Chris Emery
September 1st, 2010

Top five ideas for the future of America’s great outdoors

Ideas for American's Great Outdoors

As part of the Obama administrations America’s Great Outdoor initiative, the government this summer has been collecting asking the public to weigh in on the future of American conservation policy, outdoor recreation and how to get people outside and active.

One of the venues for collecting ideas is a website set up by the USDA, where people can submit and vote on ideas. Currently, these are the five most popular ideas submitted to the site:

1) Increase Funding to Fully Staff National Parks
“Because Acadia National Park and many other parks were able to add staff when park operations funding was increased, they have been able to add interpretive programs with an emphasis on reaching young people, increase maintenance of visitor facilities, and add resource protection rangers who conduct search and rescue operations and provide emergency medical services. If we want to connect kids to these inspirational places, we need rangers to be there to tell the stories. If we want to provide for a positive visitor experience and ensure the safety of the visitor we need rangers in the parks. ”

2) National Parks help protect Wildlife Corridors
“To protect wildlife migration routes and give national park wildlife the freedom to roam, the Administration should require measures to enhance current and projected wildlife migration routes in all federally funded transportation and energy transmission projects, and in leases for resource extraction on federal land. Throughout history, Americans have worked to save national treasures in their own backyards to retain what they find special for our children and grandchildren. At Yellowstone and Grand Teton National parks, pronghorn have seasonal migrations, but fencing and road development outside of the parks have threatened migration routes, limiting access to winter habitat, and leaving the park’s pronghorn at risk. To further protect wildlife, the Administration should create a multi-agency wildlife habitat and migration corridors information sharing network; push for new revenue sources and prioritize existing resources for the acquisition or protection of vital wildlife migration corridors. National parks are not islands and their humanmade boundaries are not recognized by wildlife. As the climate changes it is widely expected that wildlife will migrate further from their park homes in search of suitable habitat.”

3)Sustain Major Restoration Efforts at Everglades and Great Lakes
“One of the most critical things the Administration can do to protect and enhance wildlife in national parks across the country is to restore the landscapes and watersheds surrounding the parks. Restoration efforts underway in the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, Everglades, Columbia River Basin, and other major watersheds should be supported and sustained. Restoration of these systems brings the added near-term benefit of thousands of American jobs on American lands, and the long-term benefits of clean water, recreation, tourism, and other values that are the economic backbone of countless communities across the country. Development, pollution, invasive species, and the changing climate are taking a toll on our national parks and their wildlife, from the coral reefs of Biscayne National Park in Florida to the salmon that migrate through Olympic National Park in Washington.”

4) Comprehensive approach needed to protect wildlife from climate change
“To protect wildlife across the landscape the Administration should adopt a comprehensive framework for a coordinated national response to address the impacts of global warming on wildlife, such as set forth in The Global Warming Wildlife Survival Act of 2009 (H.R.2338) and The Natural Resources Climate Adaptation Act of 2009 (S. 1933). Millions of people each year travel to our national parks to see the wildlife and other natural wonders. Canyonlands, Arches, and Capitol Reef National Parks provide critical habitat for desert bighorn sheep, a species once feared to be nearing extinction. But their recovery is threatened anew by drought that is increasing across their range. Because the sheep, like many species, depend on a patchwork of lands managed by multiple federal, state, and private entities, collaboration is essential to ensure their survival. Additionally the Administration should engage private land owners in collaborative wildlife management, and explore the use of financial incentives, voluntary conservation assistance, and other means of helping private land owners protect America’s wildlife.”

5) Protect our Dark Skies
“This initiative seeks to promote everyone’s involvement with and access to the natural world. One of our most important, most threatened, and often most overlooked natural and cultural treasures is the night sky. As urban centers grow and our cities sprawl, the proliferation of inefficient lighting has made it increasingly difficult for Americans to walk outside and get a good view of the stars. In Utah, we are fortunate to have a few of our National and State parks actively supporting astronomy and other dark sky programs, but the wonders of the heavens should and can be made more readily available to all regardless of location.”

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