America’s Great Outdoors at Our Doorstep

Last month’s release of the President’s Report on America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) is the culmination of a year-long process of town hall meetings that took place across the nation, which brought together more than 10,000 Americans in a dialogue to envision the future of U.S. conservation efforts.

A compelling takeaway from the report was the near universal recognition that nature is where you find it – and for most Americans, it is in their own backyards, schoolyards and community parks and gardens. The importance of urban parks, trees and green spaces came through loud and clear in the AGO Report, and the suggestions from participants were compelling and thoughtful.  Some of these observations included:

  • The opportunity for greater alignment, coordination, and integration of federal assistance for urban parks and green spaces. Participants cited the Sustainable Communities Partnership, Urban Waters Partnership, Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, and Urban and Community Forestry Program as examples.
  • The importance of technical assistance and seed money to help communities at the planning phase in securing and preserving parks and green assets.
  • The value of parks and greenways for redevelopment and economic revitalization in urban centers.
  • The opportunity to accelerate assistance for urban natural resources through existing programs, such as the U.S. Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program, the U.S. Department of Transportation Safe Pathways to Schools Program, and the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program.
  • The opportunity for holistic planning that integrates transportation and greenways strategies.
  • The importance of fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund to enable support for urban parks.

As a participant at the White House’s kick-off conference last year, I found the President’s remarks inspiring and was especially encouraged to see the formation of our 21st century conservation agenda be the result of deep community engagement.

Now, we have a collective task ahead of us – to find where we fit in this picture.  The goals are too great to be limited to any one agency or sector.  It will truly be a collective effort to bring about the vision America’s Great Outdoors promises. I look forward to bringing these goals into my work and hope you will too.

Check out the America’s Great Outdoors website here, which includes the report as well as short fact sheets that can be used by local advocates to generate interest, support, and action in their urban forestry efforts.

Alice Ewen, National Program Manager, USDA-Forest Service Urban & Community Forestry Program

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