President Obama on America's Great Outdoors Initiative

Uploaded by whitehouse on 16.02.2011

Sally Jewell: Good afternoon everyone.
I'm Sally Jewell, CEO of Recreational Equipment
Incorporated, otherwise known to hopefully many of you as REI.
It's an honor to be here today with such an amazing and diverse
gathering of leaders united in our desire to reconnect
Americans to this country's great outdoors.
I had the great fortune of being invited to the White House
conference ten months ago when President Obama launched the
America's Great Outdoors Initiative.
And I was energized that the administration chose to bring
attention to an issue that I believe is incredibly important
to the health of our communities,
our economy and to our own health as citizens of this
wonderful country.
I applaud the President and the administration for its efforts
to hold a national dialogue on this really critical topic.
Like many Americans, I had the opportunity to participate in
the Great Outdoors' listening sessions.
And while I was struck by the variety of views,
I was also struck by the common themes that are merged from all
of our interests.
We all share a deep love and relationship with our favorite
lands, our rivers, our trails, our farms and our open spaces.
We believe our communities are better when there are natural
places nearby in which we can relax, rejuvenate, and recreate.
And we all share a deep concern that we must successfully
connect today's youth with nature.
Being outdoors and sharing the outdoors with others is my
passion, and I'm really luck because it's also my job.
In the past several years, it's become clear that the outdoors
is more than just a place of enjoyment;
it's also a driver of our economy.
The outdoor industry accounts for $289 billion in retail sales
and services, provides 6.5 million jobs across this
country; which REI has about 95 hundred of them.
We're just one of many businesses, large and small,
across the nation that are supported by the great outdoors.
The America's Great Outdoors Initiative offers a really
important opportunity to build a vision for the future which the
President is here to share with us.
It is my great honor and privilege to introduce the
President of the United States, Barack Obama.
The President: Thank you, everybody.
Thank you so much. Thank you.
Thank you very much.
Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you very much.
Everybody please have a seat.
The President: Well, welcome to the White House, everybody.
It is great to have you here.
What better place to hold our Great Outdoors event than right
here, inside the East Room.
We thought it might be a little chilly for some of you.
Not the folks from Montana.
Now, while an indoor celebration of the great outdoors may seem
strange, it is worth noting that the White House is actually
inside a 82-acre national park --
including an area once found to have the "densest squirrel
population known to science."
This is true.
So we've got that going for us.
I want to thank Sally for the terrific introduction.
I asked her if she brought me any gear.
She said that Secret Service wouldn't let her --
otherwise she would have.
I also want to make a couple of acknowledgements --
people who have worked so hard on this initiative,
and I want to make sure that they get all the credit in the
world: my great Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, is here.
My outstanding Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack.
Tom is still recovering from the Super Bowl -- big Steelers fan.
Went down to the game, all that stuff.
Had the towel.
Administrator of the EPA, Lisa Jackson.
Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality,
Nancy Sutley.
Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Jo Ellen Darcy.
And somebody I am just thrilled to have here because this is my
model for public service and just not only a great former
senator but also just a class act and a wonderful gentleman,
who I have not seen in a while --
John Warner of the great Commonwealth of Virginia.
Best to you, John.
Thank you.
We also have -- in addition to Sally,
I want to make sure that everybody knows who's standing
behind me here -- Dusty Crary, who's a rancher from Rocky
Mt. Front Advisory Committee -- Dusty.
Sam Solomon, the president and CEO of the Coleman Company.
John Tomke, president Sporting Conservation Council,
Ducks Unlimited.
Troy Uentillie, Navaho Nation member and the Sherman BIE School.
And Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers.
All these folks have just done a lot of work to make this day possible.
Now, in 1786, Thomas Jefferson described the view from
Monticello: "How sublime to look down into the workhouse of
nature," he wrote.
"To see her clouds, hail, snow, rain, thunder,
all fabricated at our feet."
To most Americans at the time, Jefferson's experience was a
familiar one.
The vast majority of the continent was wilderness.
No matter where you lived, you didn't have to travel far to
find acres of open fields and unspoiled forests.
But in the years that followed, Americans began to push westward.
Cities sprang up along riverbanks and railroad tracks.
The nation grew so fast that by 1890,
the census director announced that he could no longer identify
an American "frontier."
And yet, in the midst of so much expansion, so much growth,
so much progress, there were a few individuals who had the
foresight to protect our most precious national treasures --
even in our most trying times.
So at the height of the Civil War,
Abraham Lincoln agreed to set aside more than 60 square miles
of land in the Yosemite Valley -- land he had never seen --
on the condition that it be preserved for public use.
Teddy Roosevelt, of course, our greatest conservation President,
wrote that "there is nothing more practical in the end than
the preservation of beauty."
Even FDR, in the midst of the Great Depression,
enabled the National Park Service to protect America's
most iconic landmarks -- from Mount Rushmore to the Statue of Liberty.
So conservation became not only important to America,
but it became one of our greatest exports,
as America's beauty shone as a beacon to the world.
And other countries started adopting conservation measures
because of the example that we had set.
Protecting this legacy has been the responsibility of all who
serve this country.
But behind that action, the action that's been taken here
in Washington, there's also the story of ordinary Americans who
devoted their lives to protecting the land that they loved.
That's what Horace Kephart and George Masa did.
This is a wonderful story.
Two men, they met in the Great Smokey Mountains of North
Carolina -- each had moved there to start a new life.
Horrified that their beloved wilderness was being clear-cut
at a rate of 60 acres a day, Horace and George worked with
other members of the community to get the land set aside.
The only catch was that they had to raise $10 million to foot the bill.
But far from being discouraged, they helped rally one of the
poorest areas in the country to the cause.
A local high school donated the proceeds from a junior class play.
Preachers held "Smokey Mountain Sunday" services and encouraged
their congregations to donate.
Local businesses chipped in.
And students from every grade in the city of Asheville --
which was still segregated at the time --
made a contribution.
So stories like these remind us what citizenship is all about.
And by the way, last year Michelle and I,
we were able to walk some of the trails near Asheville and
benefit from the foresight of people that had come before us.
Our daughters, our sons were able to enjoy what not only
Teddy Roosevelt did but what ordinary folks did all across
the country.
It embodies that uniquely American idea that each of us
has an equal share in the land around us,
and an equal responsibility to protect it.
And it's not just the iconic mountains and parks that we protect.
It's the forests where generations of families have
hiked and picnicked and connected with nature.
It's the park down the street where kids play after school.
It's the farmland that's been in the family longer than anybody
can remember.
It's the rivers where we fish, it's the forests where we hunt.
These days, our lives are only getting more complicated,
more busy, and we're glued to our phones and our computers for
hours on end.
I have to -- Michelle and I, we're constantly having to
monitor our kids, get outside.
Turn off the TV.
Put away the Skype.
Cars and buses shuttle us from one place to another.
We see our kids spending more and more time on the couch.
For a lot of folks, it's easy to go days without stepping on a
single blade of grass.
At times like these, we have to ask ourselves: What can we do to
break free from the routine and reconnect with the world around us?
What can we do to get our kids off the couch and out the door?
And by the way, because I'm a smart husband, I, here,
want to point out all the great things that Michelle is doing
with the "Let's Move" initiative to help kids stay active and healthy.
Today, our open spaces are more precious than ever --
and it's more important than ever that we come together to
protect them for the next generation.
So, in my first months of office I signed a public lands bill --
that many of you worked on -- that designated two million
acres of wilderness, over 1,000 miles of wild and scenic rivers
and three national parks.
I'm very proud of that.
And some of the members of Congress who worked with us on
that are here today, and we're very proud of them.
But at a time when America's open spaces are controlled by
a patchwork of groups, from government to land trusts to
private citizens, it's clear that conservation in the 21st
century is going to take more than just what we can do here in Washington.
Just like the story of the Great Smoky Mountains,
meeting the new test of environmental stewardship means
finding the best ideas at the grassroots level.
It means helping states, communities and non-profits
protect their own resources.
And it means figuring out how the federal government can be a
better partner in those efforts.
And that's why, last year, we launched the America's Great
Outdoors Initiative.
Over the last 10 months, members of my administration have held
more than 50 listening sessions with over 10,000 people --
from hunters and fishermen to tribal leaders and young people.
And together, we've laid the foundation for a smarter,
more community-driven environmental strategy.
To make it easier for families to spend time outside no matter
where they live, we're going to work with cities and states to
build and improve urban parks and waterways,
and make it easier to access public lands.
To encourage young people to put down the remote or the video
games and get outside, we're going to establish a new
Conservation Service Corps so they can build a lifelong
relationship with their natural heritage.
And this is something I know Ken cares deeply about.
To help set aside land for conservation and to promote
recreation, we're proposing to fully fund the Land and Water
Conservation Fund, for only the third time in our history.
And we're intending to pay for it with existing oil and gas
revenues, because our attitude is if you take something out of
the Earth, you have a responsibility to give a little
bit back to the Earth.
So these are the right steps to take for our environment.
But they're also the right steps to take for our country.
They help spur the economy.
They create jobs by putting more Americans back to work
in tourism and recreation.
They help inspire a new generation of scientists
to learn how the world works.
They help Americans stay healthier by making it
easier to spend time outside.
And they'll help carry forth our legacy as a people who don't
just make decisions based on short-term gains of any one
group but on what's best for the entire nation in the long run.
So working together to protect the environment we share,
lifting up the best ideas wherever we find them,
preserving the great outdoors for our children and for their
children -- that's our responsibility.
The great Rachel Carson once wrote that "The real wealth of
the nation lies in the resources of the Earth -- soil, water,
forests, minerals, wildlife...
Their administration is not properly, and cannot be,
a matter of politics."
Something more than politics.
That was the call echoed by Jefferson and Lincoln and Roosevelt.
It's the call that has driven generations of Americans to do
their part to protect a small slice of the planet.
And it's the call that we answer today.
So I'm grateful to all of you for the great work that you've
already done.
Keep it up.
Thank you.
God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.