America’s Great Outdoors wins bipartisan support

Feb 16, 2011

Protecting our natural heritage is conservative value

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - New Mexico conservationists of all political stripes today 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 launched AGO last April to support local efforts to conserve outdoor spaces.  Administration officials traveled across the country, including a stop in Albuquerque, listening to every-day-citizens’ best ideas about conservation as they prepared to draft this report.

“Having the opportunity to experience the many values of places like Otero Mesa is the greatest legacy we can leave future generations,” said Marie Vallejos, the Otero Mesa Outreach Coordinator at the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance.  “As a conservative conservationist, I believe that we have the responsibility to leave our children a healthier world, and America’s Great Outdoors can help us achieve that.”

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 treasured lands and connecting people – especially our youth – with nature.  New Mexico is primed to reap the health and economic benefits from the initiative. Every year, New Mexicans – and people from across the United States – visit the state’s natural places to hike, fish, hunt, bird watch and to experience solitude.  By protecting our public lands and waters, America’s Great Outdoors will keep our young people healthy and active while ensuring that much needed recreation dollars enter the local economy. 

New Mexico is home to some of America’s most iconic natural places, such as Otero Mesa, Ute Mountain, the Organ Mountains and the Manzano Wilderness. Protection of these areas provide our best hope for addressing loss of species and open space, preserving water quality and adapting to climate change.