America's Great Outdoors Initiative Additional "Listening Session" Announced for NY

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July 28, 2010 6:00 AM

BRC ACTION ALERT
America's Great Outdoors Initiative Additional "Listening Session" Announced for NY

Greetings BRC Action Alert Subscribers!

On April 16, 2010, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum that will radically change the U.S. Government's conservation policy. The Memorandum created the America's Great Outdoors Initiative which, among other things, will take public input on how to conserve public and private lands and how to promote outdoor recreation among young Americans.

It is important that off-highway vehicle and mountain bike users participate. OHV, snowmobile and mountain bike recreation are family oriented activities that connect millions of Americans to the out-of-doors.

An additional "Listening Session" has just been announced for Poughkeepsie, New York. (See schedule below) This event is free and open to the public.

Upcoming Listening Session (more to come)

Poughkeepsie, New York: August 6, 9:00 AM to Noon
The session will be held at Marist College, Student Center, Poughkeepsie, New York. For directions, go to:  http://www.marist.edu/about/directions.html.

Registration and other information
http://www.doi.gov/americasgreatoutdoors/Poughkeepsie-Information-Session-information.cfm 
If you have questions, please contact Joseph Heller at (845) 883-7162, Extension 104 or joseph.heller@ny.usda.gov

RSVP:  For planning purposes, it would be helpful if you would pre-register by Tuesday, August 3, by sending an email to joseph.heller@ny.usda.gov with your name, the name of the organization with which you are affiliated, if any, and your telephone number. Include in your email your primary area of interest by noting your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice of the Concurrent Breakout Listening Sessions listed below. We will make every effort to accommodate everyone. Please also let us know if you have any special needs.

Choice of Concurrent Breakout Listening Sessions:
1.      Conservation of working farms, forests, and coastal areas.
2.      Reconnecting people with the outdoors through recreation and education.
3.      Creating a healthy river: Conserving and restoring important habitat and blueways.
4.      General session for those who do not want to designate a specific topic.

There is also an online forum that allows folks to make suggestions and comment on ideas others have suggested. We encourage you attend the meetings and/or to log on and express your opinion. We've included a brief explanation that will help you understand what is happening and how to make your opinion known.

BRC and others are wondering aloud if this America's Great Outdoors Initiative is connected to the Treasured Landscape Initiative and the leaked memo outlining plans for 14 new or expanded national monument designations on 13 million acres of public and private land.

We'll have more on that later. For now, BRC is asking our members and supporters to respond to the Action Alert below. There is limited time to give input into this new Initiative. Please take action today.

Keep an eye on your inbox for additional information and analysis.

Thanks!
Brian Hawthorne
Public Lands Policy Director
BlueRibbon Coalition
208-237-1008 ext 102

PS: Don't miss what Governor Bill Richardson said about this new initiative. We pasted parts of his speech below. It's going to be a wild ride!


BRC Action Alert  – America's Great Outdoors Initiative
What you need to know:

On April 16, 2010 President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum that will radically reshape the U.S. Government's conservation policy. The Memorandum created the America's Great Outdoors Initiative which directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Council for Environmental Quality (CEQ) to coordinate with the Interior and Agriculture Departments on a program to promote conservation and outdoor recreation.

According to Obama's Memorandum, the goals of the Initiative shall be to:

1. Reconnect Americans, especially children, to America's rivers and waterways, landscapes of national significance, ranches, farms and forests, great parks, and coasts and beaches by exploring a variety of efforts, including: promoting community-based recreation and conservation, including local parks, greenways, beaches, and waterways; advancing job and volunteer opportunities related to conservation and outdoor recreation; supporting existing programs and projects that educate and engage Americans in our  history, culture, and natural bounty.

2. Build upon State, local, private, and tribal priorities for the conservation of land, water, wildlife, historic, and cultural resources, creating corridors and connectivity across these outdoor spaces, and for enhancing neighborhood parks; and determine how the Federal Government can best advance those priorities through public private partnerships and locally supported conservation strategies.

3. Use science-based management practices to restore and protect our lands and waters for future generations.

The Memorandum listed three “functions:” 1) outreach; 2) coordination; and 3) reports. The outreach function includes the listening session mentioned above and directs that special attention should be given to bringing young Americans into the conversation. The coordination function directs the EPA, CEQ, Dept. of Ag and Interior to work with various agencies of the federal government to “identify existing resources and align policies and programs to achieve its goals.” The Memorandum also requires the Chair of the CEQ to issue a report by November 15, 2010, and Annual reports by September 30, 2011, and 2012.

Why this matters to you:
There is a very real possibility this might just end up being a giant vehicle to hand the “conservation community” whatever is on its latest wish list. 

But you don't need to take my word for it. Here are a few excerpts from a speech New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson made at the April 16 conference:

"We need new outdoor initiatives that retain the basics and core of conservation and I’m going to talk about them today. Expanding our wilderness systems and parks protecting our air, water and habitat the basics, the Mo Udall, the Stewart Udall, the Bruce Babbitt agendas that were so worthy of American support. And now with Ken Salazar emerging, somebody that is driving this excellent agency into another period of excellence."

"… We have to work together to develop landscape conservation legacies that include a new series of parks, new monument, new management strategies for public lands. This isn't a decades-long fight, it should happen now. What do we need first?"

"I would say an omnibus wilderness bill, wilderness legislation consolidated. The San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act in Colorado, Berryessa Snow-Mountain Conservation in California, the bills to provide Yute [Ute] Mountain and Rio Grande Del Norte as well as the Organ Mountains in New Mexico and other proposed landscape protections in Arizona, in Idaho, in Nevada and across the west."

"Secretary Salazar has wasted no time in protecting treasured landscapes working in partnerships with the states. I urge the Interior Department to move forward quickly on its expanded national monument plan and I commend Secretary Salazar for engaging the governors early on this initiatives."

What you need to do
First of all, don't panic. Governor Richardson's fondness for the “bad old days” of Clinton era land grabs notwithstanding, Secretary Salazar seems to be pushing back a bit from adopting the Wilderness Society's wish list, at least not all of it.  As if to hint at this, Secretary Salazar made the following comment to Governor Richardson immediately after his speech: “Governor Richardson, thank you for your presentation and your great ideas. We agree with most of them. [Laughter] But you were never shy.”

One other reason not to panic: Recreational advocates are way more organized than in the past. Where protective area designation is inappropriate, recreation groups are successfully opposing their designation. Where recreation area designations can offer a benefit to the recreation community, we actively support the designation.

What recreationists need to do is to get involved now. Participation in the “outreach” portion of President Obama's Memorandum is MANDATORY.

BRC is encouraging our members to attend the meetings with as many friends and family that can show up. We have details on the July 8  Los Angeles, CA, meeting below but the RSVP deadline has passed. Still, organizers say they will endeaver to accommodate everyone, so if you can go please send an email to sun.nelly@epa.gov with your name, the name of the organization with which you are affiliated, if any, your telephone number and email address.

The meeting is at Thorne Hall on the Occidental College Campus in Los Angeles on July 8, 2010, from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm (1600 Campus Road). (See map at http://www.oxy.edu/x6307.xml)

Additional listening sessions are scheduled for  Asheville, NC, Minneapolis, MN, Hudson River, NY, Maine/New Hampshire, Anchorage and Denver. More meetings will be announced soon. (Subscribe to BRC's Action Alert email list for regular updates and info.)

IMPORTANT: The DOI has an online “idea generator.” There are many good ideas that you can “vote” for and you might want to submit your own. http://ideas.usda.gov/ago/ideas.nsf/

We've posted a few ideas and talking points below. Feel free to use these if you wish.

The DOI also has a “tell your story” webpage. If you enjoy OHV and snowmobile riding with your family, please consider taking a minute to jot down a personal anecdote on this webpage. http://www.doi.gov/americasgreatoutdoors/Feedback.cfm

Finally, call your congressional representatives! With all that is going on in Washington these days, your Congressman and Senator may not even know about this initiative. Make sure he or she knows and remind them that it is their (Congress) responsibility for provide oversight and represent constituents' interests – especially when access to public lands is at issue. Easily find your Congressman's contact info via our Rapid Response webpage. http://www.sharetrails.org/rapid_response/

MORE ON THE WEB:
http://www.doi.gov/americasgreatoutdoors/
http://www.doi.gov/americasgreatoutdoors/Organizers-Toolkit.cfm
Remarks by The President at America's Great Outdoors Conference
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-americas-great-outdoors-conference


HOW TO COMMENT ON THE AMERICA'S GREAT OUTDOORS INITIATIVE:
You can email your information to: ago@ios.doi.gov or mail a hard copy to: Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife and Parks, America’s Great Outdoors, 1849 C St NW, Washington, DC 20240.

The DOI has a online “idea generator.” There are many good ideas that you can “vote” for, and you might want to submit your own. http://ideas.usda.gov/ago/ideas.nsf/

We've posted a few ideas and talking points below. Feel free to use these if you wish.

The DOI also has a “tell your story” webpage. If you enjoy OHV and snowmobile riding with your family, please consider taking a minute to jot down a personal anecdote on this webpage. http://www.doi.gov/americasgreatoutdoors/Feedback.cfm

Ideas for America's Great Outdoors Initiative

This initiative is partly motivated by a need to enhance recreational opportunities on public lands. But increased recreation opportunities will not flow from a whisk of a pen in Washington D.C.  Any successful recreation management policy must be accompanied by adequate budget, staffing, and above all, management’s priority to achieve critical on-the-ground goals.

Federal agencies' allocation of budget, staff, and management effort should reflect the developing reality that outdoor recreation provides a greater good for more Americans than any other aspect of its multiple-use mandate. The time has come to make managed recreation the BLM and Forest Service’s top priority.

Prioritize all efforts on clearing the repair/maintenance/improvement backlog in the National Park Service before designating any new National Parks or other similar protective area designations. (The National Park Service alone estimates that it would need an extra $9.5 billion to clear a backlog of repairs and improvements.)

All too often "conservation" means reducing public access and recreational uses. The AGO Initiative should explore ways to enhance a diverse range of recreational uses, including motorized and non-motorized recreational uses, across federal, state and private lands.

Federal land managers too often limit or restrict public recreation activities. Federal land managers should focus on recreation friendly management plans that are not restrictive and embrace a wide range of diverse recreational uses, including motorized and non-motorized recreation.

The administration has prided itself in being open and transparent, yet Representative Rob Bishop and Representative Doc Hastings have not yet received a response to their requests for documents. It will benefit the outreach function of this Initiative if the Department of the Interior would respond to H. Res. 1406.

The new National Park Service management policy emphasis is on preservation of our National Parks. This limits land managers' options insofar as what recreation opportunities a Park may provide. The initiative should study a supplement to National Park management guidelines to emphasize providing a wide range of recreational uses for the visiting public. Similar supplemental guidance may be appropriate for the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

The initiative and the public will benefit from a full understanding of the various public and private conservation efforts currently underway. Accurate information is critical for good decision making. Statements that state large areas of our nation's natural landscape have been lost to population growth and development, or that a changing climate and new sources of pollution are affecting wildlife and watersheds, must be put into an accurate context. The initiative must disclose how much land is being conserved. The initiative should work with the over 1,600 privately run land trusts to find out how much land has been protected in recent years. The initiative should disclose how much land is conserved via federal conservation efforts, such as the Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program. In addition, it would help to disclose how much federal dollars are being spent on the various conservation efforts. Finally, the initiative should disclose the conservation efforts underway via the Land and Resource Management Plans of units of the National Forest System, the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service.

Millions of American families enjoy motorized recreation.  It often forms a bond between parents and their children as they experience the great outdoors together.

The OHV community supports conservation efforts including support of the “travel limited to designated roads, trails and areas” paradigm as outlined in the Forest Service travel management regulations and BLM’s planning directives. The OHV community also supports conservation through environmental review and analysis in route designation processes, as well as ongoing monitoring and maintenance of the OHV infrastructure. The OHV community supports conservation efforts by contributing substantial funds to implement OHV management and volunteers tens of thousands of man hours in volunteer work projects. Much of this funding is made available to federal land managers via state OHV programs. These programs exist today because years ago motorized recreationists voluntarily “taxed ourselves” via state OHV registration programs. Some of these funds are used to supplement the agencies' law enforcement efforts.

ATV and off-highway motorcycle riding encourages and promotes physical fitness. OHVs provide access to the Great Outdoors for Americans of all ages, shapes, and sizes.

If you participate in the idea generator:

The agency is asking for comment on four “topics.”
Challenges - What obstacles exist to achieving your goals for conservation, recreation, or reconnecting people to the outdoors?

What Works - Please share your thoughts and ideas on effective strategies for conservation, recreation and reconnecting people to the outdoors.

Federal Government Role - How can the federal government be a more effective partner in helping to achieve conservation, recreation or reconnecting people to the outdoors?

Tools - What additional tools and resources would help your efforts be even more successful?

Here are some ideas for “Challenges”
The inefficiency of federal bureaucracy is a significant challenge. Disengaged or uninterested land management staff is also a challenge.

The problem known as “analysis paralysis” is a major concern. It should be a priority to review the reasons the U.S. Forest Service is having problems writing Forest Plans.

More and more land is being placed into protective designations. The increased focus on conservation in these areas lead to restrictive land use plans. In Wilderness for example, there are many restrictions including a group size limit. These group size limitations hurt scouting and other youth programs.

There are two key challenges related to funding federal outdoor programs. One problem is that much too much money is being spent on overhead and infrastructure and not on recreational infrastructure. The initiative should find ways to focus agency budget spending on recreational infrastructure, including roads, trails and winter sports areas (including ski areas).

The other problem is the lack of funding, especially appropriated funds. The initiative has ambitious goals but we must face the fact that federal budgets aren't going to be significantly increased, and may be decreased in coming years. The initiative must focus on locally based cooperative efforts to accomplish its goals.

An excellent example is leveraging the various State off-highway vehicle programs. Many states benefit from millions of dollars made available for OHV trails and snowmobile areas via these “user pay” programs. The initiative should enhance these programs where they exist and encourage their formation in states where they lack an off-highway vehicle program.

Here are ideas for “What Works”
Active management of recreational use works. With management (maps, kiosks, partnership agreements, adopt a trail, on the ground signing, etc) land managers increase capacity while decreasing impacts to natural resources.

Involvement of federal land managers with local communities works.  Community based FACA committees formed from a broad base of stakeholders can well serve as advisory councils to assist the land manager in critical planning and decision-making efforts.

Here are ideas for “Federal Role”
The federal land managing agencies serve a critical role in supplying a diverse range of recreational opportunity to the American public.  Recreation is a key multiple use value. The federal agencies should seek to enhance recreational opportunities on lands that they manage.

Training for local recreation program managers is essential, especially in the area of developing funding opportunities through private sector and federal grant programs such as the Yamaha OHV Access Initiative GRANT Program or the Recreational Trails Program at the federal/state level.

Here are ideas for “Tools”
Have units embrace substantive volunteer programs. Utilize proven management principles such as the Recreational Opportunity Spectrum and ensure that all aspects of ROS are served. 

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