SustainAbility: Outdoors study

“America’s Great Outdoors: A Promise to Future Generations” has something for everyone interested in the natural world.

The report from President Barack Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative covers access to recreation, strengthening the Land and Water Conservation Fund and establishing urban parks and community green spaces.

Other priorities include: conserving farms, ranches and forests; conserving and restoring national parks, wildlife refuges, forests and other federal lands and waters; and protecting and renewing rivers and other waters.

The document also addresses outdoor careers and making the federal government a more effective conservation partner.

At the listening session I attended in July in Grand Junction, there was widespread concern about how to pry members of the younger generation away from ubiquitous electronic devices long enough to form a deep connection with the outdoors.

A special section of the report focuses on what young people had to say about the outdoors. Twenty-one listening sessions were exclusively for youth and explored the relationship with the outdoors and actions to protect the environment.

There was broad agreement outdoor experiences need to be relevant and accessible by young people. The report found convenient transportation and affordability were two barriers for youth.

The importance of outdoor work and volunteer experiences were recognized as well as environmental and outdoor education.

One recommendation was for a 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) to provide job training for outdoor careers while helping to maintain and preserve public lands.

“Today, Americans recognize that pitting a healthy environment against a healthy economy is a false choice — we must and can have both,” according to the report.

Significant economic benefits are created by outdoor activities, both directly and indirectly. In 2006 alone, recreationists spent upward of $122 billion in the United States to pursue their outdoor passions.

In Colorado, a study of small businesses determined quality of life issues are very important to where businesses choose to locate or expand, particularly access to parks, recreation and open space.

One Colorado project earning recognition in the report is HistoriCorps. According to its website, “HistoriCorps saves and sustains historic places for public benefit through partnerships that foster public involvement, engage volunteers and provide training and education.”

The program relies on volunteers to restore public buildings using traditional building skills with a green twist. To learn more, go to historicorps.org.

Great Outdoors Colorado, the outdoor fund supported by lottery proceeds, and the South Platte River Greenway and Commons Park in Denver, a successful urban park, also are cited in the report.

According to the document, “Our natural resources remain central to our economic vitality, yet they are under intense pressure from development and fragmentation, unsustainable use, pollution, and impacts from a changing climate.”

Perhaps America’s Great Outdoors initiative will help us place the proper value on our magnificent natural capital.

To see the report for yourself go to americasgreatoutdoors.gov/files/2011/02/AGO-Report-With-All-Appendices-2-7-11.pdf.

The document is sizable, so it will take a few minutes to download, but it is worth a gander for the photographs alone.

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Adele Israel is a Grand Junction writer who has been involved in sustainability efforts for some 20 years. Have a question or column idea for Adele? E-mail her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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