Laura Humes, a 16 year old who attended the listening session offered this suggestion for reconnecting young people to our great outdoors: “Have more events in parks – from concerts to clean ups to day hikes with rangers – just getting people out there. Once they are out there, they will connect with nature, grow to appreciate it more and become stewards – they’ll want to take care of our public lands.”

Provide Increased Access and Recreational Opportunities – San Gabriel Mountains, California
Listening Session: July 7

When the Obama administration announced they were coming to Los Angeles for a listening session, supporters of the San Gabriel Mountains offered to host officials at a “home-grown” listening session. Over 400 people attended to help protect and preserve “L.A.’s backyard.” Less than an hour from downtown L.A., the San Gabriel Mountains and River are part of the Angeles National Forest which provides L.A. County with more than one-third of its clean drinking water and more than 70 percent of its open space. The river also extends south into urban areas where there are limited parks and healthy recreational opportunities. Recreation is a great way for these communities to experience nature and help develop a strong conservation ethic. The San Gabriel Mountains and River are one of the closest outdoor destinations for one of our country’s largest urban areas.

Fully Fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund – Eastern Forests, Maine
Listening Session: September 2

At every listening session across the country, diverse voices have urged the administration to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million per year. Maine’s forests would uniquely benefit from this protection. The state alone has received over $100 million in LWCF funds for protection of critical habitat in Acadia National Park, Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, Saddleback Mountain, and many other special places. Over 70 million people live within a day’s drive of Maine and rely on these precious resources for clean air and water, as well as for their outstanding recreational opportunities. Full funding for LWCF provides us with an unprecedented opportunity to address the loss of open space and to help species adapt to climate change while providing economic benefits to local communities. In Maine alone, the outdoor recreation economy supports 48,000 jobs and produces nearly $3 billion annually in retail sales and services across the state.

This summer, thousands of people have shared their conservation ideas, concerns and questions with the Obama administration.

You can be part of this unprecedented, historic outreach effort by contributing your ideas here. This is our opportunity to change conservation for the 21st century, and leave a natural world for future generations to enjoy.

Otero Mesa, New Mexico. Photo by Nathan Newcomer.
Crown of the Continent, Montana.
A young girl enjoying the North Cascades. Photo by Holly Werran, Courtesy REI.