“Americans are blessed with a vast and varied natural heritage. From mountains to deserts and from sea to shining sea, America's great outdoors have shaped the rugged independence and sense of community that define the American spirit. Today, however, we are losing touch with too many of the places and proud traditions that have helped to make America special.”
Those were the words of President Barack Obama on April 16, 2010, the day he launched his America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. His goal was simple -- to start a nationwide brainstorming session about ways to reconnect Americans to the precious land that surrounds them. With sweeping camera shots and a let's-go-adventuring score, this video created by the Obama Administration to promote the effort says it all.
The dialogue that ensued was energetic and inspiring. Throughout the summer, over 51 listening sessions were held around the country to not only discover what outdoor spaces and places are dear to Americans, but to encourage some light-bulb moments around how best to steward those places for future generations.
All in all, over 10,000 people said their part in person (we know that more than a few members and supporters of the National Trust are included in that tally), and over 100,000 comments poured in over the Internet (even more preservationists participated online).
Today, you can see what that conversation generated — a 173-page report (Americans have a lot to say) chock-full of ideas that was delivered to the President yesterday in a ceremony held at the White House.
National Trust President Stephanie Meeks has issued the following statement on the report and the recommendation that will be music to many preservationists' ears -- fully fund the Historic Preservation Fund.
"We applaud the Obama Administration's thorough and extensive process that led to the America's Great Outdoors report, including a listening session in Philadelphia that spotlighted historic preservation’s important role in protecting our nation’s heritage. Encouraging Americans, especially young people, to get out and explore the nation’s natural, cultural, and historic resources is a laudable goal. By encouraging more Americans, in particular America’s youth, to become familiar with and learn skills to preserve the historic sites and cultural resources that define who we are as a nation, the America's Great Outdoors report will help to ensure that these important places are preserved for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations."
"The National Trust is especially pleased that the report recommends increased funding for the Historic Preservation Fund -- the nation’s only dedicated source of funding for preservation, including increased funding for State Historic Preservation Officers and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers. We are also encouraged that the Administration recognized the importance of our American landscapes, which must be preserved and appreciated within their larger geographic, social, and historical contexts including traditional cultural landscapes and sacred landscapes important to Native peoples. Congress wisely gave the President the power to reserve “historic landmarks, historic or prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest” through the Antiquities Act and we applaud the appropriate utilization of this critical tool to preserve our irreplaceable shared American heritage."
Curious to see how President Obama received the recommendations? You can stream yesterday's White House event in its entirety below or read the transcript. Also, stay tuned -- more analysis is coming from our Public Policy Department.
Jason Lloyd Clement is an online content provider for PreservationNation.org.