SustainAbility: Protecting our outdoors

The sun was warm, the air was brisk and the views were magnificent.

Last week, friends and I hiked on Colorado National Monument, up Thoroughfare Canyon to a waterfall looming like a towering ice sculpture.

We are so fortunate to have this type of splendor in our backyard available for a mere pittance. For the price of two movie tickets, I bought access to the treasures of the monument for an entire year. An annual park pass costs $20. Such a deal.

My outdoor experience coincided nicely with the recent release of “America’s Great Outdoors: A Promise to Future Generations.” The report synthesizes input from a slew of Americans and launches an extensive new, cross-agency initiative.

Last July, I was among a crowd of 200 people attending the Grand Junction listening session for America’s Great Outdoors grassroots effort.

All over the country interested people participated with more than 10,000 citizens showing up for the 51 public listening sessions and an additional 100,000 comments from stakeholders.

As the opening Letter to the President explains, the report “reflects their ideas on how to reconnect people with America’s lands, waters, and natural and cultural treasures, and it builds on the conservation successes in communities across the nation.”

Although I have not read the entire 173-page report, I can share some impressions. Nestled between pages of type are some truly stunning photographs showcasing our vast array of outdoor places and waterways from sea to shining sea. Each photo is identified as a specific national park, preserve, seashore, wildlife refuge, river or Nature Conservancy parcel.

“This initiative is about the government empowering and partnering with people and communities to protect and restore the places they cherish,” the report states.

The publication is broken into three main sections: Connecting Americans to the Great Outdoors, Conserving and Restoring America’s Great Outdoors and Working Together for America’s Great Outdoors. Each chapter lists goals with very specific recommendations and actions.

A set of helpful appendices accompany the report enumerating how it was created, acronyms, federal programs and existing effective programs and partnerships.

The introductory letter also states, “The message was clear: Americans care deeply about our outdoor heritage and want to enjoy and protect it. They want to join us in taking responsibility for ensuring that this invaluable legacy is passed along to their children and grandchildren. Americans also understand the interdependence of a healthy environment and a strong economy.”

A good portion of the document is devoted to reaching out to youth. Next week, I will focus on what the report has to say about youth, the economy and noteworthy examples from Colorado.

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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