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Connecting with Each Other, Connecting with our Great Outdoors

Amy Salzman, Associate Director for Policy Outreach at the Council on Environmental Quality, blogs on the first America's Great Outdoors Council Meeting

As the snowy chill of winter slowly melts into spring, our thoughts drift toward getting outdoors.  From the cherry blossoms awakening in our nation’s capital to the trees and  greening of grasslands and forests across the country, we are reminded of the farms, waters, parks, woodlands, and extraordinary landscapes that renew us and have shaped our national heritage. 

This natural bounty come with responsibility.  Responding to modern threats to our open spaces, working lands and waters and streams demands thoughtful care and responsible stewardship.  And in a nation as large and diverse as ours, this responsibility falls on all of us.  That is why President Obama launched the America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) Initiative, a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda designed hand in hand with the American people.

As part of this initiative, we have established the America’s Great Outdoors Council to foster collaboration across federal government agencies and to assure the robust and coordinated, multi-year implementation of our action plan.  At our first meeting, the Council discussed ways in which the Federal government can be a more effective conservation partner to help to achieve our conservation and recreation goals by empowering communities and other partners to achieve our conservation and recreation goals; to engage with youth about conservation and recreation; and to create green jobs.  To keep our nation's youth in touch with our outdoor traditions, we will join hands with the First Lady’s Let's Move Initiative, a campaign to end childhood obesity in the United States by keeping our kids active and healthy.

As you can see from AGO Council members' comments below, we’re already working to achieve AGO's conservation and recreation agenda that will also help to support sustainable, healthy communities across America.

Nadine Gracia, Chief Medical Officer, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

"Outdoor recreation plays an important role in the physical and mental health and well-being of people of all ages. By redoubling our efforts to improve physical activity opportunities in communities through safe and accessible parks and playgrounds, we will increase opportunities for all Americans, especially our youth, to experience the great outdoors."

James Lopez, Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary, U.S. Deparment of Housing and Urban Development

"Part of HUD's core mission is to help build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.  Availability of community green spaces is vital to the sustainability equation. Working with our partners both inside the Federal government and across the nation, we look forward to helping connect all Americans to the great outdoors for generations to come."

Asim Mishra, Deputy Chief of Staff, Corporation for National and Community Service

"The Corporation for National and Community Service hopes to connect all Americans to the great outdoors through volunteerism and national service. Through CNCS programs -- like AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps), AmeriCorps VISTA, Learn and Serve America, and Senior Corps -- and by finding, creating, and listing volunteer opportunities online on, Americans can serve in urban and rural communities to preserve and improve our public lands and waterways."

From our children who spend afternoons playing in our parks to the farmers who depend on our working lands, we are joining together with common purpose.  As we continue to work on AGO, we look forward to ongoing conversations with the American people to ensure that we continue to connect with one another to foster the best ideas to protect and enjoy our nation’s treasured spaces for generations to come.

Amy Salzman is Associate Director for Policy Outreach at the Council on Environmental Quality and is a member of the AGO Council's steering committee