The Nature Conservancy called on Congress and federal agencies to implement key provisions of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative Report, released today by the White House.
“This Report provides an important blueprint for making sure the lands, waters and natural systems that underpin our country’s economy and way of life remain healthy and productive for future generations,” said Mark Tercek, President and CEO of The Nature Conservancy. “From forests that filter our drinking water to places for outdoor recreation that generate billions of dollars in economic value each year, America’s great outdoors play a vital role in all of our lives.”
In particular, the Conservancy said it supports the Report’s call for working with local interests to conserve and manage large areas of natural land and watersheds. The Report’s recommendations focus on protecting farms, ranches and forests; creating urban parks and community green spaces; and sustaining public lands in close cooperation with local communities.
The Report is the result of more than 40 listening sessions held across the country last year that generated comments from nearly 200,000 Americans.
“The American people understand the value of our nation’s natural heritage and the need to keep it healthy,” Tercek said. “Now, more than ever, we need the conservation direction and action outlined in the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.”
Tercek added: “The Nature Conservancy will work with its many partners at places across the country to help make this plan a reality.”
Recent polling by The Nature Conservancy shows that more than three-quarters of American voters believe we can both protect the environment and strengthen the economy at the same time. In 2010, voters passed 83% of statewide and local ballot measures to fund open space, the most successful year for public investments in conservation since 1989.
Among the recommendations contained in the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative Report is the need for federal agencies to work more effectively together to streamline their conservation programs, increase efficiency and reduce red tape – actions that will save money while protecting America’s natural heritage.
The Conservancy strongly supports the Obama administration’s funding recommendations for effective and efficient programs such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund, for which the President has proposed full funding at $900 million in his 2012 budget.
“We are pleased to see that the Obama administration’s conservation plan calls for a new, larger and more connected approach to conserving our land, water and wildlife,” said Robert Bendick, director of U.S. Government Relations for the Conservancy. “Our work in all 50 states over the past 50 years shows that the most effective conservation projects connect science with on-the-ground solutions, connect land with water, and connect community desires with federal government assistance. The America’s Great Outdoors Initiative is on the right track to set a new course for 21st Century conservation.”
The Report recommends empowering communities to protect the places most important to their local economies and residents by providing them with the technical assistance and economic incentives needed. In particular, the Conservancy commends the administration’s call for a significant increase in the pace of farm, ranch and forest land conservation through an extension of enhanced deductions for conservation easement donations and through the targeted use of Farm Bill reserve and cost share programs. Private landowners hold 70 percent of all of our nation’s land.
The Report also sets out to create new opportunities to connect Americans, their families and children to nature and outdoor recreation by calling for a new generation of urban and community parks, increasing access to recreational areas and waterways, and sustaining our nation’s hunting and angling heritage.
Key to enacting the findings of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative report is full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. One of the nation’s most successful conservation programs having protected places like the Great Sands Dunes National Park and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the Land and Water Conservation Fund is authorized to receive a percentage of gas and oil drilling fee revenue. A meaningful start to the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative will require Congress to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund as the Obama administration has requested in its proposed 2012 budget.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.