Earth Month is coming: How will you care for and connect with America’s Great Outdoors?
If you’re like us you probably have plenty of childhood memories involving the great outdoors. We remember some of the sweetest involving picnics and paddle-boating, swimming in the lake in our local park, and just simple, long lazy summer days doing anything and everything outside. We even had a vegetable garden in our backyard! These activities enriched our lives, helped keep us fit and healthy, and so much more.
But did you know that kids today spend half as much time outside as their parents did?
It seems we’ve been losing touch with nature as a nation, thanks in part to our collective addiction to electronic devices and a lack of easy access to local parks and open spaces in many parts of the country. But this is not a recent development, and it’s not just our kids who are missing out on the natural connection.
It’s been almost one year since President Obama launched the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative (AGO) with the aim of developing an agenda for 21st-century conservation and helping Americans reconnect with our nation’s lands and waters. Now a new AGO report has been released to share the findings of a “listening tour” that gave tens of thousands of people the chance to talk about their link with nature and the barriers that keep them from getting outside. There’s great news: Americans are saying they want to protect and have access to the outdoor places that enhance our lives.
The new report outlines strategies to conserve America’s outdoor spaces and inspire youth, families, and communities to reconnect with nature. Highlighted strategies will focus on the importance of protecting wild places near urban areas, expanding recreational access, and encouraging an active, healthy lifestyle for our nation’s youth.
EarthShare member charity Student Conservation Association President Dale Penny hails the report’s plans to engage youth through a Conservation Service Corps and a stronger push for careers in resource conservation noting that the AGO initiative “will extend our natural and cultural heritage for decades, if not centuries to come.” The program’s targeting of America’s youth goes well beyond conservation efforts too. By encouraging children and young people to get outdoors, the program also promotes goals set aside in first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to lower rates of childhood obesity. As part of the AGO’s efforts to engage America’s youth, the government team has created YouthGo.gov, a web portal that gives young people access to events happening on public lands, education materials, and job postings.
The launch of the America’s Great Outdoors initiative brings a much-needed 21st century approach to protecting our natural resources, land and water. EarthShare member groups answered the call to build the AGO report with their valued input and were represented highly among the over 10,000 participants involved in last summer’s nationwide listening sessions. Now that the report is complete, it’s time to put this new vision for our public lands into action!
Check out this response to the AGO report from The Nature Conservancy, Renewing our Lands and Waters: Comments on America’s Great Outdoors Initiative and learn how you can do your part to support the initiative’s conservation goals. Also, just in time for Earth Month 2011, find out how you can get started to help protect your land and local community with Land Trust Alliance’s land trust conservation factsheets. And don’t forget to support America’s public lands this spring by enjoying one of our nation’s 58 historic National Parks. Explore parks in your area with National Parks Conservation Association’s interactive park finder.
The Wilderness Society's Emily Diamond-Falk explains the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative on ABC.