America's Great Outdoors
Jun 28, 2010 Posted by Dawn Merritt
From Scott Kovarovics, IWLA Conservation Director
Last Friday, I joined hundreds of people from across the Chesapeake Bay region in Annapolis, Maryland, an America’s Great Outdoors listening session. President Obama launched the initiative in April to spur a nationwide dialogue about the future of conservation in America.
Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar kicked off the session by explaining that he sees America’s Great Outdoors as part of a broader movement – “march for conservation,” in his words. He ticked off some of the priority goals for the initiative, which include identifying key corridors connecting wildlife habitat, developing the next generation of urban parks, and creating a new agenda for conserving America’s rivers and waterways. The audience enthusiastically applauded when the Secretary said that “we cannot protect and restore lands if we don’t have the resources to get it done,” which was a direct reference to fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The League strongly supports this goal. The Secretary also made clear that he sees the Gulf oil spill disaster as a “catalyst for a greater conservation agenda for America.”
Participants had an opportunity to discuss issues in more detail as part of smaller breakout groups. I joined a group focused on citizen stewardship and engagement and the role the American people can play in advancing a broader conservation agenda. The League and its members have a long history of on-the-ground leadership, including our Save Our Streams program. Government alone can not implement a proactive conservation agenda. Citizens focused on conservation in their communities make the difference. And I stressed that engagement has to be a two-way street. People are more than willing to get engaged and to work hard. At the same time, their engagement has to be valued. For example, when citizens are encouraged to assess water quality in streams, the results of their work – especially when they collect valid data highlighting water quality issues – have to be valued. The goal must not be to simply tally the number of people who volunteer and call that success; it should be to focus on achieving conservation outcomes such as improved water quality or the amount of native habitat that is restored.
If you can not attend a listening session, you can still add your voice to this important dialogue. The America’s Great Outdoors Web site offers opportunities to share your views and highlight places important to you. Take a minute to check it out and share your thoughts.