Obama Celebrates Great Outdoors with Nation

Obama Celebrates Great Outdoors with Nation

Michele Berger
Published: 02/17/2011

Obama speaking to environmental leaders about his America's Great Outdoors initiative. Photo: David Yarnold

“Today our open spaces are more precious than ever,” President Obama told a room of conservation leaders, including Audubon president David Yarnold, yesterday at the White House. Obama spoke of presidents past—Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt—who preserved land for future generations, and he acknowledged the hard work of today’s environmental stewards. “Each has an equal share in the land around us,” he declared, “but also an equal responsibility to protect it.”

In April 2010, Obama launched the America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) Initiative and with it, a promise to create and foster an eco-agenda appropriate for today’s conservation needs. Guided by input from more than 10,000 people at 51 listening sessions across the country, a recommendation-filled report—a blueprint of sorts—released this month lays out the Administration’s agenda on this front.

Some of the upcoming plans: Fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (something Obama said has only happened twice before), paid for by existing gas and oil revenues. “If you take something out of the Earth,” the President said, “you have a responsibility to give a little something back to the Earth.” He also wants to create a Conservation Service Corps to engage young people in public land and water restoration, as well as a federal outdoor recreation

EPA chief Lisa Jackson with Audubon President David Yarnold. Photo: National Audubon Society

council to “increase and improve recreational access and opportunities.”

National Audubon Society, which has been working toward community-driven environmental strategies for more than a century, is right there with the country’s 44th leader. “Audubon thanks President Obama for his leadership in highlighting the importance of conservation and connecting people to nature,” Yarnold said. “We’ve learned that the best way to inspire a conservation stewardship is by first making sure that people of all backgrounds have the opportunity to discover and enjoy nature.”

With its vision of providing every child access to the outdoors, no matter where he or she lives, and better managing preserved lands and natural areas, Obama’s AGO seems poised to make that happen.

(This weekend’s Great Backyard Bird Count, a partnership between Audubon and Cornell Lab of Ornithology that starts tomorrow, presents a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy nature; check the blog later for more about this).