America's Great Outdoors

  • Derek Brockbank, Patrick Fitzgerald, Todd Keller, Bentley Johnson
  • Aug 13, 2010

From time spent with friends in neighborhood parks and backyards as a child to teaching a grandchild how to fish, Americans connect with each other by connecting with the outdoors. These inter-personal connections and connections with land are the root of the American conservation ethic. As the administration considers the future of American conservation, enacting policies that protect the outdoors and reconnect people to nature must be a top priority. The America’s Great Outdoors initiative should translate Americans love for the outdoors to policies that will sustain and improve the outdoors for future generations.

These policies must build upon a century of conservation science and management. As has been shown time and again, successful conservation combines a fundamental understanding of the resource and the threats it faces with a plan and implementation process that allows for input from all stakeholders. Landscapes, water and wildlife do not end at political boundaries — and neither should conservation policies. Public-private partnerships, local state-federal agency coordination, and tribal-state cooperation are just some of the partnerships needed to ensure America’s Great Outdoors is not a patchwork of conservation but seamless protection of important areas.

Conservation in the 21st century will inevitably differ from the conservation successes of the 20th century. New threats, from climate change to the lure of video games and the internet on a child’s playtime, could not have been dreamt of one hundred years ago. But ultimately, the same driving force behind conservation will be the same as it always has been — people’s connection to that special place where they go to hunt, hike or simply get away from it all.

In the report, National Wildlife Federation lays out the following policy recommendations:

Funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund

  • Congress must pass legislation for full and dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
  • Congressional appropriators must invest in providing new public lands, parks, playgrounds and outdoor recreation areas to match the growing and shifting human and wildlife population.

Safeguarding Natural Resources from Climate Change

  • Congress must pass legislation that caps carbon pollution emissions and provides long term dedicated funding for natural resource adaptation.
  • The administration must develop and implement a national adaptation strategy that clearly delineates how federal natural resource agencies should practice climate smart conservation.

Connecting Children, Youth and Families with the Great Outdoors

  • Congress must pass legislation to provide incentive funding to states to promote the development and implementation of comprehensive state strategies to connect children, youth and families with the great outdoors.
  • The administration must develop and implement a comprehensive, national, coordinated strategy to reconnect children, youth and families with the great outdoors through policy solutions and federal funding.

Preserving Public Lands

  • Energy policies and mining reform policies must ensure that energy and mineral development on public land includes monitoring of and mitigation of impacts to fish, wildlife and water resources, while requiring disturbed lands to be reclaimed.
  • Congress must expand protections for special lands and waters through new designations of wilderness, national monuments, parks, refuges and more.
  • Land management agencies must be provided adequate funding to properly manage our valuable natural resources and wildlife.

Restoring America’s Great Waters

  • Ensure sufficient, sustained, dedicated funding for restoration and protection all of America’s Great Waters.
  • Protection of our nation’s wetlands, marshlands and ecosystems that filter polluted runoff and protect coastal areas from flooding, storm surges and hurricane damage.

Supporting Private Lands Conservation Efforts

  • Congress must make funding of private lands conservation programs a priority in the annual appropriations process.
  • The next Farm Bill must authorize increased funding for conservation programs.

America's Great Outdoors

A vision for conserving the nation's wildlife in the 21st century.


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