America’s Great Outdoors: A Part Of Who We Are

Looking To The Future, A Conservation Lifer Talks About Our Natural World

09-08-2010 // Day Breitag, NWF Philanthropy Officer

I am a Chicago girl who moved to Hughes County, South Dakota for the quality of life.  I like our long open views, our wide open spaces.  My husband is the 4th generation of his South Dakota homesteading farming family, from the Russian Germans up around Leola.  He is a lifelong deer, pheasant, and goose hunter and walleye fisherman.  Our children compete in high school and 4-H rodeo.  Our neighbors are farmers and ranchers.  We like the western outdoor lifestyle.

I have worked in land conservation all my life, for the Nature Conservancy in three states, the National Geographic Society, the Jackson Hole Land Trust.  I also served as staff to the predecessor to President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) initiative, the President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors under Ronald Reagan. 

I attended listening sessions all across America, similar to the September 1 event in Fort Pierre.  I’ve heard Americans speak about our outdoor resources as the source of their livelihood, their recreation, their renewal.  From farmers and ranchers and sportsmen to gardeners and birdwatchers, Americans deeply, deeply care about what happens to our outdoors. 

We consider our right of access to America’s unspoiled outdoors a fundamental part of our national heritage.  And we incorporate the majesty and the beauty and the grandeur of our country’s natural landscapes into our very character as a nation, into our souls as human beings.  It’s part of who we are.

I edited and helped write the 1987 report of the President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors.  There are 426 pages, hundreds of specific recommendations incorporating testimony from thousands of Americans, case studies, literature review, and the best experts we could find at the time. If I had to boil it all down into two things, it’d be easy: Americans love the outdoors and want to take care of our special places, and we must have full and dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  We recommended it 25 years ago.  We still need it today.

I was recently asked to address a class in sustainability at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.  I was stunned by the concern these young people have for their planet, their understanding of the complexities and their hopefulness for their future.  The group is truly part of America’s future.  Let’s ensure we bequeath to them an America where they can thrive, with a love of and a heritage in the great outdoors. 

The America’s Great Outdoors  campaign website has a comment platform that simultaneously sends comments on AGO to both the White House and the Department of the Interior.  Click here to give your input today.

Visit to learn more about National Wildlife Federation and the America's Great Outdoors initiative.

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