Obama Listens to Public Opinion with Launch of ‘America’s Great Outdoors’

Written by Tom Fry on . Posted in Learn, The Wonk Room

Recent polling by The Nature Conservancy reveals that more than three-quarters of American voters believe we can both protect the environment and strengthen the economy at the same time. This week, President Barack Obama is showing that he hears this American belief loud and clear.

On Tuesday, the president unveiled his budget request for 2012, which will be debated in Congress. The budget includes important funding for activities that would help improve the resiliency of our coastal areas and fisheries, as well as critical continued funding for fighting climate change by protecting tropical forests and helping developing nations adapt to harsh climate change impacts from flooding and droughts to sea-level rise.

And, linked to the President’s proposed budget is his announcement yesterday of a report by the America’s Great Outdoors initiative, our country’s new community-based system for protecting valued places all across America. Launched last April, the initiative is focused on conservation activities driven by communities and aimed at saving entire forests, mountain ranges, migratory corridors, and rivers.

The new report consists of priority-conservation recommendations made by more than 200,000 Americans (tribal leaders, farmers and ranchers, sportsmen, community park groups, businessmen, educators, state and local governments, and others).

The plan prioritizes partnering with private landowners – who own 70 percent of American land – to sustain working farms, ranches, and forests. The plan will also help American’s create urban parks and community green spaces to get our kids outside and better connected to nature; conserve and restore national parks and wildlife refuges; and sustain our hunting and fishing heritage by protecting our favorite local lands and waters.

The plan also recognizes the calls of many Americans for activities to increase the resilience of our lands to impacts from climate change and to help reduce carbon pollution through activities such as planting trees and better managing forests.

Importantly, the plan reflects the American belief that we can improve the economy and protect the environment at the same time by recognizing that improving outdoor recreation; protecting farms, ranches, forests and water resources; and improving resiliency in the face of climate change are extremely important to the America’s financial health.

A significant portion of the initiative’s funding will come from the critical Land and Water Conservation Fund that Obama has proposed to fully fund in his budget. This stands in stark contrast to the U.S. House of Representative’s proposed funding for 2011 released last week, which would slash funding for the Land and Water program to its lowest level in more than 40 years and would reduce international climate funding as well.

It’s clear the administration is hearing America’s desire to protect our economy and our most loved places. Will Congress?

Tom Fry is a senior policy advisor at The Nature Conservancy.

Photo by: flickr user Daleberts (Kadin fishing) Used under a Creative Commons license.

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