President Obama today put his signature on a Presidential Memorandum and with that stroke of the pen launched America's Great Outdoors Initiative. Its goal is to bring communities together and take the environmental discussion out of Washington.
With a nod to a predecessor who first launched the White House Conference on America's Great Outdoors 100 years ago, Obama said that while he knows he could never match the legacy of President Teddy Roosevelt, he would certainly try to continue the former conservation president's efforts.
"I will probably never shoot a bear. That's a fair bet there, a fair guess," Obama joked today. "But I do intend to enrich that legacy, and I feel an abiding bond with the land that is the United States of America."
Speaking before an audience of leaders from the conservation, farming, ranching, sporting, forestry and parks communities at the Department of the Interior, Obama said that the nation needed to develop a new strategy to protect its natural resources in the 21st century.
The nation, Obama said, faces new challenges, such as population growth and climate change, which place a growing strain on wildlife, water and land.
But the administration's No. 1 goal, he said, is to bring more voices to the table.
"We're talking about how we can collect best ideas on conservation; how we can pursue good ideas that local communities embrace; and how we can be more responsible stewards of tax dollars to promote conservation."
The presidential initiative directs members of the administration to host regional listening sessions across the United States, beginning in the next few months. The first meetings are scheduled for Los Angeles, and for the northern Everglades in Florida.
"We'll meet with everybody -- from tribal leaders to farmers, from young people to businesspeople, from elected officials to recreation and conservation groups," Obama said. "And their ideas will help us form a 21st century strategy for America's great outdoors to better protect our natural landscape and our history for generations to come."
Obama outlined several areas where changes would be made in the way nation approaches its natural resources.
He called for the writing of a "new chapter" in protecting rivers, wildlife habitats, historic sites and the great landscapes of the country. He emphasized working together on conservation efforts spearheaded by local and state governments, tribes and private groups.
He said the administration would help farmers, ranchers and property owners who want to preserve their land for their children and grandchildren.
Borrowing a chapter from the first lady's Let's Move initiative, Obama also promised ways to encourage families to hike and bike and spend more time outdoors, calling for a "new generation of community and urban parks" so that children would have an opportunity to discover the great outdoors, even if they lived in a city.
"Just as we cherish our childhood memories of hiking and sledding, fishing and camping, and just as we enjoy spending time outdoors with our families, we must guard these places and traditions for new generations," said Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the Council on Environmental Quality.