With the release of the 2011 America’s Great Outdoors Progress Report, 15 federal agencies outlined their combined conservation and recreation successes, including gains in youth employment, new trail designations, the creation of urban campgrounds, and historic investments in large landscapes such as the Everglades.
In addition to social, cultural and historic value, America’s outdoors provide vital jobs and economic benefits to communities across the country. For example, National Parks see more than 280 million visitors, generating $12 billion in visitor spending and supporting nearly 250,000 jobs. The Outdoor Industry Association estimates recreation activities including hiking, camping, and fishing contribute $730 billion to the U.S. economy, support more than 6 million jobs, and generate $289 billion annually in retail sales and services.
“The quality and accessibility of our outdoor spaces have a significant impact on the economic and physical health of American communities,” said Nancy Sutley, chair of the Council on Environmental Quality. “Actions under the America’s Great Outdoors initiative are reinvigorating a national discussion about the value of conservation,resulting in smart, innovative strategies and investments that respond to the priorities of American communities.”
President Obama launched AGO in April 2010 to foster a 21st century approach to conservation that is designed by and accomplished in partnership with the American people. In February, the Council on Environmental Quality, U.S. Department of Interior (DOI), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented an AGO report to the President outlining a conservation action plan using input received from more than 100,000 public comments and 51 public listening sessions across the country.
The Progress Report released today describes how agencies are working together and with private sector, non-profit and community partners to leverage resources and deliver on-the-ground results for Americans. For example:
- USDA announced $100 million in landowner agreements with farmers and ranchers to restore wetlands and permanently conserve nearly 24,000 acres of agricultural land in the Northern Everglades.
- EPA awarded nearly $30 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants, including funds to groom Chicago’s to 24 beaches on a daily basis and build a protective barrier to make swimming areas cleaner. These actions should result in fewer swimming bans and advisories due to contamination.
- DOI worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to designate 41 National Recreation Trails stretching across 17 states, adding 650 miles to the national trails system.
- USDA improved access for hunting by enrolling eight additional states and one tribe in the “Open Fields” Voluntary Public Access Program, which works with states to provide landowners with incentives to expand lands available for hunting.
- Federal agencies and partners worked together to provide more than 50,000 young people with paid work and service learning opportunities on public lands and waters over the past two years.
- DOI and USACE worked together to designate three new National Water Trails including the Lake Michigan National Water Trail in Illinois and Indiana, the Quinebaug River Water Trail in Connecticut, and the Susquehanna River Water Trail in Pennsylvania.
- Led by EPA, USDA, DOI and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 11 agencies came together to form the Federal Urban Waters Partnership, leveraging Federal funds to revitalize urban waters and surrounding communities through pilot projects in seven initial cities.
- USDA worked with other Federal agencies to launch new landscape-scale projects in Saginaw Bay, Michigan; Monterey Bay, California; and the Lake Champlain area in New York and Vermont, investing $3.5 million to underwrite conservation activities on working lands based on extensive stakeholder input.
To read the Progress Report or for more information about the America’s Great Outdoors initiative, visit here.