Last Wednesday was the first official day of fall, and the fall season is the perfect time for enjoying the great outdoors with cool, breezy weather highlighted by the vibrant colors of the changing foliage.
It’s also important for us, however, to more actively protect our outdoors.
President Barack Obama signed into effect the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative on April 16. The initiative aims to reconnect Americans to the great outdoors, build upon preexisting “priorities for the conservation of land, water, wildlife, historic, and cultural resources,” and employ “science-based management practices to restore and protect our lands and waters for future generations.”
The need for this initiative is more than obvious. Sally Collins, then-associate chief of the U.S. Forest Service, stated in a 2008 interview that “America is losing 6,000 acres of open land—much of it forested—to development each day.” Additionally, our ecosystems are continually ruined by pollution and environmental disasters like the BP oil spill earlier this year.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated that the initiative “will play an important role in confronting the serious challenges our natural resources face today: climate change, air and water pollution, landscape fragmentation, and loss of open space.”
There may not be a quick fix to our environmental problems but it is crucial that we start working on those problems as soon as possible. Nancy Sutley, chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, a division of the Executive Office of the President that coordinates federal environmental efforts in the United States, says that “it is more important than ever for people to have access to outdoor space. … just as we enjoy spending time outdoors with our families, we must guard these places and traditions for new generations.”
The Department of the Interior’s web page for the Great Outdoors Initiative gives people the opportunity to share stories about their favorite outdoor places and submit ideas about how best to conserve outdoor spaces. It also has a list of resources to help Americans reconnect to the outdoors, such as the National Wildlife Refuge System, National Heritage Areas, and National Recreation Programs.
The web page adds, “The outdoors is where we connect with one another, explore our past, and discover our heritage. It is part of our national identity.” As Americans, we must remember that we are not only privileged to be able to enjoy our outdoors but also responsible to protect it.