Outcomes from the President’s Conference on Conservation and America Great Outdoors (AGO) Initiative
In a thank you letter to attendees, Administration leaders noted that the following themes we heard during the listening sessions at the White House Conference on AGO on March 2nd. AOA’s Executive Director David Brown attended the conference.
Throughout the day, we heard several recurring points. First, strong conservation funding—including the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Farm Bill, and transportation funds—is key to achieving the goals of America’s Great Outdoors. Second, many participants underscored the importance of making the great outdoors more easily accessible to all Americans—especially our youth—in both urban and rural landscapes, as a way to improve Americans’ overall health and cultivate the next generation of outdoor stewards and champions.
Recent AGO Announcements. This is unedited from the letter.
1. Conserving 1 Million Acres of Grasslands and Wetlands: Agriculture Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack announced additional opportunities for producers to enroll land in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), including a total of 1 million acres in CRP initiatives to preserve sensitive grasslands and wetlands. USDA’s CRP has a 25-year legacy of successfully protecting the Nation's natural resources through voluntary participation, while providing significant economic and environmental benefits to rural communities across the United States. Under the Obama Administration, USDA has enrolled more than 8 million acres in CRP.
2. Conserving Prime Hunting Habitat: In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that they are recommending a conservation investment of approximately $30 million, or 70 percent of the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, in the Nation’s prairie pothole region. Long recognized as America’s “duck factory,” the significant investment will help protect habitat for the waterfowl and grassland species of the prairies.
3. Protecting and Restoring our Waterways and Fisheries: Through the National Fish Habitat Partnership, Federal agencies are helping state and local governments, landowners, and community groups to protect and restore our waterways and fisheries. This national effort has spawned regional and local partnerships. The Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture and Commerce signed an agreement to promote collaborative, science-based conservation of our waterways and fisheries.
4. Creating a New Water Trail System: Secretary Salazar and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy announced the creation of a new National Water Trails System, a network that will increase access to water-based outdoor recreation, encourage community stewardship of local waterways, and promote tourism that fuels local economies across America. The Chattahoochee River in Georgia will be the first water trail to join the new system.
5. Working Lands for Wildlife: Secretary Vilsack and Secretary Salazar announced a new $33 million partnership with farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to use innovative approaches on private lands to restore and protect the habitats for wildlife, including seven at-risk species and other vulnerable game species.
6. Outdoor Education: Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced a new agreement to build programs that use national parks, national wildlife refuges, and other public lands as 21st century classrooms—designed to benefit teachers, students, and parents in rural America and urban classrooms alike. These programs will connect young Americans to the outdoors, improve environmental literacy, support experiential learning outside the classroom, and encourage conservation partnerships at the local level.
7. Improving Urban Waters: EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson joined with Federal and community partners to announce the first Urban Waters Ambassador of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership. The Partnership, an innovative Federal union comprising 11 agencies, is an effort to help cities, particularly those that are underserved or economically distressed, connect with their waterways and work to improve them. The ambassador, serving the Los Angeles (LA)River location, will coordinate and accelerate on-the-ground projects that are critical both to improving water quality and public health and fostering community stewardship in the LA River watershed.
8. Community engagement: In Boston, Massachusetts, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will work with the Department of Transportation, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Park Service to support the Circle the City project, an open-streets project connecting people to parks. The project is intended to increase park use and help underserved Boston neighborhoods that face historic and structural barriers to park access.
9. Public-Private Partnerships: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson and David O’Neill of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation joined Mayor Vincent C. Gray and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton of the District of Columbia to announce the creation of The Anacostia River Revitalization Fund. The fund, which will invest $1 million in restoration activities this year, with a total goal of investing $5 million over the next three years, will be used protect and restore the Anacostia River and to create a national model for watershed conservation.