President Obama began a drive today to both conserve more of America's wild lands, and get Americans to get outside and enjoy it more. It's called the Great Outdoors Initiative.
Here is a full transcript of the President's remarks from the conference where he signed a memo creating the initiative. The details on what exactly the initiative will entail are emerging, but will entail a lot of dialogue over the next few months with people who have good ideas for how to manage and protect our wild spaces.
Basically, this is what it will look like, in the President's own words:
1) "First, we’re going to build on successful conservation efforts being spearheaded outside of Washington -– by local and state governments, by tribes, and by private groups -– so we can write a new chapter in the protection of rivers, wildlife habitats, historic sites, and the great landscapes of our country."
2) "Secondly, we’re going to help farmers, ranchers, property owners who want to protect their lands for their children and their grandchildren."
3) "Third, we’ll help families spend more time outdoors, building on what the First Lady has done through the “Let’s Move” initiative to encourage young people to hike and bike and get outside more often."
4) "And fourth, we want to foster a new generation of community and urban parks so that children across America have the chance to experience places like Millennium Park in my own Chicago."
Here are some other key comments from the President at the conference:
"In the months ahead, members of this administration will host regional listening sessions across America. We’ll meet with everybody -- from tribal leaders to farmers, from young people to businesspeople, from elected officials to recreation and conservation groups. And their ideas will help us form a 21st century strategy for America’s great outdoors to better protect our natural landscape and our history for generations to come."
"Understand, we’re not talking about a big federal agenda being driven out of Washington. We’re talking about how we can collect best ideas on conservation; how we can pursue good ideas that local communities embrace; and how we can be more responsible stewards of tax dollars to promote conservation."
"...I do, for the same reasons that all of you do; for the same reason families go outside for a picnic or campers spend a night in a national park, and sportsmen track game through the woods or wade deep into a river. It’s a recognition passed down from one generation to the next, that few pursuits are more satisfying to the spirit than discovering the greatness of America’s outdoors."
"And when we see America’s land, we understand what an incredible bounty that we have been given. And it’s our obligation to make sure that the next generation enjoys that same bounty."
"So, yes, we are working faithfully to carry on the legacy of Teddy Roosevelt in the 21st century. But we also know that we must adapt our strategies to meet the new challenges of our time. Over the last century, our population grew from about 90 million to 300 million people, and as it did, we lost more and more of our natural landscape to development. Meanwhile, a host of other factors –- from a changing climate to new sources of pollution -– have put a growing strain on our wildlife and our waters and our lands."