America's Great Outdoors

April 27, 2010 by Meg Cheever

Meg Cheever and Tom Vilsack

I’ve recently returned from Washington D.C., where I was honored to participate in the White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors on April 15-16. President Obama delivered a keynote address and, in a wonderful addition to the usual focus on iconic national parks like Yosemite, said that his administration wants to help families spend more time being active outdoors. This includes a commitment “to foster a new generation of community and urban parks so that children across America have the chance to experience” parks.

The two-year America’s Great Outdoors initiative will follow four principles:

  • Building on successful local and regional conservation efforts across the country to protect rivers, landscapes, and historic sites
  • Helping property owners protect their land for future generations
  • Encouraging families and especially young people to spend more time outdoors, building on the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” initiative
  • Developing and maintaining urban and community parks as places for future generations to experience

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, E.P.A. Administrator Lisa Jackson, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack served as hosts of the conference along with President’s Council on Environmental Quality Chair, Nancy Sutley. Vilsack, a Pittsburgh native, has spearheaded USDA initiatives to conserve the nation’s forests and private working lands, as well as leading efforts to improve the health of America’s children through increased physical activity.

It was thrilling to be a part of the gathering together of Americans from many different states and viewpoints unified by a desire to conserve America’s land and water resources, and especially thrilling to hear urban parks spoken of so strongly in the president’s speech.

The full text of the speech can be found here. You can find more information about the 21st Century for America's Great Outdoors here.