America's Great Outdoors: Chesapeake Bay and Our Nation's Waters, Wetlands
NWF Attends Maryland Listening Session, Discusses New 21st Century Conservation and Recreation Agenda
Caroline Wick, NWF Restoration and Water Resources Program Associate
On June 25, fellow NWF staff and I traveled to Annapolis, Maryland for an America’s Great Outdoors listening session. The Obama Administration is hosting these sessions nationwide to discuss and develop a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda to reconnect Americans with the outdoors. After a quick trip to the new Chesapeake Mid-Atlantic Regional Center, we headed to Maryland Hall for the session.
The session opened with an impressive panel, which included Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar as well as officials from EPA and USDA. Senator Ben Cardin, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, and Representative John Sarbanes made up the cast of local politicians, speaking to the importance of the Chesapeake Bay to Marylanders.
Secretary Salazar opened the event, bringing a sense of history and perspective with a reference to the national conservation agenda that President Teddy Roosevelt initiated 102 years ago. I was particularly excited when he announced two water-related items in his top five priorities.
The Secretary plans to:
• Protect America’s landscapes of national significance—the Chesapeake Bay, the Everglades, the Gulf Coast, and the Great Lakes—all of which overlap with America’s Great Waters (nwf.org/greatwaters), and
• Develop a new agenda for America’s rivers (the Secretary noted that it wasn’t so long ago that America had its back turned to our rivers).
The best part of the afternoon came next. Participants dispersed to different rooms to meet with top agency officials in small groups. Activists and concerned citizens from across the region talked about outdoors issues that matter to them—making the Chesapeake Bay more accessible to the general public; creating community gardens in urban areas; connecting kids to the outdoors; and, in my case, restoring Clean Water Act protections for wetlands and streams.
It was a great day for the nearly 400 outdoors enthusiasts who were invited to discuss their passions with federal officials (how often does that happen?). Although the ongoing oil spill cast a shadow over the event, many of the officials and attendees noted that it is because of the Gulf catasrophe that we must spend the time now crafting a new conservation agenda.
Look for future listening sessions across the country, and share your voice and opinions at www.nwf.org/greatoutdoors.