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America's Great Outdoors Conference

April 16, 2010

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 Secretary Salazar:
102 years ago, on a spring here in Washington, DC, President Roosevelt convened the first White House Conference on Conservation.
Today, 102 years later, we convene the first White House Conference on Conservation in the 21st century. Thank you for being here today.
Our hope today is that this is a beginning, a dialog that will launch a similar march for conservation for the 21st century.
We know that we will succeed because of all of you who are here today.
The organizations represented in this auditorium this morning represent about 50 million people.
They include wildlife conservationists. They include hunters and anglers, sportsmen, ranchers and farmers, young adults and volunteers,
cultural and historic preservationists, outdoor conservationists, representatives of local, state and tribal governments.
The people assembled here in the Interior Department today are the people who represent the geographic and cultural and historic diversity of this great nation.
The people who are here and the organizations are varied.
They include the National Rifle Association and Ducks Unlimited. And they include the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club and so many other organizations.
It truly is a unity agenda for the conservation for America. Let's give you a round of applause.
Our voices that have stood out tall for conservation for many years include the Udall family.
And in this place, Stewart Udall led a last-century effort on conservation which is really second to none.
And today with us is United States Senator Mark Udall and members of the Udall family.
They're with the members of Congress, Doc Hastings from Washington, Mike Thompson from California, Raul Grijalva from Arizona, Grace Napolitano from California and Jim Oberstar from Minnesota.
We also are graced today with other luminaries who worked on conservation for much of their life, including the great Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt;
Theodore Roosevelt IV, the great grandson of Teddy Roosevelt; and Henry Diamond, one of the authors of Land and Water Conservation Fund.
We also are here today, in large part, because of the support that we have from people like Neil Mulholland and the members of the National Park Foundation; Jeff Trandahl and his membership to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; and Bill Possiel who is the chairman and the executive director of the National Forest Foundation.
Let me also say that this event would not be possible if it were not for the many people who have labored on this America's Great Outdoors Conference for a long time and they include the Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks -Thomas Strickland,
Will Shafroth, Bryan Screener, the Assistant Secretary for Resources at USDA - Harry Sherman, Robert Bonnie, Diane Thompson and so many others.
And so to all of you who made this possible, let's give them a round of applause. Thank you very much.
Now in my own life as governor Richardson knows well in the San Luis Valley, we grew up there connected to the lands and the soils and the wildlife of the area. From our ranch in the San Luis Valley where my family has ranched and farmed in the same place now for 150 years, you can look out to the west and see the beauty of the San Juan Mountains.
In the mornings, the sun comes across from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. And the area is traversed by rivers like the Rio San Antonio and the Rio Grande and the Conejos River.
It is a beautiful place. It is a place where my family and all of my siblings, all eight of us, were to get grounded in the land and to become the civil servants that we have become for this nation.
Because, though we were poor, it was in that place where we were taught that no matter who we were, and no matter where we were from, no matter what our status in life, we were taught that anything was possible here in this America.
And so that's where I began my effort on conservation because I know that the farmers and ranchers really are the greatest of stewards of our lands. Today, here in Washington, DC, we are here to start a march for conservation for the 21st century.
We must all ask ourselves two very fundamental questions: What are the most critical conservation challenges that face our nation today? To be sure, they are different than those challenges which President Roosevelt addressed back in 1908. But to be sure, the American spirit and the American determination can stand up to those challenges.
We are also here gathered today to start a collective conversation across this country on how we can best address these conservation challenges of today.
My hope is as we launch this 21st century conservation agenda, that we can work together to identify wildlife corridors throughout the nation working in concert with private landowners and local and state governments and other who have been on this venture for a long time.
But the fact is that wildlife doesn't know political boundaries but they do know fence lines and they do know roadways. And our wildlife habitat is fragmented. And that is why you can have organizations like the NRA and Ducks Unlimited coming together and saying, "We need to connect up the landscapes of America."
That was the vision of Sam Hamilton, the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, in his efforts to move forward the landscapes cooperation cooperatives which we intend to move forward with.
I would hope that today, we can move forward with a 21st century national conservation that identifies the landscapes of national significance to the United States of America, places such as the Everglades, the Crown of the Continent in Montana,
Chesapeake Bay here in the Eastern Coast, the San Francisco Bay delta, the Gulf Coast, the Great Lakes and so many landscapes of national significance in our country.
And I would hope that as we move forward with this 21st conservation agenda, that we can also work together to identify the next-generation of great urban parks for our country.
Those great urban parks would follow the examples of places like the Millennium Park in Chicago, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the South Platte in Central Denver.
And we can also move forward the 21st century conservation agenda working with our colleagues in the Department of Commerce, Jane Lubchenco and others, to move forward on how we will make sure and protect and enhance the rivers and waterways of America.
And finally, that we, together, move forward with our private working lands with ranchers and with farmers to embrace the agenda that they have been working on for a long time to preserve and to conserve their lands and our lands.
What will happen today is that you will hear from two distinguished panels. Later in the afternoon, after the -- or later in the day, after the president's speech, you will hear one panel which will talk about private land conservation here in the United States of America.
And that panel will be moderated by one of the greatest secretaries of the Department of Agriculture in our history, Tom Vilsack, the former great governor of Iowa who knows about rural communities and is working every day to make sure that rural America is not forgotten in this administration or in this America.
You will then have a conservation, another panel which I will moderate on the public land conservation and then break-out sessions in the afternoon. And following this presentation here this morning, you will hear briefly from some of my colleagues who make the Obama team the, in my view, history will judge one of the best teams assembled to work for a president.
And that will be our administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency who works tirelessly in behalf of the American people to make sure that we have a good and clean environment, and that is my friend and colleague, Lisa Jackson.
You will now hear from a person who chaired the effort of bringing all of us together and that's the chairperson of the Council on Environmental Quality, Nancy Sutley. Help me give her a great welcome here this morning. Thank you.
Nancy Sutley:
Good morning, and thank you all for being here today. The people in this room represent the diversity of American states and territories,
whether you represent a tribe, state, city or town, or you are here because you're a farmer, rancher, recreational fishermen or part of a business, educational or conservation group,
you are all here because you care about what is critical to America, the parks, open spaces, wild lands, working lands and waters that are vital to our culture and character.
We could not have a meaningful discussion about America's great outdoors without you. Like many Americans, I grew up in a city.
I lived in big cities all my life. Growing up in Queens, New York, my experience of outdoor spaces was on a smaller scale than what usually comes to mind when we discuss America's great outdoors.
Nevertheless, these spaces, large or small, near and far became important to me. Many of my fondest childhood memories took place outside in our small backyard, at our neighborhood park, or on family vacations at the beach or in the mountains.
Every season of the year, we spend hours in our neighborhood parks whether we pulled on our hats and gloves to go sledding, hopped on our bikes, or wandered over to kick leaves in the fall, these were very important places. It's amazing how people crave outdoor spaces.
And now as an adult at home in Los Angeles, I witnessed the same desire for aconnection to the outdoors. I live down the street from Elysian Park, a great urban park and a 600-acre oasis in the heart of Los Angeles.
And any Sunday afternoon, every square inch of it is claimed by families barbecuing, couples picnicking, or kids kicking around a soccer ball.
Since moving to Washington, I see the same thing from my office window. The moment the thermometer tops 50 degrees, swarms of busy Washingtonians and tourists suddenly find time for lunch or a frolic in Lafayette Park.
Urban parks are refuges in an ocean of asphalt. They provide a sense of peace and add immeasurably to our quality of life. They give us a chance to experience nature. And be around wildlife. Even if it's only squirrels and sparrows.
They're where families go to unwind and to connect and often, they're the only places where kids can stretch their legs and give free run to their imagination. Today with 80% of Americans living in urban areas, these pockets of outdoor space are more important than ever.
And so are those cherished American traditions of the weekend camping trip. Or the summer road trip that bring millions of families who live in cities and suburbs to the iconic national parks and forests, or to state parks, forests and camp grounds.
Just as we cherish our childhood memories of hiking and sledding and fishing and camping, and as we enjoy time outdoors with our families, we must guard these places and traditions for new generations.
We've been hearing a lot about these new approaches that you in this room have been developing to conserve and restore these outdoor places, and to connect more families to them. Coalitions across the country are working to protect and improve the outdoor spaces that make our country special.
This includes, for example, the public-private partnership that's changing the face of the Los Angeles River by removing concrete, reintroducing native vegetation and wildlife and creating new parks along its banks.
There are countless other examples from coast to coast. It's the work that you are doing, the commitment that you are making in your city halls and state legislatures, in your staff meetings and community groups, that is leading the way. And that is why we invited you here today.
This administration wants to learn from you and from your efforts on the ground. As a land owner and land manager, we also wanted to win and support you.
The federal government is the steward of many of this country's natural resources. In addition to the conservation work of the leaders here today from the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, many other agencies help protect the outdoor spaces and connect Americans to them.
for example, the Army Corps of Engineers is the number one federal provider of outdoor recreation, connecting more than 350 million visitors to 12 million acres of land and water each year.
And the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration works hard to maintain the health of the nation's coast which draw more than 180 million Americans to them each year.
I also like to welcome Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari and Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary of Health at the Department of Health and Human Services and thank them for joining us here today.
We are pleased that these agencies are joining in this effort along with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Labor, and the Office of Management and Budget.
The federal government can play an important but not the only role in this effort. Nobody knows which places are most important to American communities better than the people who live and work in them.
We need you to help us identify new opportunities to work together on a modern approach to conservation that begins at the ground level, and to reinvigorate the national conservation about our outdoors.
We hope that today and over the coming months, you will help us build a community-centered 21st century conservation agenda for America's great outdoors that protects the many beautiful places and outdoor traditions of this great country.
I'm looking forward to the conversation and we sincerely appreciate you joining us for today and for all that you will do in the future.
And now I'm very pleased to introduce my friend and colleague, a powerful champion of America's working lands, the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack. Thank you.
Tom Vilsack:
Good morning everyone. Thank you, thank you very much.
You know in a wonderful building, a beautiful building not far from here, the Library of Congress. There is a statement that I think is appropriate for today's meeting. And that statement reads very simply, that "Nature is God's art."
What an extraordinary work of art it is. Our farm fields and forests are private working lands. Just think about the extraordinary contribution the great American outdoors makes to us every single day.
It is the source of our food and of our water, an increasing amount of our fuel and energy, our wood. It's an economic driver, one out of every 12 jobs in America are connected to what takes place in our working lands.
It's a place of intangible benefits. A place of relaxation and recreation, a place where values are formed and shared, a quiet, peaceful place, not confined to rural areas but also to the green spaces of our great cities.
During the course of the last year, the Obama administration has worked to preserve this work of art. We begun a process of restoring our nation's forest. We celebrate this year the 75th anniversary of our conservation program, our NRCS, our stewardship of private working lands; the 25th anniversary of CRP.
We're working together with other agencies of the federal government to protect some of our nation's important watersheds, the Chesapeake Bay, the Great lakes area, the Upper Mississippi River Basin area. But candidly, there is more work that needs to be done.
And that's why this conference is so important. We have work to do.
One of God's great gifts is the extraordinary productive soil of America. But each year, we still lose about 1.7 billion tons of soil to erosion. That's enough soil to fill 150 million dump trucks.
Each year, an average of 1.6 million acres of our rural landscape is developed. If you took concrete and you created a mile strip, 100.6 million acres would take you from Atlanta to San Francisco.
There's a need for collaborative effort. This isn't simply about preserving our natural resources. This is about building our true sense of community between each of us in this country. We all have a stake in preserving our natural resources. It should not be seen as a burden or a penalty but as a benefit and a privilege.
If you think about this work of art, if you had it as individual asset of your own, what would you want to do with it in terms of your children and grandchildren? How would you want to preserve it, restore it, protect it?
That's pretty much what we have to discuss today. How is it that we take this wonderful great American outdoors and ensure that the next generation has its use, its privilege, its benefit?
You all are engaged in this great effort. You are a continuation of generations of Americans who have committed themselves to protecting and preserving the great American outdoors. You can help us encourage our young people to spend more time outdoors, to deal with the opportunities that nature presents.
You can allow those values to be shaped and formed in our farm fields, in our forests, in our private working lands, and in our public lands.
We have an extraordinary team that wants to work with you, a president who is committed to this endeavor. I'm extraordinarily privileged to be working with administrator Lisa Jackson, Secretary Salazar and Chair Sutley.
These are three individuals who are deeply committed to protecting the environment and enhancing the natural resources and ensuring that all of America gets to enjoy them.
But as good as they are, they can't do it alone. They need your collective wisdom, your collective voice, and your collective strength. This isn't just simply about building and preserving our unique gift. It is, as I said, about creating a true sense of community, a commitment on the part of all our countrymen to preserving these assets.
It's my privilege at this time, to welcome to the stage Administrator Lisa Jackson. And I want to say that we have at USDA a unique partnership with EPA, beginning a process of making sure that we collaborate with each other on issues relating to the environment and issues relating to American agriculture. We understand that we are in this struggle and in this fight together.
And I can tell, you, I have no better partner at EPA than Lisa Jackson. She has been truly a friend and a strong supporter of conservation, of preserving this unique and wonderful work of art that we have been given. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming Lisa Jackson.
Lisa Jackson:
Wow, good morning everyone. It's great to be here. I love batting cleanup with the Obama foursome here, and hello to all my colleagues.
There are lots of folks in the Obama administration. You have heard of some of them sitting in the audience so good morning to all of them.
I just want to start first, obviously, by thanking President Obama for his leadership on this issue.
I cannot tell you how excited I am to contribute to the work of this partnership and to set a new course or direction in the enjoyment of our country's great outdoors.
Now, let me also say, I'm the mother of two sons. So I admire your ambition this morning.
Anything you can do that we can do to get them to turn off the video games and play outside, I'm absolutely in awe of that. And so I hope and pray for our joint success as well.
Actually, I just got back over spring break. I learned to ski a few years ago. I took my boys skiing. I should be more specific. They refused to learn to ski. They wanted to board. And I remind for those ski purists out there, I know there's a bit of controversy but it is emblematic to me what we have to think about.
We have to think about the things that might not appeal to those of us who would jaunt to the mountains to ski but now, ride, as my kids do. And they both fell in love with the sport.
So now we have two more folks who would spend, well, I'll be spending, but they'll spend a lot of money [Laughter] supporting an industry that of course, supports preservation, conservation and absolute love.
You cannot be outside skiing with the vistas that you see and not in anyway awed by the magnificence of this country. My 14-year old turned to me and honestly said, "Mom, this is the best day of my life." I wonder how many of us have that moment with our children.
How many children have yet to have that moment with their parents? How many families have yet to have an opportunity much less the money or the means to be able to take time away where you can hear that from your children?
So America's great outdoors have played a role in our history, in our economy and our culture from the very, very beginning. Our open spaces have inspired our artists and of course, they have encouraged our pioneers. They've embodied the boundless spirit of possibility that has always driven our progress.
Around the turn of the last century that our country took some of the first significant steps to protect the great outdoors, so many of the national treasures that we enjoy today are still here because of the action of that generation.
As our generation moves into the 21st century, and considers the nation that we would leave to our children and to our grandchildren, America's great out doors take on a renewed importance. At EPA, we are so proud of the role that we play in protecting America's open spaces.
Signature laws in our country, like the Clean Air Act and like the Clean Water Act, have enabled us to restore and preserve the places that Americans cherish. To protect the fish and wildlife that inhabit these areas and to open up our great outdoors to activities that bring people together.
We are proud to partner with people for whom these areas are a way of life, farmers and private landowners who are ensuring that working landscapes provide clean water, clean air, open spaces and wildlife habitat.
The work that EPA has done for the past 40 has also helped clean the air and water in urban and suburban communities, making sure that millions of Americans have access to outdoor activities no matter where they live.
That last point is part of what I and my colleagues at EPA want to place a special emphasis on as we work on this great outdoors initiative.
One of the starkest ways to understand the importance of the outdoors is to travel to a community where there is no green space, where parks are few or scarce and open spaces to enjoy are not many.
Improving access to open spaces and green space in our urban communities should and must be a focus of 21st century conservation strategy. Too many of our children have limited access to parks. Low-income residents and communities of color look for opportunities to get outside.
In those places where we don't have those opportunities, we see higher levels of obesity, significant economic obstacles and lower levels of community interaction.
There is simply no place for young people or residents to meet, to simply get together and have the chance to learn and know each other, much less learn and understand the natural environment.
Now, EPA has initiatives like Brownfields Programs that allow us to focus on overburdened communities and rehabilitate formerly contaminated areas into healthy, green public spaces.
Projects like the Trinity River near Dallas, Texas are restored, Rio Salado in Phoenix, Arizona; and in older industrial areas in downtown Columbus, Ohio have transformed contaminated fields into outdoor green space. All three of those were near low-income communities that deserve access to these resources.
We're also busy developing an urban water initiative that will help local residents, many in underserved communities, just to reconnect and to remember that they live in a city that's probably built around water.
Right here in our own community, President Obama has initiated an effort to restore and revitalize the Chesapeake Bay and Watershed.
The people in this area certainly know the great value to the economy, to the environment, to the culture of keeping our waters, wetlands and local shores fish-able, swim-able and healthy.
In every case, we are using outdoor space as a centerpiece for strengthening communities, encouraging environmental health, and yes, spurring economic growth.
Last but not least, I'm really excited about what this means for young people. We have an opportunity to raise a new generation of environmental stewards.
Actually, let me change that. We have an obligation to raise a new generation of environmental stewards, young people who learn to value open spaces will be the protectors of those spaces. They come to value and they will pass those values on to the next generation.
As I have said, I have two teenage sons, so I am grateful for the opportunity to provide them with the lasting legacy of conservation. It makes me so proud to know that, years from now, they will know that we collectively took action to preserve, restore and protect vital national treasures that will last through generations.
This is such an important initiative with lasting benefits for every American. I'm proud to be part of it and I look forward to working with everyone involved. Thank so very much.
Host: Ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy a video presentation celebrating America's great outdoors.
Each one of us seeks the outdoors for many reasons: to relax, to play, to hunt and fish, to exercise, to learn, to spend time with our family, to be refreshed, and even inspired.
100 years ago in 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt challenged the nation's governors and caretakers of America's land and water to consider what he called the most weighty question now before the people of the United States: The conservation of our natural resources. How best to use and yet protect the great American outdoors?
The result was a century of innovation and progress, much of it arising from community efforts to protect the places Americans love, both public and private. A nationwide system of national parks, cultural and historic sites, millions of acres of national forests, wildlife refuges, and designated wilderness, a national landscape conservation system, and thousands of miles of trails, scenic seashores and protected rivers.
And on the state and local level, tens of thousands of parks and recreational areas, and conservation commissions that manage watersheds and fish and game populations for future generations.
These lands held in public trust are special places that embody the founding principles of our nation. Roosevelt called it our essential democracy that all Americans should be able to enjoy what these lands provide and then, pass it on to their children.
America's conservation heritage includes its private lands as well, our homesteads, farms, and ranches play an important role of protecting woods and watersheds, keeping our air and water clean, providing wildlife migration corridors, and defining our national character.
Americans have always had a strong connection with the land, yet our reasons to conserve are as vast and varied as our nation's landscapes. But everyone agrees that our open spaces, public or private, large or small, a city park or a neighborhood playground, are essential to the quality of life for all Americans.
Now, it is our turn to look to the future to protect and preserve what we hold dear. But first, we must understand the challenges we face today. Global climate change and pollution place new stress on natural habitat, complicating land and water management.
80% of Americans now live in urban areas, many with limited access to clean and safe open spaces. Poorly planned development fragments lands, disrupts natural systems, and imperils productive farmlands.
Americans are losing touch with those historical places where our nation was formed, sites that bind us with a shared heritage. Our children spend half as much time outside as their parents once did as we face an epidemic of childhood obesity.
Innovation and collaboration will be required to meet these challenges. A start has already been made. Tens of thousands of young Americans actively participating in youth conservation organizations taking root across the country. A new generation reconnecting with nature as they build trails, plant trees and restore the land.
State governments and local communities are establishing parks, trails and environmental education centers. Innovative partnerships between farmers and ranchers, sportsmen and conservation organizations, private businesses and public agencies, are conserving millions of acres for the benefit of communities, wildlife, recreation and local economies.
Nearly 2,000 land trusts are now part of the fabric of our country allowing landowners to take an active role in preserving their land and water for the benefit of future generations. But this is just the beginning.
To meet the challenge of conservation in this century, we must learn from and support the efforts that are already making progress in cities and towns, counties and states throughout the land.
Because more than two-thirds of America is privately owned, we must also nurture and support sustainable conservation practices. And economic conditions require that we be smarter and more efficient in our conservation decisions.
[Music] America's great outdoors connect us as a people and as a nation, honor our cultural heritage, and restore our spirit. In 1908, Theodore Roosevelt said, "The conservation of our resources is the fundamental question before this nation."
And citizens of all types took action to improve and preserve their nation. A century later, we face the same fundamental question and we will answer it as well because, as President Roosevelt said,
"We are not building this country of ours for a day. It is to last through the ages."
Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, to introduce the president, the chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, Nancy Sutley.
Nancy Sutley:
Thank you very much. It is a great privilege to work under the leadership of President Barack Obama who's a strong and steady guardian of the health and beauty of the natural places that span this great country.
From the lush landscapes of Hawaii to the public basketball courts of Chicago to the green expanse of the White House lawn, this president is intimately familiar with the many faces of America's great outdoors.
His personal connection and commitment to America's natural heritage is clear in his determination to instill in his two young daughters an appreciation of the country's diverse beauty. In early less hectic days, he did this during weekends in the beautiful parks and shorelines of Chicago.
And he did it last summer when the First Family spent their vacation amid the breathtaking majesty of Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Parks.
To me, his commitment is clearest in the remarkable conservation legacy that he has already begun to establish. In signing the Public Lands Management Act of 2009, President Obama ensured the protection of some of the country's most pristine rivers and rugged wilderness.
By working diligently for a comprehensive clean energy and climate bill, he is laying a path to protect the health of our lands and waters for future generations of Americans.
Like so many of you in this room today, he and his family are setting an example of conservation at home and through community service.
For the 40th anniversary of Earth Day next week, he has challenged Americans to take action in their homes, communities, schools and businesses to improve the environment.
At the White House, he and the First Lady have planted an organic kitchen garden, sending a message to all Americans about the value of local healthy foods. The First Lady's Let's Move Initiative is getting kids off the couch and reconnected to the great outdoors.
President Obama is a true champion of the mountains, streams, beaches, parks, wilderness and wide open spaces that belong to all Americans.
I'm proud to serve this president and honored to present him to you today. Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.
President Obama:
Thank you very much. Thank you so much. Thank you everybody. Please everybody, have a seat. Thank you. It is a great privilege to join for this Conference on America's Great Outdoors.
There are a number of people that obviously I want to acknowledge here who have worked tirelessly to move this agenda forward.
At the top of our list, our secretary of the Interior who I believe is going to be one of the best secretaries of Interior in American history, Ken Salazar, who has just fully embraced this issue, we're thrilled with the work he's done. Thank you.
Secretary Tom Vilsack; Administrator Lisa Jackson, Nancy Sutley - all have been part of what we call our green team and are consistently providing creative ideas to make sure that we understand that conservation is not contrary to economic growth; it is an integral part of economic growth.
They have just done a fabulous job on that, so please give them a big round of applause.
We have my outstanding NOAA administrator, Dr. Jane Lubchencco. We have assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Jo-Ellen Darcy; Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Installations and the Environment, Dr. Dorothy Robyn; and in the audience if I'm not mistaken, we've got some luminaries.
Is Governor Bill Richardson in the house? There he is from New Mexico, a great conservationist. Former secretary of the Interior, Secretary Bruce Babbitt is here. One of the finest young mayors in the country, Mayor Cory Booker. And, to all the outstanding members of Congress who have been so diligent in promoting a conservation agenda.
I am mindful that the first such conference was held over one century ago by one of my favorite presidents, one of our greatest presidents and certainly our greatest conservation president.
Upon taking office, Theodore Roosevelt, avid birdwatcher, bear hunter set out on a tour of the American west that would change his life and the life of the nation forever. He stood in awe of the geysers at Yellowstone. He camped in a snow blizzard at Yosemite. He stood at the lip at the Grand Canyon.
"The ages have been at work on it," he declared. "Man can only mar it." From that sense of commitment sprang five national parks, 18 national monuments, 51 federal bird reservations and 150 national forests.
From that commitment sprang an effort to save the great redwoods of California and the petrified forest of Arizona, the great bird rocks of the Aleutian Islands, and the Tongass of Alaska. From that commitment sprang a breathtaking legacy of conservation that still enhances our lives.
Now, that legacy is an extraordinary achievement and no matter how long I have the privilege of serving as president, I know I can never match it. I will probably never shoot a bear.
That's a fair bet there, fair guess.
But I do intend to enrich that legacy, and I feel an abiding bond with the land that is the United States of America.
I do it for the same reasons that all of you do, for the same reasons families go outside for a picnic or campers spend the night in the national park and sportsmen track game through the woods or wade deep into a river.
It's a recognition passed down from one generation to the next. A few pursuits are more satisfying to the spirit than discovering the greatness of America's outdoors.
When we see America's land, we understand what an incredible bounty that we have been given, and it's our obligation to make sure that the next generation enjoys that same bounty.
That recognition has been a touchstone of this presidency, thanks to the outstanding leadership of Ken Salazar and Secretary Vilsack and Lisa Jackson and Nancy Sutley. They have done extraordinary work.
Last year, I signed into law a public lands bill, the most significant in decades that designated two million acres of wilderness, over 1,000 miles of wild and scenic rivers and three national parks. We better protect it, cherish places like Oregon's Mount Hood.
We're taking a new approach to our national forest to make sure they're not just providing timber for lumber companies but water and jobs for rural communities. We are restoring our rivers and coasts from the Chesapeake Bay to the Gulf Coast, from the Great Lakes to the Everglades.
So yes, we are working faithfully to carry on the legacy of Teddy Roosevelt in the 21st Century. But we also know that we must adapt our strategies to meet the new challenges of our time. Over the last century, our population grew from about 90 million to 300 million and as it did, we lost more and more of our natural landscape to development.
Meanwhile, a host of other factors, from changing climate to new sources of pollution, that put a growing strain on our wildlife and our waters and our lanes. So rising to meet these challenges is a task and an obligation but it's one that government cannot and should not meet alone.
There are roughly 1,600 privately-run land trusts in this country that have protected over 10 million acres through voluntary efforts.
And by working with farmers and ranchers and land owners, the Department of Agriculture's Conservation Reserve Program has protected over 30 million acres in its Natural Resource Conservation Service; a service that is 75 years old this year has protected almost three million more.
So together, we are conserving our working lands in a way that preserves the environment and protects local communities and that's the kind of collaborative spirit at the heart of America's Great Outdoors' Initiative that we're launching today.
In the months ahead, members of this administration will host regional listing sessions across America. We'll meet with everybody from tribal leaders to farmers, from young people to business people, from elected officials to recreation and conservation groups.
Their ideas will help us form a 21st century strategy for America's Great Outdoors to better protect our national landscape and our history for generations to come.
Understand we're not talking about a big federal agenda being driven out of Washington.
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.
First, we're going to build on successful conservation efforts, being spearheaded outside of Washington by local and state governments, by tribes and by private groups, so we can write a new chapter in the protection of rivers, wildlife habitats, historic sites and the great landscapes of our country.
Secondly, we're going to help farmers, ranchers, property owners who want to protect their lands for their children and their grandchildren.
Third, we'll help families spend more time outdoors, building on what the First Lady has done through the Let's Move Initiative, to encourage young people to hike and bike and get outside more often.
Fourth, we want to foster a new generation of community and urban parks so that children across America have the chance to experience places like Millennium Park in my own Chicago.
We're launching this strategy because it's the right thing to do, because as TR said, we must not mar the work of the ages. We're also doing it because it's the right to do for our economy.
It's how we're going to spurge our creation in the tourism industry and the recreation industry. It's how we'll create jobs preserving and maintaining our forests, our rivers, our great outdoors.
In a time of great difficulty when we are recovering from the worst recession in generations and waging two wars abroad, some may ask whether now is the time to reaffirm our commitment to our national heritage.
But I want everybody to recall it was in the midst of the Civil War that Abraham Lincoln set aside lands that are now Yosemite. It was in the midst of the Great Depression that FDR formed the Civilian Conservation Corps that built the trails, campgrounds and parks we enjoy today.
Even in times of crisis, we're called to take the long view, to preserve our national heritage because in doing so, we fulfill one of the responsibilities that falls to all of us as Americans and as inhabitants of this same small planet.
That is the responsibility that we are rising to meet today. So thank you all for the outstanding work that you're doing individually. I look forward to the work that you're going to be doing collectively in advising this administration. Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.
Tom Vilsack:
Well, we are going to start the panel by first and foremost introducing all of the panel members. We are really privileged to have an extraordinary group of folks with us today. Let me start by introducing Mayor Booker.
He is, as everyone probably knows, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey and has been since July of 2006.
Under his leadership, the city of Newark has committed close to $40 million of transformation effort for their parks and playgrounds through groundbreaking public and private partnership.
In addition, years ago Newark took steps to protect its source of drinking water by protecting over 35,000 acres northwest of the city of the forest land not only serviced as a place for Newark’s drinking water but the city also uses it for a number of activities; fishing, hiking, skiing, canoeing and hunting. So, Mayor thank you very much for being here.
Sitting next to the Mayor is Ray McCormick and we’re very blessed to have him today. He might rather be planting corn on his operation in Knox County Indiana and in Lawrence County Illinois. He operates a fairly significant grain and woodland farm in those two areas.
In addition, Mr. McCormick also operates McCormick Farms Peach Orchard and a waterfowl hunting business on his land and he was appointed by former governor and now Senator Bayh to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Advisory Council and has been a member of the Natural Resources Commission for the State of Indiana as well. Mr. McCormick, thank you for being here.
Sitting next to Mr. McCormick is Jaime Pinkham. Jaime is a citizen of the Nez Perce tribe and has served the tribe in overseeing forestry, agriculture, cultural resources, wild life and fisheries programs.
In addition, he is also the vice-president of the Archibald Bush Foundation in St. Paul, Minnesota leading this native nation’s program working with 23 tribes in Minnesota and the Dakota’s.
He has served as president of the Intertribal Timber Council as well as the chair of the Tribal Lands Advisory Council: Trust for Public Land. Let me thank you for being here today.
Sitting next to Jaime is Lynn Sherrod. Lynn is a fifth generation rancher and lives with her husband Dell on their conserved ranch in Colorado.
She has served as the Executive Director of the Colorado Cattleman’s Agricultural Land Trust where she parked over 125 ranching families to protect, nearly a quarter of a million acres of productive working landscapes.
Today, she is the Land Trust Alliance at Western Policy Manager. Lynn, thank you for being here. And in addition to our panel, we’re very privileged to have Doug Brinkley.
Let me just simply say about Doug that he is one of the nation’s greatest and most respected presidential historians. He knows just about everything there is to know about Teddy Roosevelt which he will hopefully share with us today.
He has also written a number of books, one of which is my favorite; was focusing on the disaster down in New Orleans following Katrina, which was a very extensive look at New Orleans and the important history that needs to be preserved in that great city.
So Doug, thank you very much for being here. So the way this is going to work folks, we’re going to start off by asking the first four folks that I introduced to a general question, ask them to respond as best they can to that general question.
Then I’d like Doug to give us kind of a historical overview of how difficult or how easy it may be to have a grass roots effort on conservation and the environment.
And then there will be individual questions and hopefully, we’ll take a good hour to sort of generate some thoughts and ideas for all of you.
So let me begin at perhaps, the place where we need to begin.
There are some who would suggest that we are losing a connection between the people of this great country and the great outdoors. And I’m interested in knowing from your individual perspectives whether you see this as an accurate description of a division or a distance between people in the outdoors.
And if so, what can we do to reconnect people out to the great American outdoors? So mayor I’m going to start with you and we’ll just go right down the line if that’s all right.
Mayor Cory Booker:
If you flew over Newark, New Jersey you would be stunned to see that we are in so many ways physically disconnected, separated, isolated really from the great outdoors. And I remember the first time I had an opportunity.
Many things just jumped out at me. You know, we had this one major housing complex, public housing that was right on our river and the river was why Newark was founded in 1666. It was the lifeblood of the city.
But this housing complex with low-income families had a barrier, not only a fence but stacked-up containers that blocked even their view of the river. And so we were one of the most under-parked cities in America and our children were suffering from that on a lot of different levels.
My first year as a mayor, I had a fight breakout in the early days between little leagues and other sports in my office because there was no useable field space. We have a situation where we have type 2 diabetes is rampant in our city because kids have no place to go out and play.
But even more so which is important to me is that since you do not have these communal spaces readily available for people, you start to do what human beings ultimately undermines our very essence as a people, which is to connect or social being.
And as a result of that, you dislodge the social connections that make more strong fabric and strong community.
So we immediately very aggressively try to return our citizens to nature and really rediscovering that which is themselves by tearing down walls and barriers, moving to rediscover rivers, opening up parkland, taking city dumps and literally turning them into useable park space.
And then the final thing I’ll say is, and it’s not just within Newark but within the beautiful areas around our city.
So we started to try to expand programs going out into our Pinelands, New Jersey and starting to realize when I took on some younger siblings in the Big Brother, Little Brother Program. Just even taking them over to Hudson River; they had never done that.
They never crossed a great river. So getting kids out even further into nature we found as a critical part to really waken them up, to have a larger vision of the world and if children have a larger vision for themselves and their world, they tend to rise a different wings of angels.
Tom Vilsack:
Ray, real America in your perspective.
Ray McCormick:
Thank you, Secretary Vilsack. As you know, coming from Iowa, the Midwest is heavily in private land ownership. And farmers control much of the land in the Midwest and then the Heartland.
And there is the place where we can make some progress is that with our conservation programs that we put on the ground such as the CRP Program and the WRP Program and the Floodplain Easement.
-It’s really put a patchwork of conservation all over the Midwest and there are opportunities there to bring young people out there and let them experience that.
In my experience in enrolling in those programs, it was almost the opposite.
There was a lot of information there that said that once you enrolled in this program, you didn’t have to let people on the ground. And it was yours as a private landowner versus saying.
And if you would like to connect with young people and if you’d like to connect with schools, here is an opportunity, here is the people you can talk to, to make these lands available. I’ve heard it said before, the American taxpayer paid for all these conservation projects but then they don’t get to utilize it.
I think farmers in their true nature would enjoy having kids and young people, hikers, bird watchers, duck hunters, pheasant hunters, even some states at promoted pheasant hunting and the use of some of these conservation lands.
I think we should make all of our conservation program lands that we brought easements on and done these rentals on. A lot of times these are beautiful furry grass quarters along streams and so forth. And I see the neighbors riding horse backup and down through that.
Those opportunities were never there before so maybe we can get some people in USDA whose responsibility it is to initiate some programs where we can link young people and farmers, landowners in the Midwest with those conservation programs.
The Soil and Water Conservation Districts all already have the mechanism and the people in each County of our state and they can be the go-between between the landowners and linking them together.
If you say, “Why would farmers want to do that?” Well we could have a scoring system in our CRP, in our WRP or Floodplain Easements. You actually are scored and only certain ones are funded.
The better funded ones could be the ones where you gain extra points by signing up to allow or encourage young people to come out and experience these conservation lands that are on private land that are being paid through USDA programs.
Tom Vilsack:
So anyone would assume you’re representing really the first citizens of this country and people that were very well-connected to land, that they’re still well-connected but is that true?
Jaime Pinkham:
I say it is and let me preface my remarks that my perspective comes from being raised at Nez Perce, and the lessons learned. And I hope people don’t take my words to represent the over 500 sovereign Indian nations across this country.
But what I’ve noticed the trend at home is that there hasn’t been a drift away from the connection to the outdoors and in some cases it’s based on necessity.
When I moved home to manage the tribe’s natural resource programs, we had unemployment rate at 64% in the winter time and the income level over 50% of those who worked, earned less than $12,000 to me.
And what that said to me is that the traditional foods and medicines that existed on those lands I was responsible for managing, provided the mainstay for human sustenance.
We were dependent on the land to provide just not only timber and grazing and farming opportunities but also to provide those traditional foods and medicines.
And so, there is a maintaining that connection to the youth to provide for those resources to feed and meet the needs of our family on a daily basis. And fortunately for us, today, we continue to celebrate the change in seasons, the natural cycles.
When the salmon return, we celebrate the salmon. When the roots and berries come back, we celebrate that.
And even as the young people first get in involved in these activities, we do celebrations to honor that. So that connection is still real and we continue to look for ways on how we can expand and strengthen that relationship.
At Nez Perce, we worked out a wonderful cooperative relationship and say to Montana for the Nez Perce and now go back and hunt buffalo like we did.
And we’re absent from doing that for the last two to three generations but working with the Governor Schweitzer, the Nez Perce are back there doing that.
And I recall the first time we did that. We went to Montana. We built that around the youth actually doing the harvest and one of my nephews was on the trip and it caught media attention and he was being interviewed and this is what he told the reporter.
He said, “My ancestors have been hunting bison here ever since your ancestors thought the world was still flat.” But granted my nephew was kind of wise ass at this time but really what his statement was. His statement really expressed a deep connection to history and a deep connection to place.
And we need to find every opportunity we can to re-engage our youth, to bring back the old traditional practices into those traditional places to keep that connection alive and real.
Tom Vilsack:
Lynn, your perspective.
Lynn Sherrod:
I really like what Jaime had to say about connection to place because I think those of us in agriculture that despite all the challenges there are to that way of life, that’s what really keeps us doing what we’re doing, is that connection to place.
And our biggest challenge is how we translate that to others who don’t have that frame of reference and I think the biggest challenge is helping kids today understand what our lifestyle is about and why they should appreciate it.
And the old adage of ‘Think globally but act locally’ and I think a great example of what we did years ago.
I was raised in Steamboat Springs Colorado, which used to be a small ranching community which turned into a major destination ski resort and put tremendous pressure on the landscape there in terms of dollars and cents.
So we tried really hard to figure out ways where we could connect with our local community to help them understand who the ranchers were and why we were important to their way of life.
And one of the things we came up with is the local Cattlemen and Cattlewomen’s Group, is what we call Ranch Week.
And we went in for a week and had the session and worked with the local school to train the kids to help them understand the different facets of ranching and agriculture and why that that would make a difference to them.
And I did one of those sessions and as I sat and talked to 100 third and fourth grade kids who didn’t have to go very far to find rural landscapes. Then asked them how many had ever been to a farm or a ranch and three of them raised their hand and that horrified me.
So that effort still continues today but what’s exciting is the end of that week culminates in bringing all of these kids out in school buses to a ranch and let’s them get their hands dirty and do work on the ground and find out what it is to be part of production agriculture and what ranching offers that community.
Tom Vilsack:
Doug I want to ask you a question from a historical perspective. You’ve heard the other four panelists talk about the connections, sense of community but when we think of Theodore Roosevelt, we think of someone who is sort of a rugged individual.
Is there a precident for a grass roots effort to encourage conservation or is it a situation where by just sheer force of will, Theodore Roosevelt basically accomplished what he did. I’d just be curious, your thoughts of that.
Doug Brinkley:
Well, thank you. The answer, it used to be, what would Theodore Roosevelt do that was a question of conservation that he was just a conservationist president. He actually created modern conservation movement.
And you had people in his wake like Charles Sheldon, famously fought for Mt. McKinley or later Bob Marshall with the Wilderness Society, people that picked up the torch of Roosevelt.
I think we’re at a point now where all of us here could say ask, “What would Stewart Udall do?”
He was that important as Secretary of Interior and there was a flashing moment in the 60s where people really pulled together. Lyndon Johnson famously once called up Stewart Udall on the phone and there was a problem with Lake Erie and some of the great lakes that were being fished out and they were contaminated.
And it was a real problem and he called Secretary of Interior Udall said, “Stewart, what’s going on in the great lakes? I want them cleaned up. I want them cleaned up right away.” And Udall said, “Mr. President, this is pre-EPA, Mr. President I don’t have the jurisdiction to clean the great lakes up as Interior Secretary.
And Johnson said, “God damn it Stewart. When I think of dirty water, I think of you. Now clean it up.”
And there became in the 60s I think lady bird as first lady much like Michelle Obama is doing now with Let’s Move and you have a Secretary of Agriculture and Interior during the Johnson period that was very proactive. I think it was quite helpful but Roosevelt’s big concern; Theodore Roosevelt was what we call today, ‘Nature Deficiency Disorder’.
It’s a fancy term. Like Roosevelt, it was the strenuous life but the belief that our outdoors is part of what makes the Democratic spirit. Theodore Roosevelt, they climbed to the top of the Matterhorn in Europe and saw no wildlife and he wanted to make sure we kept wildlife here in the Appalachians and in the Rockies and the Sierra and the Brooks Range.
He felt that bird life for esthetic reasons were the charming aspects of birds but also because of the way they help farmers eat insects. That we have to keep our bird life and that wildlife didn’t know artificial borders. And I think the concepts are developing today of wildlife borders with private landowners and with public lands.
is going to be very important and I do think that when we deal with climate change, it’s hard globally. China is saying, “Hey, you guys had your industrial revolution. Don’t stop us from having ours.” But you might be able to do global things with global wildlife protection laws around the world to save charismatic animals.
And finally, Roosevelt believed that if you look at how he saved the buffalo at Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma, our first game reserve, today people come all over to Oklahoma and buy buffalo then we eat buffalo.
If you see a buffalo around Wind Cave or Mount Rushmore, they come from that Roosevelt herd which was raised at the Bronx Zoo and re-introduced and he created the Federal Moose Reserve in Alaska, for example.
I think on the charismatic animals a National Caribou Reserve in Alaska in the Arctic, a National Polar Bear Denning Area and perhaps a National Manatee Reserve.
Some of our mammals that are really important to our country need to be added to that Roosevelt model.
And that will involved fishing communities. I mean Manatee and Florida go next to an electric power plants. It would take a kind of national wildlife conservation largely led by the private sector in many ways.
Tom Vilsack:
Thanks Doug. Ray, I want to talk to you for just a few minutes. Recently I read a statistics that suggested that only 11% of family farm income comes from the farming operation, which suggests that farmers have to look for off-farm opportunities in order to be able to keep the farm.
So how realistic is it for us to be asking farmers and ranchers to consider conservation? What’s in it for them? How does it help them, in your view, create a more profitable operation?
Ray McCormick:
One of the reasons that you see a lot of farmers getting the off-farm income is that they need health insurance, and their wives are sent to town to work at a job where they can get health insurance.
And we did that at my house and so when mother comes home late from work, the kids have already got off the school bus. So, that’s party related to the crisis of rural health care is that the wives and the mothers have to go to town to get a job for healthcare.
Conservation is already a part of farming and has been and there’s a long legacy of that but we’ve got a long way to go. Knowledge and training and teaching do a lot to help farmers progress in conservation.
But I look in the long term and our top soils are so important to the future of farming and the future of the country. We have more responsibility now to raise not only quality healthy food but the fuel and fiber for this country to progress on.
So conservation and the protection of our top soil is so important and of course we have water that links our urban neighbors with us in two ways. The water that runs off of my ground impacts downstream. People who would utilize that and so conservation is important for protecting water quality for downstream owners.
But conservation is also important because a lot of the ground that I farm is impacted by flooding and we're finding that flood events are much quicker and more dramatic than they've ever been before.
So land use and land use planning impact water runoff and there's always downstream landowners like myself.
So, there's a connectivity on conservation there. We're also going to have a responsibility in the future of helping mitigate the changes in the climate and certainly covered crops and no till and keeping soil organic carbon in the ground are going to be important with that.
And there's revenue, projected revenue streams from that; that will be twice the value of American wheat crop. What we get from that is the secondary benefits of covering the land, protecting topsoil, helping protect water and create wildlife habitat.
So, there’s a great secondary benefit that can come in the future from the revenue streams of farmers.
off-setting climate change with the practices they use on the ground. And another benefit will be as the climate's protected, the threat of impacting the farming operations becomes less. When I left, it was 85 degrees on early March and we're planning as hard as we can go.
That's a little scary that it's that warm that early in the season. I planted corn this year in March and it's up now so farmers are adapting in mitigating to the change and I think that will all be part of the future formula income streams from conservation.
Tom Vilsack:
Lynn, raised a couple of the challenges from your perspective as a rancher. What do you see the biggest challenge is the opportunities are relative to conservation in the relationship with the ranching community?
Lynn Sherrod:
I think that's a really interesting question and as I was preparing for this panel I called a lot of my ranching friends from across the country that asked me that question. And I got a lot of answers but they all basically pointed to one single topic and that was profitability.
And the recognition I think of the value that ranchers and farmers bring to this country and the natural resources they safeguard with our stewardship is not fully appreciated. And I think a lot of people don't understand where their food comes from.
And if we don't secure the land base we're not going to secure our source of food. And I think that that's tremendously important. I think the best way that I can describe the dialogue that's involved around the ranching community that topic and why conservation is such an important part of this.
Years ago, my husband and I managed a ranch outside Steamboat Springs, Colorado for an older couple named Forest and Ruth Warren. And one fall, when Forest was in his early 70s, we were in the fall gathering out of the high country, getting our cows out of the high country.
A tremendously beautiful day, one of those that just live on in your mind, incredibly blue sky, the sun glinting off the gold leaves and the Quaking Aspen and then the valley below us and we were on the ridge, just looking out at the incredible beautiful, Elk River Valley.
And Forest was just heart sick because he'd lived there forever and he saw his neighbors bowing to the pressure of development and selling out for high dollar value. And we were both sitting horseback, and he looked down across the valley and he said, "I don't understand how these people can sell and let their ranches to be developed.”
But not understanding the economic pressures that were on these people. And he lean forward in his saddle and I can just remember his snarled hands on the saddle and he looked at me and said, "When you have the land, you have something and you can take care of yourself and you can feed your family. When you sell the land you got a dollar and when the dollar's gone you got nothing".
And without conservation and securing the land base we've got nothing.
And if those ranchers and agricultural land owners can learn to trust the conservation initiative in their local communities and land trust across the country, can help them secure that land base and I think the two biggest challenges to that is it shouldn't be on the back of agricultural land owners to provide all the natural resources that this country appreciates.
They need to be compensated for that there need to be greater federal funding and our CS program are absolutely wonderful start that were tremendously grateful for but we need to have that funding secured and it needs to be more there's never enough.
And the other is the huge onus of estate tax that's starring us on the face. How we pass that land on to the next generation is a huge challenge to all of us.
Tom Vilsack:
Jaime, Lynn's comment about land could also be applied to our forest. And with your experience in the forest area, I’m interested in what you see as important to the future of allowing us to maintain those forest, so we still have.
Jaime Pinkham:
I think one of the biggest challenges. I'm a forester by education and I gave up the practice of forestry, it seems like generations ago. One of the things is trying to find that long term forest vision. Where does forest fit in this nation's future?
It seems to me living back home in Idaho and we were forest land owners and when you look at this small real communities that are forestry dependent and every time there's a ship in the political pentagon, one way or the other. Those forest communities, their certainty is in doubt.
We need to find a way to find the sense of long term certainty for these communities and maybe I'm being politically naive here but I can still hope that there's something that we can do for with courageous leadership to find a way that there's certainty in these communities.
I look at one of the things while I was with the Intertribal Timber Council back in the 1990's. We passed the Indian National Forest Resource Management Act. And one of the things the act called for was the first ever independent study of Indian forest lands, their management and the condition of our forest lands.
And we recruited this blue ribbon panel to go out and do this investigation. And one of the things that there was a significant finding in that report, is that this independent panel of scientists said is that Indian forest have the striking potential to serve as models of sustainability.
And the reason that I came to that conclusion was the sense of certainty that tribes that on his homeland. You know that we live intimately with the environmental consequences of our decisions and how we manage those lands during difficult economic times or even the changes in political tribal leadership, we would never sell those lands.
We wound never relocate operation elsewhere. So with an Indian forestry, there's always this sense of certainty long term stability in our future. And I know there's a lot of communities out west trying from continue to struggle with what that certainty is and I think that's why we need to call for long term stable forestry vision in this nation, which can survive from one administration to the next.
Tom Vilsack:
You know that Mayor Booker, when we talk about certainty. One of the things that unfortunately is certain is that our youngsters are not getting outdoors as much. And the consequence of that at least in part is a rising level of obesity which can cause serious problems for the young people involved and certainly difficulties for the community because of healthcare and loss of productivity.
I'm pretty interested in what you been able to do or what you think is important in terms of getting us our young people better connected to the outdoors and what kind of impact beyond the obvious that might have. You’ve had experience with that within your city and I think you’ve got to share that.
Mayor Cory Booker:
Environmental is a very challenging when you’re having a conversation in my community and not just mine I work in cities from East Palo Alto to New Haven, Connecticut. You know, I see a video like we saw earlier and I get misty eye and I feel so proud on being about our country.
And I love Purple Mountains Majesty and Amber Waves of Grain, but if you come into my community, you want to talk about preserving the habitat for buffalo. They're going to look at you like you’ve got horns on your head yourself.
So, you know there's a powerful disconnect between and understandably so between families are struggling to make it and want a better life for their kids. And you can't preach to people, you can't compel them with video what have you.
You really have to do show there's a way that you can significantly improve your life.
And that we're going to find ways to help you do it.
I hear people all the time preach in my community about stop eating fast food, stop eating trans fats and the like. But if you walk or drive to Newark, you don't see grocery stores you see McDonalds, you see Burger Kings and see the like.
So these are the problems we have to as a nation combat because 80% of Americans live in cities like Newark or in their immediate suburbs. So what we really try to do is create a cultural norms that are going to empower residents to be successful.
And so people understood; look my kids got diabetes, my kid has asthma, actually that has direct relationship to what's going on in your neighborhood. We're going to make so that you don't have to walk a five miles to a park. But we’re going to do is put one in your neighborhood.
That we're going to reconnect you not only by having a park in your neighborhood we're going to show you that by creating that park number one, your family's going to have job opportunities in creating that park.
We're going to sustain like we did with what we’re talking to do with our aquifer, that we’re going to do solar panel installations that are good for our environment. But you know what? We have kids in Newark right now, who attracted two solar companies to our city.
That their doing the training of young kids who are at risk or dropping out of high school and disaffected youth, or going to get jobs and training to not just have opportunity to install some solar panels but have a long career path that makes sense for them.
So a lot of these problems that we talk about in America from obesity to carbon footprint in the light that can often seem distant to people or they feel very helpless. We who are doing public policy have to find ways to join with others how to create real tangible opportunities and change in people’s neighborhoods.
And that’s the powerful thing that’s going on in Newark. And there’s some people represented whether it’s the trust for public land or a wonderful EPA cabinet member that was right in Newark just last week is coming up with solutions that really transform people’s lives right now where they are.
And I found now that by getting kids we created this wonderful oasis in the middle of the central ward in Newark which is one of America’s poorest census tracks through the greater Newark conservancy. Now we take classrooms who can’t afford, the savage budget cuts going on in states all around the country.
Getting even to afford to take a bus some place is very hard. So by doing it right in our city, then kids begin the first steps for learning about nature and appreciating nature.
Then creates a bridge for their greater understanding of the less and other areas in our country that are just as critical.
And the last thing I’ll say is, I mean that’s the power of this nation now is the words of our ancestors are becoming so much real.
And there’s a guy who wrote a letter in a jail cell in 1963 before I was even born who said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere that we’re all caught in inescapable network of mutuality tied in a common garment of destiny.
And so that is a spiritual statement that’s now true more so than ever when it comes to our environment. And the job of us who love our cities and love where most Americans live have to get people better to understand that we do have a common destiny.
And that we do have great injustice in the environment that’s going on. That if we don’t follow Newark, we’re not going to be able to solve it anywhere.
Tom Vilsac:
You know, Doug this is an interesting point. When Theodore Roosevelt was attempting to focus on conservation, I suspect that the country was more rural than it is today.
So the question I have from a historical perspective, “Does the fact that we’re more urbanized country make it more difficult for us to make that connection?” Do you see this as a larger barrier, larger challenge than perhaps President Roosevelt faced?
Doug Brinkley:
Well yes. And President Roosevelt could do a lot of dramatic things in the west because places were still territories like Arizona and New Mexico, Oklahoma, Hawaii, Alaska. So we had a kind of executive power to do things.
But Roosevelt had asthma and he associated his illness with urbanization, with the pollution going on in the East River and the Hudson River.
His uncle Robert Barnwell Roosevelt wrote the books on ‘Run for Congress’ to create fish hatcheries repopulate the fish of New York. So when he started as Governor, he wanted to save the palisades to protect that area in New York to keep the beautiful cliffs there.
He wanted Niagara Falls not developed wrongly. He didn’t get that. But what Roosevelt saw in what we’re starting to see more and more is the importance for cities of natural places for national security reasons.
If you look at that there will be Everglades Place for a hurricane. Roosevelt went early the other day I saw a little picture on the film, T.R. with birds around him. That was Breton Island in Louisiana, the barrier islands off Louisiana.
Those islands have totally eroded. When Roosevelt went there, they were the speed bumps. The hurricane would hit them. It would slow it down then you would get the wetlands of Louisiana which would then protect New Orleans.
Well in the 50s, oil and gas may, in the shipping industry drilled and built a canal; the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet. And it brought in saltwater into the Mississippi fresh water.
It killed all the Cypress trees, killed the wetlands. And now every day in New Orleans we’re losing two football fields a land a day and Louisiana. And every day, we’re getting closer to destruction because wetlands are about national security.
And we have to start thinking of some of these urban areas can be protected by nature too. And I think of Newark and just you know, it was an incredible bird fowl area and a beautiful area that we call the Jersey Flats today is like a dumping ground. And it creates toxins for people.
We still haven’t caught up with the sicknesses of industrial disease. And Roosevelt was worried about that 100 years ago of the problems of over urbanization if you didn’t built enough green zones and what we call any environmental buffer zones around urban areas.
Tom Vilsack:
Well let me ask the panel starting with you Lynn. You mentioned the fact that you wonder about whether or not people know where there food comes from and appreciate it. What steps should we be taking to better connect rural and urban residents.
I’m just curious in terms of your thoughts. What are those important connections? How can we emphasize them and how can we sort of re-educate people about the fact that we are interconnected as the mayor indicated?
Lynn Sherrod:
You know it’s very interesting that when I started my whole conservation voyage. I was just one of those ranch wives that go to town and work so we can have health insurance.
And I saw in my community there was a decided effort of visioning process to learn what our community was going to look like 20 years into the future.
And it really concerned me because I heard people talking about what we’re going to do to preserve open space. But I didn’t hear anything about production agriculture. And that concerned me because it’s a primarily agricultural community.
And so I decided the only thing I could do was get involved. And I didn’t do it willingly. I sort of got dragged into it by some of the people in the conservation community.
We heard that nature conservancy had opened up a field office in our community and we were horrified.
We thought it was the beginning of the end.
And Jaime Williams is in here. He was the one. And I did a presentation to our local cattlemen’s meeting and Jaime was in there and he came up after me after the meeting and talked to me and said, “We need to talk.” And I said, “I don’t think I want to talk to you.”
And what I realized is that I needed to get involved in my local community. And because of that our local extension agent brought a group of people together that were from a diverse background; environmentalist, conservationist, business community, to the ranchers and made us all sit in a room.
And he said, “We’re not going to leave this room until you can all agree on something” because he had gotten a little contentious in our community. And he talked about what we all wanted and what we could do to connect everyone to the land and make everybody see the same vision.
And we learned quickly that what we had to do was concentrate on the values that we shared. The most exciting thing I think we learned is that we have thought in common. And none of us thought we had anything in common when we sat down in that room. And we knew that we wanted to preserve the landscapes.
We may have different reasons and different ways to get there but ultimately what came out of that meeting was that small group of people was a larger community vision that appreciated everything that everyone brought to that community and everyone that their contributions and what they meant.
But because of that, we passed a Right to Farm Ordnance in our community that helped instruct and educate people about the difficulties and needs of agriculture. And sometimes it’s not pretty; it’s messy. And when you live next to a ranch, those are things you need to understand.
You need to know what Fencing Laws are about. We also passed a Purchase of Development Right Program where we taxed ourselves. Where we were able to purchase easements to protect natural areas and ranches and farms in the area.
And then the third thing that was really exciting to me is we started a community non-profit called the Agricultural Alliance that connected the resort community to the ranching community.
So they could understand how they could benefit from one another and why they really did need one another. And we didn’t perceive each other threats or irritations.
And from that initiative, that’s how I went on to become the Executive Director of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and how I ended up in this job. I think the funniest story I can tell about it is my husband and I were in a local coffee shop.
One of the past presidents of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association named Art Hodge with a big rangy man came in to the coffee shop while we were there.
And I’d known him pretty much my whole life. And he came up and he put his hand on my shoulder. And he said, “Missy, I think the world of you but you’re selling us down the river.”
And I sometimes didn’t know which community I belonged in. But I knew that we were incredible stewards of the land. And we love the land and you have to get involved.
And you have to figure out a way to get others involved. Because if you don’t get the stakeholders at the table, no solution you’re going to come up with is going to be meaningful or lasting.
Tom Vilsack:
Jaime, how about from your perspective, that connection.
Jaime Pinkham:
Well we, out In Idaho, we live that connection every day. Let me use salmon as the example. Because salmon to the Nez Perce is like the buffalo to the tribes on the planes.
The tribe has a pretty ambitious salmon restoration project. And being from Idaho, a fairly conservative state and one being a salmon in Idaho is difficult. Being an environmentalist is difficult. Being a democrat is difficult. Being an Indian is difficult. But try to be salmon eating environmental Indian democrat like me.
It makes life pretty difficult, but it showed the importance of developing collaborations. And if you think about this where our homeland is right on a bit of mountains, which forms boundary between Montana and Idaho.
And if you think about those high country watersheds and that's the bread basket of clean water for down river communities. It's also the place habitat for threatened and endangered salmon species within the Columbia basin.
And if you think about that, we send that water down the river to those communities along the way and we send out the juvenile salmon with them. And then against the current comes the adult salmon, and here's where they have to travel before they get to Nez Perce homeland.
Four hundred and seventy miles of the Colombians snake river passing eight hydroelectric dams, irrigation divergence, farming ranching communities, a nuclear reservation in Central Washington, municipal cities and industrial development along the river, residential development.
And I understand that Secretary Salazar said that Congressman Hastings is here from Central Washington and I could guarantee you that Doc knows the issues that we're facing there.
Because if you don't think that you’re not connected by managing the bread basket of a clean water in Idaho and its impact on this down river communities and there’s an intimate connection.
But the question whether that connection is too conflict or whether that connection is really based on trying to find the common will to solve these difficult problems.
And it’s interesting that I define this connection in human terms as the water flows down the hill by the river is the backbone of the regional economy in the Pacific Northwest.
When we think about the human connection on the downstream effect that we’re all connected by the river, but really think of it as a natural resources, a Salmon connectivity.
And it’s important to neither have broad large scale conservation efforts taking part on this country or we need to share the common interest. Because Salmon as was stated earlier, know no political boundaries, of course they know culverts and roads and fences. But they don't know the political boundaries.
And so how do we move from the conflict that defines relationship to one of mutual respect and common understanding. And I think when those species get listed as threatened or endangered then it becomes a national treasure where even Mayor, I think people in Newark have the right to say how the Salmon are protected and managed out in the Pacific Northwest.
So like, I would hope your connectivity and your support for Salmon restoration would bring loud and clear too. Those are national treasures, managed by the people who live in these states, but for the benefit of all.
Tom Vilsack:
Ray, I often hear when I travel around in the countryside and talk to farmers a bit of frustrations that there is no better understanding and appreciation for what farm families do for this country in terms of food and fiber and now as you mention fuel.
How can we, in your view, create a better connection and what are your thoughts about the significance of that connection?
Ray McCormick:
Well, one of the things that we have to do is farmers have to take responsibility for the shortfalls that they have and I become frustrated and a lot of us that worked very hard on conservation and our conservation partners that were making not as quicker progress in as much progress is needed.
In Argentina, we have 90% no till now and they have advanced way beyond what were at less than a third. And while we want to talk about what a great job we’re doing in conservation, you mentioned the soil erosion loss that we had and the impacts that we’re having on phosphate runoffs and the impacts on the high proxy zone and so forth.
So we want to connect, but we also have to take responsibility and make sure that we’re moving as forward as quickly as needed as what our resources dictate.
A lot of the conservation things we do on the land help perpetuate wildlife populations and hunting has been the conductivity for a lot of me and my partnership partners that we worked on.
We do a lot of conservation programs that utilized USDA programs and private conservation organizations like Ducks Unlimited and Nature Conservancy and Pheasants Forever.
And we’ve put together some really nice conservation projects. These bring wildlife to those areas and that allows the youth to get out and hunt and go out with their dad or an uncle or a peer and get out on experience.
You know conservation is contagious, but you got to get them out there and a lot of times, hunting is a good way to do it. In Indiana now we have less than 5% license sales for the State of Indiana so there is a lot of people.
And if there aren't bobwhite quail, there is never going to be a small boy following a setter down a fence row anymore. And so farmers you know to link up and be with people, they got to have clean water and they got to help contribute to the restoration of some of our streams and our habitat along those streams.
That diversity out there is what is going to draw people out to the rural landscapes as we become bigger and bigger farmers and we fragment the land into big fields.
A lot of what’s left is protecting those streams and arteries down through there and there we have the opportunity to create these native prairie grass buffers and so forth. So you know hunting for me has been a way to bring kids to my farm, I flood cornfields.
We get in huge amounts of migratory bird populations in there. People are inspired by that. People like to come out and bird watch. People like to come out in waterfowl hunting and force the growth of other species like white tail deer have made a lot of outdoor opportunities for young people to get out.
So I do not want to discount the value of hunting and getting people out there. A lot of times, you go out there and hunt and you sit in that trees or stand or sit in on that duck line gain a huge appreciation for the resource.
That appreciation for the resource is what turns a young person into adult that can be here today and try to make as much impact as possible.
Tom Vilsack:
Well, hunting and fishing is a $182 billion dollar industry nationwide close to a million people employed. So it is a significant economic factor. Mayor, do you think folks in your city have an appreciation for the water, for the food, for the outdoor opportunities that the rural parts of this country represent it. If not, how can we make that closer and better connection?
Mayor Cory Booker:
Well, first of all, I’m very happy you’re doing what you’re doing to protect the Salmon and I am glad you are where you are because if you came to Newark, New Jersey as a democrat, salmon eating, a native American, you can be elected Mayor and I do not want the competition.
And I don’t think I am sitting here having this perverse idea. You know, we’ve cut shootings in my city 50%, but all of a sudden I'm thinking to myself, if we release some wildlife into one of our parks, maybe I can get those shooting animals and not each other. So this is might be a more productive panel than I thought.
Look, I praise the programs and I had some people grab me from the audience. Amazing linkages of getting young people from communities like Newark into wildlife. We have programs right now doing the same thing. They are transformative. They open up worlds to people.
They get people grandeur of vision as I said before that helps in them rise. But there are powerful movements going on in our nation and movements going on in Newark and I am hoping they are moving from movements to revolutions to bringing those realities to our city.
And one of the big ones were working on now in Newark is just urban gardening.
I don’t think we should have a nation that trucks tomatoes thousands of miles to bring them to Newark, New Jersey. When we could be taking so much of my land in Newark and doing local farming right within the city and giving my community better access to homegrown foods and kids who were involved in that as we’re finding in Newark through some of our urban gardening programs trying a revolution.
I saw a clip of a program as I was flipping through channels late at night not being able to fall asleep and saw a man sitting in what looks like a suburban classroom showing vegetables that the kids couldn’t even name and recognized because they were got divorced from where their food comes from.
So, you know again, Lisa Jackson, when she was working in New Jersey before she got a promotion to become a secretary, which always seems weird to me.
But now Secretary Jackson, we were trying to take these contaminants out of our soil that are poisoning our kids and then turning that soil into parks then now are adding to our kids health. So, it is critical that we have these programs that link our kids physically lifting them and moving them to discover that the nation that I love.
But let’s not forget the fact that by creating powerful public private partnerships, we can create urban farmland that creates jobs, that creates access to healthy foods, that lowers obesity rates that we can create urban parks to public-private partnerships. The last thing I will say is when I right frankly there, I got called over by the Bloomberg administration.
And Mayor Bloomberg is going to be a phenomenal partner planting trees and so much for his environment and gave me my best political advice of my life, which he said, “Cory, you need to become a billionaire first and then a Mayor of Newark.”
And we immediately took one of his programs called ’Take the Field.’ A program that was going on in New York actually for many years and said, “OK, we’re going to set out to transform our urban parks and I got accused, forgive the language, of pimping parks in Newark.
I would name a park after anybody give me $100,000 and swings that after you or whatever. And with people like the Trust for Public Land, nobody thought we could do it. But we have had a boom in parks in the Newark of a largest park expansion over a century.
So we need to have these incredible preserves all around our country. And the work that so many folks are doing here is so important. But let’s not forget that there is gold under the concrete of our cities that could become again, a thriving area; a thriving land.
The 90-year-old I talked to in Newark just this week who told that she used to swim in the Passaic. That we can actually have that reality come back where that river is teaming with wildlife. Where it’s a place that brings our community together, where we need each other.
Where it’s a source of economic development because now you have like other water ports like Baltimore. Business is springing up around that water. And where you’re bringing community where Americans, again, are experiencing the soul of our nation and the beauty and grandeur of each other by coming together to share in nature’s beauty.
Tom Vilsack:
I’ll tell you Mayor, after you finished with this job I think you got an opportunity as a stand-up comedian. You mentioned public-private partnerships and we have questions from the audience and I want to ask one to the panel right now. Ray I will start with you if it’s okay.
And the question reads, what are the best inducements or incentives to involve farmers, ranchers and other landowners often wary of potential regulation in the kind of public-private partnership that will be necessary to conserve our working landscapes?
Ray McCormick:
Well from all the conservation projects that I’ve done, certainly partnerships have become the cornerstone of making projects happen. While in the past and it continues to be the major funds of conservation in the agriculture community or the conservation provisions of the Farm Bill. And they're what links most farmers to conservation.
But any more it’s these partnerships with energy companies. I’ve done a lot of work with energy companies because of their impacts that coal burning and coal production in our area have had. So we’ve been able to do endangered species work.
And I’ve done bamboo cane planting for the swamp rabbit and a building at least turned nasty islands and so forth. So, partnerships with these energy companies, and of course energy is going to be a major part of agriculture production.
And it’s going to be a major part of the landscape out there is that there will be conservation partners that are going to come forward that’s going to come from industry.
There’s going to be conservation partners that come forth from Land Trust. And there’s going to be lots of people whether it’s Ducks Unlimited and all these other partners in states of Indiana. And our local county in Indiana our major funding for a Solar and Water Conservation Districts comes from county funding.
So you have this multitude of partners that come together on conservation programs. And it’s these partnerships that build the confidence with the farmer that these are long-term, that these are for the public good. And that they can make the kind of impact that can really change things out there on the landscape.
Farmers are really struggling right now because land values are growing so high and expensive. But putting up the profit is so great. But the risk is so much that they tend to want to be focused on only how much money am I going to produce in profitability.
All of these partnerships can bring together the kind of funding and the kind of confidence and knowledge and education to the farmer of how important these conservation programs are. But again USDA has to stay right there. Because on private farm land ownership right now those USDA programs are essential.
A lot of times we piggyback onto those programs whether that’s the WRP program or the CRP program. Then we use state dollars for the crap. It’s that piggybacking on with all these partnerships that bring the funding that make it so that those dollars can’t compete with all-out production.
And that’s what we really compete with right now is, “Should I be keeping that fence row or growing corn?” “Should I throughout to grow corn up as close to the stream as possible?” So it’s this economic pressure that’s changing environment out right now.
And I think energy production is going to help be part of that cure. And I think these partnerships with all these different entities that have an interest in these rural landscapes is really going to make the difference.
Tom Vilsack:
Jaime, the mountain West partnerships?
Jaime Pinkham:
Well I appreciate the opportunity to run for mayor. But we'll have to annex Newark into the Nez Perce reservation. If the secretary will sign the papers, we’ll get to work on that.
Again, speaking from personal experience, one of the opportunities I had… Actually, I’m from Idaho but I live in St. Paul Minnesota now. But when I was at home in Idaho I served on the Potlatch Corporation Citizen Advisory Committee.
And Potlatch is one of the largest private first landowners in the state of Idaho. And certainly the tribe we had our spats with Potlatch, their industrial forest lands. They got a pulp and paper manufacturing that sits right on one of the major tributaries that run through the reservation.
But again looking at, “Do we want to define a relationship on just conflict alone or cooperation?” And we began to explore tribal private partnerships with the company. And I felt that Potlatch was a very courageous organization.
They were doing work with organizations like The Trust for Public Land on the Forest Legacy Program to put a majority of their lands in northern Idaho under conservation easements to prevent them from being developed on higher development types of motives. And so they are providing those lands. And the tribe began to reach out to them.
We were partnering with them, bringing tribal expertise and fish restoration as well as tribal dollars and dollars we were able to cobble together from other funding sources including the Federal Government. And we began to doing salmon restoration projects on potlatch lands. Potlatch grazed our lands we’re putting in fences to protect riparian areas.
We are replacing undersized culverts to make sure that the fish could pass into their spawning habitats. We were working to abandon old logging roads that they were no longer using to reduce the sedimentation into the stream systems. And the other thing that we did with Potlatch who were the manufacturing arm and the labor union is we started to get the youth involved in this effort.
The tribe would provide the salmon smolts and the labor union crafted this little incubation facility just out of scrap materials that they had. And we’d bring the children in from the local communities. And they would incubate these eggs.
And they would have classrooms come out there to watch the eggs develop. And when they got to the certain site, they were responsible for releasing them into the rivers. So I always thought it was interesting that the tribe in Potlatch cooperated in a project where we could get our youth involved.
Because this is tough work and we’re not going to get it all done in our generation. So it’s always important to have youth somehow involved in this kind of effort because they’re going to inherit this unfinished task. And hopefully, through this kind of work that we devote to the Potlatch they’d also inherit the spirit of cooperation.
Tom Vilsack:
Lynn Sherrod:
I think during my time at Cattlemen, one of the most exciting projects that I was involved in; we got a call from a group of landowners in the Saguache Creek Corridor in the San Luis Valley which is right in Secretary Salazar’s backyard. They really felt like they were being targeted by aggressive development. And they were very concerned about what was happening to their community.
A lot of these ranches had been there from five to seven generations. And it was this amazingly beautiful corridor which the headwaters of the Saguache Creek that went down to wildlife preserve and that formed a lot of the water in the valley below.
And they had amazing populations of sensitive species that some where found nowhere else because of the stewardship of these ranchers for generations and their families.
And as we took our first drive with them, it’s just was incredibly beautiful. But what I also discovered what made this area very unique was it was about 19,000 deeded acres along the bottom land of this very fertile valley but surrounding it was 350,000 acres of federal land, forest service and Bureau of Land Management.
And so we understood that there was some real potential to get other people on board for these ranchers, what their vision was. They really wanted to preserve their valley. It was their vision; their idea. We just helped them find ways to implement it.
And so we started working with BLM. We started working with the Forest Service. We started working with the local county and we started working with Nature Conservancy who also had a presence in that area.
And it was one of their priority areas. And it took a long time to get this vision and the funding together. But it was amazing and I just called the fellow who took my place at cattlemen and found out now that they have preserved 11,000 acres of this 20,000.
They’ve got another 5,000 that they’re waiting for funding on. And they have secured almost the entire corridor. And with partnerships from NRCS Farmville Programs, money from our Great Outdoors Colorado, which is funded by our state lottery.
We got money from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, from the Nature Conservancy, from Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, from the Bighorn Sheep Foundation.
Because also in this area it’s one of the few places in the country where three game species live together; the elk, deer and bighorn sheep. And it doesn’t happen very often.
It's just amazing you could go on and on about the values. But what we were able to accomplish because we brought all people together who had vision and reason to care about.
And I just talked to the forest service person, the line supervisor there a couple of weeks ago, and they put out which I never thought would happen in this valley.
But the ranchers were so excited about what they’ve done.
They put up a huge sign as you enter into this valley, which is the scenic corridor talking about the donation on these ranchers’ part, the commitment that they’ve made to the future because if any of these ranchers go away, it really inhibits their ability to be able to manage these public lands around them because they generationally have grazed up the valley to go up and permits to graze down the valley.
And if any of these ranchers go out of this business to get developed, they lose their ability to what they’ve done in their family for generation. And it’s one amazing example.
There's a ton you could talk about. There’s a black foot challenge out in Montana and by border land down in Mexico-Arizona border and we're doing incredible things and preserving entire ecosystems and working with the Federal government and all the local stake holders. There's a lot of really amazing things along that we just don't do a very good job we're talking about it.
Tom Vilsack:
We've got about three minutes left in this panel. So, I'm going to challenge all of you in thirty seconds or less to answer the following questions. When we reconvene a hundred years from now, what do you hope that they will have said about this group of folks in Conservation America? Doug?
Doug Brinkley:
I think that the time comes as Theodore Roosevelt used to say that we have to do this for our children's children that conservation is about the future. And just as there was a CCC in the 1930's and that Franklin Roosevelt and company planted over a billion trees.
We are doing things for our young people. We do have an Earth Day and teachers use it as a one day kind of the arbor day of today. But I think we need to build them when I saw US Fish and Wildlife doing with their Climate Conservation Core where we get our young people engaged in the outdoors and the nature and deal it within a local government project on a local level.
Jaime Pinkham:
A friend of mine, Charles Wilkinson once was speaking about the Nez Perce tribe and Charles recognized that the Nez Perce is a land based society. And he said that there is no pain like the pain of the land based people who have lost their land. How do we keep these lands within a common ownership, within a family ownership?
And I think one of the ways when we look at it and I think we just even just feedback on where we came from. I just think of these past generations, and all of the sudden you see the emergence of tribes as conservation leaders across this country.
We have tribal leaders sitting on this audience who’s responsible for restoring wild salmon into the waters of Puget Sound; tribal leaders who are banning together in unprecedented effort in the Yukon on both sides of the border, US and Canada, working together collectively to clean up that watershed.
Other tribes, re-introducing wolves to Idaho, acquiring wildlife mitigation lands working with private landowners, preserve lands and in Oregon, working with irrigators in in-stream flows. And I think when we look ahead people would say that tribes do have it right, and certainly there is nothing to fear about tribal sovereignty or tribal treaty rights, but tribal really capable resource partners.
Tom Vilsack:
Ray McCormick:
The conservation doesn't come easy. To protect our resources and have a vision for the long-term is hard work. And the President talks about that on another issues. We have to do the hard work and I hope that after today’s conference, that we have the commitment and the long-term vision to do the difficult work and make the strides that gives us the knowledge, the experience and the forethoughtfulness to get there in the future and that the impact is measureable.
Tom Vilsack:
Mayor Cory Booker:
There's a man in my city who lives in high-rise apartment building and across the street was an abandoned lot overgrown with weeds being used for some serious crime, for drug dealing. And he got a stimulus check in the mail and instead of using that money like many of us might have; he went out and bought at the local home depot, a lawnmower and a weed whacker.
Went right into the drug dealer's territory and start tending to that lot, tending to that Earth and mixing his spirit with that plot of ground. And the first day, he almost got in trouble, his neighbors were shocked at what he was doing and thought he was going to get in trouble because he inadvertently bagged up the drug dealer's stash and the guys were on their knees.
But every single day, he was getting up and tending to a piece of our Earth. Eventually, the drug dealers left. The community rejoice and he transformed a major area of our city by getting up every day, not thinking that life is a big speech, big fight, big battle but realizing that life is about every day getting up and doing something you’re not expected to do that is the small act of kindness, decency and love.
My hope is that when we come back here, all of us will have not only evidence that behavior but inspire others. And that we ultimately we will answer the call of our children every single day in America. The nation that we live in will resound with those simple words that have to be true that we are one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. Thank you.
Tom Vilsack:
I can ask you one more time to give a round of applause for all of the panel. Thank you very much. Good job!
Secretary Salazar:
Ladies and Gentleman, what did you think of President Obama’s presentation this morning? Was it a great presentation? Yeah.
Some people have said that in these times with two wars with the economic crisis, that we can’t have a conservation agenda, but I think President Obama laid that to rest this morning. We will have a conservation agenda for the 21st century that we can be proud of and we may in fact surpass the legacy of Teddy Roosevelt. Okay? We may in fact do that.
We have a great panel and we will run through this very quickly, but we also have one of our great honored guests and all of you are honored here today. We could have 50,000 people together here today, but we basically brought in the people who we thought were the leaders that are going to make this happen in the 21st century.
And I want at the outset before we hear from the panel to hear from the great grandson of the wilderness warrior who in his own right has become one of the leading conservationists of America and the globe and that is Teddy Roosevelt IV, Teddy Roosevelt.
Teddy Roosevelt IV:
Thank you.
Secretary Salazar:
And like all my cabinet colleagues, you know how we are. This is really a unity agenda. He’s a great republican.
Teddy Roosevelt IV:
Thank you. Well, thank you very much Mr. Secretary. It’s not often that a Roosevelt is at loss for words, but I’ve been incredibly moved listening to the panels, the speakers this morning. And what they have done is they’ve thrown down a challenge that’s come from the White House and from the president himself.
Our generation must rise and meet this challenge because we cannot pass on to the next generation, the great outdoors, our great public lands impoverished.
We have to reinvigorate the lands. Make the connections between youth and our public lands, but this is a challenge that we can meet and I hope that we can exceed my great grandfather’s legacy.
And if we can do that, we will hold our heads high with pride. So I look forward to working with all of you and the idea that we’re going to engage with each other and we’re going to create partnerships and work is a magnificent challenge and we can do this together. So I thank all of you for being here.
Secretary Salazar:
And let me also at this point to say one more time Secretary Vilsack is a wonderful champion for rural America. He and I have this conversation all the time and we do it at the White House that we are really in the renaissance of rural America with the broadband efforts with all of the other efforts that he has on bio fuels and a whole host of other things that are an important agenda for that forgotten America.
So to Secretary Vilsack, to Mary Booker, to Ray McCormick, to Jamie Pinkham and to Lynn Sherrod and to Doug Brinkley let’s give that prior panel a round of applause for their great contribution. Thank you a lot Tom.
Secretary Salazar:
And we have a distinguished panel today. I’m going to call first on the governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson who has given his life and his heart to the betterment of this country that making it a more perfect union.
Secretary Salazar:
From his days as a young man moving forward to become a member of the United States House of Representatives to the ambassador of the United States, the United Nations, the Secretary of Energy to Governor extraordinaire for the State of New Mexico to the chairman of the Democratic National Convention and the list could go on Governor Bill Richardson from the land of enchantment. Bill Richardson.
Governor Bill Richardson:
Thank you Secretary Salazar. I noticed that the introductions get nicer as I approach the end of my term.
This is a glorious day. I’m overwhelmed by the energy, enthusiasm and commitment of so many of you and the president and the great green cabinet. When I was running for president and I noticed Ken you didn’t mentioned that [Laughter] and even today, the national dialogue in environmental issues was almost focused entirely on energy conservation and renewable energy.
Absent were debates we’re having today about the preservation of land and air, water, wildlife issues, native Americans, trails and this is why this conference is so timely.
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.
And as a western governor, I know firsthand the challenges we face preserving America’s best natural resources, our wildlife, our landscapes. But I also know with Federal agencies and states working together along with private land owners, farmers, ranchers, individuals and Secretary Vilsack champion so well.
We have tremendous opportunities to accomplish great things. That’s why I as a western governor, am calling on a new federal partnership between the state and the federal government on the outdoors one that has not existed for a long time.
Instead of worrying about turf and jurisdiction, we should concentrate on dialogue and joined efforts. While states like mine have a wealth of knowledge on habitat and conservation priorities and on the ground political realities within their borders,
it’s federal agencies like the Department of Interior, Agriculture, EPA that have national vision and greater human and financial resources. Particularly the men and women like here in Interior that work everyday in the career service to foster conservation.
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 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.
After all it is the governors that most have of the power. [Laughter] That’s supposed to be funny. You know in New Mexico, I’m looking forward to working with this department on creating a national monument on Otero Mesa. Other sites in the west that the interior department has identified as potential monuments deserve national and congressional support as well.
Otero Mesa is the largest intact expanse of Chihuahuan Desert Grassland in the United States and was nearly sacrificed to energy exploration. Before the State of New Mexico and a strong coalition of conservation groups stepped in and halted the drilling.
Now it needs permanent protection which can only be accomplished through a permanent federal designation.
And as we look for opportunities to protect our treasures, we must seek environmental agreements with the first Americans, the Native American tribes in the west instead of always kind of forgetting them. The tribes are major landowners and responsible stewards of the environment. Some years ago when I was in the congress, I successfully sponsored legislation to create a joint Indian federal park on the Zuni Reservation.
Well ultimately the park didn’t become reality; this is a type of project that should be encouraged throughout the west. Another issue for enhanced state federal cooperation not at the top of the media radar screens the fate of America’s Wild Mustangs.
I’m working on establishing a state wild horse preserve in my state, but we will need flexibility from the BLM in order to succeed.
We’re exploring options when one of our Native Americans pueblos for a park that would exist on a combination of pueblo and adjacent lands. New Mexico has several herds of homeless wild horses. We want to give them a refuge where future generations can see them roam on the western landscape.
And I commend the secretary’s initiative on wild mustangs, but we need the BLM to better understand state needs to preserve these icons that are so much a part of America.
Another major challenge facing our nation is wildlife habitat fragmentation. Last year Governor Bill Ritter of Colorado and I established a wildlife corridor initiative along our shared New Mexico-Colorado border.
What we’re seeing along our borders is that large cracks of private land are being carved in to Ranchettes that impede mule, deer and elk migrations. This fragmentation is also a predictable result of new roads and unbridled development.
President Obama and Senator Jeff Bingaman have called for $450 million for the land and water conservation fund for key conservation and land acquisition programs at the Departments of Interior and Agriculture.
If the call for full funding is met, it will be historic because while this fund was established by congress more than 40 years ago.
It’s only been funded fully for two of those years, but also vitally important that we reestablish an equitable split of LWCF funds between the federal government and the states.
States like mine have programs to leverage federal dollars to purchase conservation easements, expand trails and fund river restoration projects that are so important to our ecosystem.
I also encourage the federal government to work with the states on a new set of river and stream protections including increased funding for river restoration and a new list for wild and scenic river proposals for congress. Rivers and streams are the backbones of ecosystems.
Access to water and rich soils mean that these areas are likely to be more expensive and therefore underrepresented in existing protected public land. So we have to become creative if we are to craft a conservation mat that both offers resilience for climate change and for ongoing land development trends.
We should use all of our tools at our disposal and protect the wildest places against degradation. Finally, our conservation efforts must not stop at our coast. The health and welfare of our natural resources, our coastal wildlife refuge and so much of our nation’s fish and wildlife resources are ultimately connected to the health of the ocean.
We need a new national ocean policy with the interior department playing more of a leadership role in conjunction with other federal agencies in developing science phase, marine spatial planning.
Offshore ecosystem assessments and protection similar to those that we have on land. The United States must also push forward an international forums on protections for whales and other endangered species despite recent set backs at the United Nations.
Traditionally domestic agencies like the interior department must think more globaly since many of our environmental challenges or international and scope. In conclusion really, I want to repeatt my call for a both set of actions. We need an omnibus wilderness bill.
A series of new national parks and monuments, expansion of our trail systems, partnerships with Native American governments, wild horse protections, wild and scenic and river designation, ocean ecosystems assessment and conservation funding, we cannot afford to wait.
And as a man who held this important job as a nations tough environmental steward, Stewart Udall of New Mexico once said, “Over the long hauled of this planning, it is the ecologist not the book keepers of business who are the ultimate accountants. Thank you very much
Secretary Salazar:
Well done.
Governor Richardson, thank you for your presentation and your great ideas. We agree with most of them. [Laughter] But you were never shy. Alright, I’m going to introduce the rest of the panelist and then what I’ve asked the panelist to do is to very briefly give us a quick overview what they see the greatest challenges that we face with conservation and how we’re going to resolve them.
The first of our panelist is Bill Cronin. He’s a professor of history and geography in environmental studies in the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Next to him is Sally Jewell who is the Chairman of the Board and CEO of REI which operates in more than half of the nation with thousands and thousands of employees.
Next to her is Gary Myers. Gary is the former executive director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency but also one of the people who expand the whole notion of landscape conservation cooperatives and was one of the leaders who inspired Sam Hamilton to bring those ideas to this administration.
And next to Gary Myers is Ernesto Pepito who is the youth program director at the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. So with that let’s start with you Bill and well just go one at a time. Give us a short comment and then we’ll come back and we’ll hone in on some specific issues. So let’s give them all a round of applause.
Other than Bill Richardson, they’re not getting paid anything. [Laughter] And even with Bill Richardson, he’s just going to get a lunch. [Laughter] So anyway, thank you very much. Go ahead Bill.
Bill Cronin:
When I think of the challenges that are facing us today from, I often think of conservation as being first and foremost about the conservation of values, shared values. I think about the political challenges we’re facing the 21st century continuing this great American project of conservation.
Remembering those values, passing on those values seems to me to be one of the most important challenges that we take on. We're at a moment I think Americans have always been part of this and we’ve always been divided from each other,
but we are at the moment when our partisans are extremes sometimes that it’s easy for people to get that on this question of protecting that which we have inherited from those who come before.
This land which is the foundation of our national identity to think that that isn’t the shared value, that that isn’t something that we must work together on strikes me actually as our greatest challenge. And it is one that is part of I think our DNA as a nation.
We our a country that was born in the 18th century at a moment when the legitimacy of government, legitimacy of the state was seen as inhering in the divine rights of kings.
And the creation of this republic was about rejecting that motion of the divine rights of kings and instead finding the foundation of legitimate government in two things which are really the creation of 19th century in which this nation arguably more than any other showed the watch way for nations around the world.
One was finding legitimacy in the people rather than in the crown. And the story of the people’s struggle for freedom and liberty and a shared identity, a shared national inheritance was one part of that and then strikingly also the core romantic project of the 19th century.
The notion that the people’s inheritance was the land and the nation’s identity is patriotism inhered in the land. And that story of the American people no matter how diverse their backgrounds whether they were Native Americans here being invaded by people from all around the world,
immigrants coming from all over the world, people coming here both willing and unwilling in many, many ways, but eventually forging their national identity in making this land their own and finding a home here.
That story of our history and our nature woven together to make the story of the American people that I think finally what conservation is all about. And that is certainly what Teddy Roosevelt was about when he called that congress together in 1908 and created the precursor for what we have here.
Which we’re sitting here in Interior and just to our south is the national mall due south is the Jefferson Memorial with its words that life liberty and the pursuit of happiness and that all human beings are created equal are part of that national heritage.
And then further to the west, Lincoln’s Memorial where the better angels love our nature kept our union together by remembering what we shared in common. And the speech that was given on 1963 that Corey referred to that we have a dream together, it’s a shared dream. And that dream is about the land.
It’s the land that we hold privately as stewards so that we can pass it on to our children that we hold as tribes so that we can pass it on to the seventh generation.
That we hold not as government land but as the people’s land held in common for all of us so that the nation is at hold, holds together by sustaining that land to use not the 21st century words sustain, but Teddy Roosevelt’s early 20th century word ‘to pass that land on undiminished so that future generations will enjoy it’.
And the only other think I’ll add and I’ll stop with this because I think one of our greatest challenges is reconnecting urban people especially young people to a land that they often don’t feel very connected to.
And remembering that nature is not just out there in deep wilderness or magnificent parks like Yosemite or Yellowstone Park but right in Newark, New Jersey right in every place that all of us live. And remembering that we are always in nature in all those places and holding that together remembering how to share and pass on that vision that’s our greatest challenge.
Secretary Salazar:
Alright, good point.
Sally Jewell among other things also is on the Second Century Commission for the National Parks and all sorts of different things. Sally Jewell.
Sally Jewell:
Thank you, a tough act to follow Bill.
I want to start by telling you a little story about something that I was made aware of not too long ago. I was shown a picture of a boy running away from a wave crashing on a beach in California.
And the story of this boy is that he couldn’t sit still in school. He was considered a slow learner just wasn’t able to get his black and white picture. And he was fortunate to have a mother that said, “Let’s pull you out of school and let’s put you in nature school,” and that boy was Ansel Adams in your lobby here with the picture.
So I think about that story and think what he would have been diagnosed with today would be ADHD. He would have been given Ridilin and probably asked to still try and sit still in the classroom. Rich Louve in his book Last Child in the Woods
talks about many of the challenges that our children face today that Mayor Booker so eloquently talked about. And we do have large challenges Type II Diabetes in children inactivity and so on.
So I want to draw on some of our work at REI in terms of, is this cutting in and out? Okay. Well, I’ll just keep talking. I’ll try and talk loud. We look at long term trends not as challenges necessarily but just things that are like urbanization.
So when we think about urbanization as a business that connects people to nature, we’re asking ourselves how do we bring the outdoors into people’s everyday lives.
We talk about demographic shifts in the population. The population is changing rapidly and the fastest growing segments of the population have not felt invited into our public lands in a way that the majority population over the years traditionally has.
So that’s an opportunity, an opportunity to reconnect people with our public lands if they haven’t felt welcome on for one reason or another. Technology which has tied us to the electrical outlet has potentially a way to liberate us as we look forward into the future and maybe the mother of all long term trends that hasn’t been talked about too much but is a big, big factor for working conservation and that is climate change.
The climates are changing and our public lands and our open spaces are critically important to dealing with that. So I want to draw on one of the stories that I heard as a commissioner on the Second Sentry Commission and there’s a report called Advancing the National Park Idea which is the work of this commission co-chaired by former senators Bennett Johnston and Howard Baker who were terrific stewards of this.
The most famous member of the commission would be Sandra Day O’Conner and she was terrific, but there were heroes we heard from all across this country as we visited national parks.
And the one example I want to draw from which is in this report is about the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. It’s actually not a national park it's a national recreation area.
The parks services are relatively small part. It is a partnership of the National Park Service of the California State Parks of the Ventura Unified School District and the LA Unified School District of community partners and conservation organizations of private land owners who have worked in this beautiful natural area in proximity to 14 million people.
The second largest population center representing urbanization in this country. The National Park Service has the largest cadre of educators of any national park in unit and I was shocked to find out that's six.
The National Park Service provided that funds for the bus transportation to get children from LA and Ventura out into the Santa Monica Mountains because they wouldn’t get out there if somebody didn’t pay for the buses and that was referenced earlier.
I saw children who had adopted a square meter of earth and that became their square meter and they were removing invasive species and planting native species. And these are children who lived in a 15 minute walk to the beach and never set foot in the ocean.
So these are solutions that are happening right now and they’re happening because of some very courageous public servants and some courageous land owners in lots of the inholdings within the Santa Monica Mountains working cooperatively to create wildlife habitat for wild cougars which they’re tracking with GPS’s which the children can see. They can see the tracks. They can see where they’ve been and sometimes they can actually see the cougar.
It’s a great example of what I think are both the challenges we have to these long term trends and some of the solutions that are being done with really courageous public servants. Because it’s hard to be Woody Smack as superintendent of that park trying to work and forge these partnerships with an agency that needs to help work to support those partnerships so I commend you to this report.
There are a lot of solutions in this context of the national park that really apply to urban parks, state parks and local parks. And one of the greatest challenges is that we need to address and Governor Richardson certainly touched on that and that is funding.
If these parks are so critical to us and to our ecosystems, we need to find ways to support them over their long term and to recognize their value as a solution to urbanization and as a solution to demographic shifts in the population and connecting to a sense of place.
So I just have to say that the challenges that we all face and the nation on conservation got a lot easier this morning. So thank you very much to our two secretaries or administrator and our president because what a shot in the arm that we’ve been waiting for so thanks. It’s going to get easier from here.
Secretary Salazar:
Gary Myers on the ground, a long time wildlife enthusiast, conservationist, state director and leader.
Gary Myers:
A saying that worries me as a potential loss of significant amounts of habitat from the wildlife point of view they got to have it. And I saw sometime ago one of these satellite images of what the country looks like at night with all the lights on. And they’ve done this thing so you can look at it 10 years ago, 10 years before that and 10 years into the future and on it as a future. I think like up to 2050 or something.
And when I saw that, my reaction was I don’t want to be a director in charge of wildlife when we get to 2050. It was all lights. You’ll going to be managing the wild life that we have left between the houses or in people’s backyards if you live in the east. And I’m thinking how in the world can they do that?
And then it hits you that they’re going to have to be playing with that kind of an environment unless we do something here and now today to hand them a different environment. And the first thing that comes to your mind is well, we need to just zone things so that as the population expands and they’ll move into the right places and not into the wrong places.
If you live in the south, you kind of know there’s a fierce feeling that I have every right to do at my land as I please and nobody is going to tell me what to do" and that's a hard battle to fight. The easiest way to get there from here is to out it in public ownership if you’re talking about a public land base and we need that public land base. We better do it now because if we wait it’ll be gone. We won’t be able to do it.
What’s impacting all of that is complicated by climate change. And it’s going to be complicated probably with water shortages and other issues that are very difficult to deal with and it’s going to take a ton of money to do that stuff. So where do you get the money? This is a bad time but we got to have the money and it’s billions of dollars is really needed if you’re going to do this thing right.
And what you’re going to have to do I think is look at the big picture, figure out what the landscapes are that are important to future generations, important to the economy, important to agriculture and to forestry. There’s a study that shows that we’re going to lose millions of acres of forest by 2030 in the south. What lives in the forest? What are those forests provide for the economy, for the people?
What are we doing to ensure the future of those forests? We have to be thinking about that and we need to be thinking about it today and doing something about it today. And so if I have to deal with that kind of a problem, come up with a solution I would need a secretary of interior that believed in landscape scale things. You would really need a partnership between the secretary of interior and the secretary of agriculture.
It would be nice to get the Department of Defense engaged in some of this and could that ever happen? You know I’ve been in this business for 35 years messing around sort of the national level from a wildlife point of view I’ve never seen an opportunity like that. And then to have a president actually show at a meeting like this, that’s unbelievable.
[Laughter][Applause] And to get him to say what he said.
Secretary Salazar:
Thank you Gary and now to our youngest member of the panel, champion for youth.
Ernesto Pepito:
Thank you. When I think of challenges, the first thing that comes to mind is relevancy when it comes to Americans outdoors. And I’m really excited to hear other members of this panel and even the last panel and my Director John Jarvis making one of his a major focus of his is reconnecting people and making our lands more relevant to everyday Americans.
And one of the big challenges is and something I learned and heard from the mouths of the young people I’ve worked with is, “How could you expect young people, old people, anybody to care about the great outdoors if they don’t care about their own community and their own environment,” and I think that’s essential is how can we first inspire them to wake up in the morning and think about,
“What can I do to improve my community?” And I think that’s one of the major things that’s missing that’s why they’re not engaging in any farther event their houses because they doesn’t really necessarily care about the outdoors right in front of their outdoors.
And one of the big problems is I’ve heard when it comes to young people everyone talks technology and the computers and the video games being a major point of conflict of whey they’re not engaged in outdoors and I’d like to challenge that. I don’t think that’s necessarily the only thing. One thing that I see in the young people is the academic pressure that they’re under to get ready for college and to have their resumes look amazing before they even turn 16.
How are they going to add time to go in the outdoors and they’re spending so much time preparing for college and not that it’s just not important but it’s just an opportunity. An opportunity for partnership and an opportunity that those of us in the leadership positions who want to engage people, who want to preserve these places for the outdoors. We need to meet young people in communities where they’re at and what their situations are. We can’t always expect them to come to us.
We can’t always expect them to absolutely love the opportunities we off in our own mind if we didn’t engage in person what those opportunities should be. And that goes to my last big challenge is I’m honored to be here and I think my presence here is a signal of the seriousness of truly engaging young people and different types of communities and our work,
but I don’t know how many people under 30 are actually here. And is it because we think they’re not qualified? Is it because we think they don’t care?
Is it because we think they can’t handle this kind of leadership and opportunity? I say no to all three of those. There are young people absolutely qualified, absolutely passionate and absolutely deserve a right to be here to talk about this on a national level today.
And I know that there’s just things in life that couldn’t happen. I know there is lot of meetings and how to organize this thing together, but this is a constant challenge that I see many organizations, many conveenings, may people have of they want young people to care about the environment and outdoors but they’re not willing to give them a giant blue chair [Laughter] on the stage.
And so, opportunity is really a change of culture. A change of what we think young people can do. Service is absolutely important. Doing restoration work, learning about the land is absolutely important but they could also be ambassadors. They could also be the teachers as well as the learners. They can help us make decisions.
That’s why we need a change of culture basically how we engage young people in their communities. And when you think of partnerships, I think it’s absolutely important. At the Golden Gate National Parks conservancy where I work, we have a beautiful partnership with the National Park Service. And it presents so many opportunities because it’s really allowed us to find these intersections of how to connect our parks to the people.
So we’re not necessarily just mandate it, just to okay, we got a round of much young people having work in our parks, we get to think about what those young people really need and what they need is employment. They need to opportunities to practice their leadership skill that’s what we heard from communion members.
And so that’s what we provided is employment opportunities from young people young as 11 years old to college age students to actually earn a stipend, receive a check, learn about professionalism and basically have their first job opportunity in a national park. And that kind of thing is an extremely real experience to have your first job in protected lands is something that’s irreplaceable and they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. And I think that’s it for now.
Secretary Salazar:
Alright, thank you Ernesto Pepito. Thank you. Thank you for your leadership and for your example. Thank you.
To Sally Jewell and to Governor Richardson, my question to you is this in Economics. You know a year ago, we were 14 months ago we were losing 700,000 jobs a month. The focus has been on the economy. Everybody says how can you really deal with these issues of conservation of the outdoors? Why should we even care about those things? We got other things to care about. So talk to me jobs, economics and the outdoor, Sally Jewell.
Sally Jewell:
Thank you. Well, I am pleased that there are several members of my industry that are out in the audience. And other than the amount of time I’m going to be spending on an airplane also pleased next week, we’re doing our Outdoor Industry Association Capital Summit where I will be going with Will Manzer who’s my counterpart CEO of Eastern Mountain Sports.
You might think of us as competitors but we actually consider overscheduled people who spend too much time doing homework or perhaps green time as a real competitor and trying to figure out what we can do to help welcome more people in the outdoors.
So we’re working together on that and North Face is also a represented here in Jansport and the association itself. One of the things that we learned particularly over the last eight years is the economy talks. And so the industry actually did a study called Active Outdoor Recreation Economy that tried to quantify the impact of Active Outdoor Recreation hunting, fishing, camping, cycling, horseback riding, all manner of things outdoors.
And it’s surprisingly perhaps to some of the $730 billion industry, that’s enormous and that certainly for a number of the states like New Mexico it’s a very, very important thing that draws lots of people into the state and employs all the people like the REI employees that work in our two stores and the great state of New Mexico. But when we call on our elected officials, we’re now going in with a state by state list of the employment and of the sales tax revenues and the federal tax revenues generated by the outdoor recreation industry and it’s very significant.
The outdoor industry just finished in 2009 as Outdoor Recreation Participation Report looking by demographic segment at who is participating and who isn’t and the underlying reasons why. So bringing outdoors into people’s everyday lives is a very, very important opportunity for us as business people to connect people to nature close to home like in the parks in Newark that Mayor Booker talked to us about.
So it’s a growing and very important part of our economy. The national parks, NPCA National Parks Conservation Association did a study that for every $1 investment in the national parks returns $4 into the local communities in economic opportunity and that is the Gateway Communities, the food, the beverages, the overnight stays, the concessionaires, the gear that they buy before they go into the great outdoors. Thank you very much. Hope you all got your dividends.
So it’s a very, very important part of what is the infrastructure for a very large segment of the economy. And so, I am proud to be part of an industry that works with so many of you in conservation to give back recognizing that we have shared goals that of supporting conservation. Supporting healthy lifestyles close to home and far away and doing that in a way that actually creates in the case of our industry six and half million jobs about 10,000 at REI but six and half million throughout.
Secretary Salazar:
Thank you Sally. Governor Richardson.
Governor Richardson:
Well, first I want to ask Sally I’m going to be leaving office I may need a job at REI.
Sally Jewell:
No problem. Yeah, absolutely, you’re on.
Governor Richardson:
I think Sally said it extremely well. I would only add that I know we’re not talking about renewable energy and other efficiency measures, but obviously the tremendous potential of a green economy with President Obama has been talking about is going to be massive new green well paying jobs for this country and the key there is technology.
And I didn’t answer the previous question although just gave this link. But I think a big danger that we have in job creation and making sure that we get into a green economy and creating jobs is we need bipartisanship again in our environmental policies. We don’t have it in this country.
We’re going to face a lot of these issues that are so important cap and trade climate change and new energy bill whatever. If there is a way that we can bring a new bipartisanship conservation ethos, that’s going to be critically important.
Secretary Salazar:
Governor Richardson, I agree with you but let me push you just a little bit on this question. Here is jobs and New Mexico. I don’t have the statistics for New Mexico but I know for Montana 11 million visitors a year but they only have a million people in population.
I know the great places in New Mexico that people go and fish and hunt and bike and hike. What does that all mean to a governor relative to the economic wherewithall of your state?
Governor Richardson:
Well, for me it means gross receipt taxes that mean jobs. We’re trying to develop a new eco-tourism plan for our state instead of focusing on traditional tourists on where you link recreation and wilderness to culture and the Native American tribes.
I think we have to think differently also, but to me as a governor in our state compared to others with unemployment has done relatively well that are strong basis has been the federal fact that we have excellent hunting and fishing and trails. The wildlife corridor we created between us and your state is going to be more tourism, more sustainable hunting.
This is going to mean protecting the habitat of the elk. That’s tourism that brings in jobs. I would have also just one last point Ken. The stimulus program for governors for states was great, but think if there is another one and I don’t know if there is, of a CC Civilian Conservation plan for people hired.
Secretary Salazar:
A good point. Let me just bring Gary into the conversation; we have Governor Richardson spoke about the wildlife migration corridors that he and Governor Ritter from Colorado have been working on. And you spoke with eloquence about what the place will look like in 2050 with all of those wild species.
How do we connect up the landscapes that we have, the kind of wildlife corridors that Governor Richardson and Governor Ritter in Colorado have been talking about. How do you look the nation as a whole? How do we connect them up? Public lands, you have private lands, you have states, local lands. How do we connect them up as a nation?
Gary Myers:
I think your LCC idea is going to be real helpful and it’s partnerships as what it is. The hard part for me is I’ve looked at things from the wildlife perspective and I want to do that. What does the wildlife need to be here 50 years from now all of them over in say the Lower Mississippi Valley?
Figure it out, let’s see what it looks like and let’s see if we can do it. And leaving the land owner out, leaving the mayors out, leaving the politicians out and you get in trouble doing that. That’s not the way you do it. You really need to work with the communities.
You need to work with the mayors. You need to involve everybody in some of these decisions making so having…
Secretary Salazar:
Having the ground up by cooperative efforts with stakeholders around the table to be able to connect dots, the…
Gary Myers:
Lots of partners and there are very bright partners. These guys that live in these places really know and we need their input as we develop what these landscapes should look like.
Secretary Salazar:
Gary, you and I are a little different generation here than Ernesto Pepito. He raised a point. We don’t have lot of young people involved with us yet here others are talking about the time for new Civilian Conservation Core for America. How do we bring in young people into the great outdoors given your history what would be a recommendation?
Gary Myers:
Well, I think that in our business, we are interested in the hunting and fishing side. Come and buy a license, help us manage this resource. If you quit coming you quit buying a license, we go out of business because we need these kids so as a wildlife agency to keep our fees as low as we can practically keep them. We need to eliminate the barriers as much as we can with age restrictions and things like that.
And I think that we need to work with our industry groups like there’s I guess elastic sporting clays where you work with some of the shooting industries and you put that in a high school and you have competition and that’s one high school competing against another. Girls shooting these guns in high schools lose the fear of guns...
Secretary Salazar:
Well, starting them early.
Gary Myers:
But a partnership with all of the different branches of industry, a partnership with the different sportsman’s groups. Ducks Unlimited has a program where they work with kids. I trapped turkeys in Colorado when I first went to work for the game and fish there.
Gary Myers:
And my job was to just catch the birds, move them somewhere else, turn them loose and I did that up in the Uncompahgre Plateau. Nobody saw me doing it.
Then 30 years later, here comes the Turkey Federation to Nashville and they want us to go trap some turkeys and they want to bring the school kids out and they take the school kids and hand them a turkey. This is what a turkey feels like. Here are his spurs.
He’s how you age them. This is a boy. This is a girl. Turn them loose. Those little kids ate that up and I’m thinking I never thought of that.
Secretary Salazar:
Those are great experiences. Now Ernesto, I want you to respond here how we do that with more young people. You’re representing the young people of America here today. I think probably everybody here would say, that’s probably our biggest challenge is how do we get young people involved in this great marvel of the planet and the great outdoors. Let me ask you the question more specifically.
Are young people in this country from your point of view interested in these kinds on things that our own Department of Interior try to create our version of a 21st land conservation core we have 15,000 jobs, billions of volunteer opportunities.
How best do we go about reaching out to young people to connect them out here? Are they interested?
Ernesto Pepito:
They actually are interested and I’m a perfect example. I didn’t grew up loving America’s Great Outdoors or even going camping or even recycling or anything like that. I wasn’t a part of my culture growing up and it was that simple introduction through employment through a summer opportunity that really engaged me for a life long dedication to this work and working with young people.
I personally would love seeing young people catch turkeys rather than at shooting range, but that’s my personal opinion. I challenge the idea that young people are different than they were before. I believe young people are still excited, can still be inspired by the same things that they were 50 years ago.
And so going outdoors, having the chance to play, having a chance to have a park in their neighborhood that safe, having a garden in their neighborhood that they could learn about where their food comes from.
These things are things that aren’t different in my opinion. They just need the opportunities and it’s unfortunate because I think we got so cut off in restoring this land that we forget about who we’re restoring this land for and who’s going to protect this land later.
So I just think a reinvestment in young people as far as their leadership and true engagement not just for a photo app, not just for a volunteer opportunity on one Saturday but a true long term relationship with a young person and young people in general will get this done quickly.
Secretary Salazar:
Thank you Ernesto. Thank you.
Bill? Sally has a comment, but let me ask you this from historical perspective. You look at the Civilian Conservation Corp, it was one of the cornerstones if you will that bring this country out of from the brink. How do you replicate that now in the year 2010 and we get young people involved in the work of the Great Outdoors?
Bill Cronin:
Well, I think we look to the inspirations of the Preston Park. We talked a lot today about Teddy Roosevelt’s era and I think we sometimes forget that he was actually grappling with some of the exactly the same concerns and here I’m agreeing very strongly.
The moment in the early 20th century that he was addressing was worrying about kids becoming too urban. He actually was precisely worried about where our kids going to have matrix experience and there’s a movement in the early 20th century called Nature Study which transforms school curricula across the United States.
Any of you who grew up planting beans and mayonnaise jars in schools and planting those or doing Nature Study Curricula. And Teddy Roosevelt also founded the Country Life Commission to try to speak about kids on farms and try to figure out what life in rural areas would look like.
The CCC is part of that tradition and in my generation I grew up riding the interstate highways to get to national parks and wilderness areas in the west to first experience New Mexico, to first experience Colorado and have my experience out in those landscapes.
I think one of the biggest challenges is just not the lure or the virtual and the screened reality that a lot of kids grow up in. It's actually that we now fly to get to destinations rather than to travel the ground that lies in between where you get to know the whole American nation.
So for me one of the virtues of programs like yours or like the CCC is getting people out on to all parts of the land not just to particular locations but experiencing what stewardship work in interior, in agriculture, on the federal lands, on the private lands, in cities, in rural areas and wilderness.
How kids can know that they can make a difference because the last thing I’d say just to support Ernesto again is the kids really want to believe that they can do something real, that they can really make a difference. Not just a play thing, not just a school thing, but that they can really make a difference. And there are few more real projects in the world than sustaining America for the future.
So think all the work that everybody in this room does asking how your agency, how your organization can give kids real experience if this is your point. Real experience is where they can make a difference, where they can know they’re doing something that changes the world, that’s what this inspiration does. That’s what the CCC did.
Secretary Salazar:
Sally Jewell.
Sally Jewell:
Yeah, I have spoken with the secretary before about is there a way we can bring back the CCC and of course the army was involved. It was all men, most of them 19 years old.
They did incredible work that what was so clear about that work was a lifelong connection to place that our prior panel talked about as well. One of the most famous politicians in the Washington State history our three term governor and then Senator Dan Evans was telling a story not too long ago. He’s now in his mid 80's, still very, very active.
And I’ve been involved in this program called the Mountain Side Green Wave which is a green space along the I-90 Corridor rapidly urbanizing area. And was talking to Dan about our work there and he said, “You know, every time that I drove along I-90, I look for my tree,” and I said, “Your tree?”
And he said, “Yes.” He said, “I have a tree that you can see as you drive along I-90 that’s now 72 years old or 74 years old now because I planted it when I was 10 years old.” So that connection to place that affected Dan and affected the CCC is something that Ernesto is doing in the Golden Gate Conservancy.
The Student Conservation Association is doing in national parks and local lands all around. Earth Corp and my neck of the woods are taking young people out. So it’s not maybe the same way it was Mr Secretary with the CCC where the army helped mobilize,
but we have the corp network a non-profit group of youth conservation cores all over this country that are making this happen. I just want to give a nod to Raul Grijalva a congressman from Arizona for the legislation he just passed on the public land service corp.
In house companion bill in the senate by Senator Bingaman begins to bring this back. If we can mobilize as conservationist, environmentalist and business people to support the kind of work that Ernesto does, we can have the kind of impact I think that the CCC did by leveraging these partnerships with non-profit organizations because the kids are out there. They want to work.
They’re underemployed or unemployed and they don’t have the connection to land that many of us wish that they would have and this is just a way to help our crumbling infrastructure as well as provide jobs and connections to that place. So there’s just no better thing I think that we could be working on.
Secretary Salazar:
Thank you Sarah. Thank you.
To the two Bills, Bill Cronin and Bill Richardson, just very quickly and just very quick because we’re at the end of our time, historic and cultural preservation is a big issue for this country, huge economic development you know that from your history to city of Santa Fe.
What role does historical cultural preservation play into that we ought to be looking at in terms of the future of America and its outdoors and our young people?
Bill Cronin:
Well, I think everybody in this room can tell from what I said first that for me the project of protecting history and culture and protecting nature are not separate projects, they are not divided from each other. They are the same project and that same project is heritage. It’s about reflecting where we came from as a nation, that’s what our history is. That’s our shared story.
However much we may have conflicted with each other in that story, it is finally the story that made us one nation, one people out of many one. And so cultural and historical preservation is about making sure that the benchmarks of that journey we’ve made together, whether they happened in nature or that they happened in cities, whether they happened in culture, we recognize at all times how they’re connected with each other and that’s a very powerful stories.
It’s a very moving story. And learning how to help Americans remember the way that they can tell that story together that seems to me the one of the core missions of certainly the National Park Service have had from it’s founding act. And it’s what a lot of the interior projects have always been about, it's about helping Americans remember who they are. That’s what shared heritage, shared culture, shared history is.
Secretary Salazar:
Thank you Bill, governor.
Governor Bill Richardson:
And that means too obviously the importance of historic and cultural preservation in the state like mine multi cultured state with great traditions. But as part of that, I want to emphasize one important point and that is that about 20 years ago when I was a congressman, I had a very good relationship with the environmental community but I made them mad once, very mad.
I said, “You’re all asking me here to, I think it was the Malpi, make it a National Conservation and I like that idea. But you’re a movement that’s lilly- white. I don’t see one Hispanic, Native American or African Americans among you and what are you going to do about it? And I think I had seen in the last 15, 20 years a very strong integration of minorities in the environmental movement.
And I’ve mentioned that because if we’re going to have bipartisan support but if we’re going to have a base of conservation leaders, it has to include the people that Corey Booker talked about in Newark.
It has to include my friend over here. It has to include the Native Americans that they hesitated in engaging because they’re worried about sovereignty and this is the enormous delight that I’m sitting next to the first Hispanic secretary of the interior. A proud generational leader in the west and I think that’s what I see of the real importance of the historical and cultural preservation is who we are bringing us all of us into this movement.
Secretary Salazar:
To Bill Cronin whose historical writings have informed us here today and who will continue to inform us as we move forward with this crusade on conservation, thank you for joining us Bill Cronin.
To Sally Jewell who brings voice to the business community to be heard loud and strong across the halls of the captive and all over the places of America that we love so much. Sally Jewell, thank you for what you do.
And Gary Myers really who inspired people like Sam Hamilton to say that we must connect the landscapes, thank you for your service to our nation and thank you for being with us here today. Thank you for leading the way.
And Ernesto Pepito for standing up for the young people of America so eloquently today who I believe will be one of the next or perhaps president of the United States of America. Ernesto Pepito, thank you so much.
Thank you Ernesto. We’re starting our campaign and you know Bill tried it didn’t quite get there but we’re ready to go with you. [Laughter] Bruce Babbitt tried it, we’re ready to go. I love you Bruce. Hey seriously, seriously part of this let’s get in shape. Let’s move an agenda over the first lady.
We have canceled lunch for everybody for the rest of the year.
So this is all part of that agenda that the first lady has asked us to work on. But very seriously your lunches are waiting in your breakout sessions. There are 12 breakout rooms and I think they are ways and directions that people have all given you. It’s important that you go there because what we will do is we will take all that information as Nancy and Lisa and Tom and Bob Gates and everybody else is involved with us to move forward.
This is the last time that we have the whole entire group assembled. So I just want to say first of all is it has been a wonderful adventure in putting this together. I want all of the people who have worked with Secretary Vilsack including the Undersecretary Sherman. Robert Bonnie. All of the Department of Agriculture people please stand up and let’s give them a round of applause. Please stand.
and to Nancy Sutley and Mike Boots and all of the other people who are here for the Council of Environmental Quality in White House, please stand.
And Lisa Jackson and all of her people from the EPA our sister please stand up. We’re going to hear from you, we’re going to hear from others later on. Thank you so much.
Now, the Army Corps of Engineers is telling me that they have more visitors than they do in their facilities and than we do on our 400 million who come to see our national parks, our BLM lands etcetera. I don’t believe them but Jo Ellen Darcy and all the army core of engineers please stand up. Let’s give them a round of applause.
And to the Department of Defense thank you so much because we have so much because we have so much that we share with the Department of Defense on so many of our issues here. Thank you also for being a part of this the Department of Commerce of the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration Jane Lubchenco and her people many of whom are here today please stand. If you are still here you are the best. Thank you. Thank you very much.
You know the days ahead for us are full of excitement and vigor and energy and we’ll use this today as the launching pad for the work ahead. And we will be in communities across this country from the Everglades to the Crown of the Rockies to San Francisco's Bay Delta.
All over these great United States of America in the days and weeks and months ahead as we formulate the kind of conservation agenda that the president has asked us to formulate. He was clear in his message to all of us this morning. This is a priority for President Barack Obama and for all of us who are very much a part of his team.
Let me just say that our work has just began. We are dreaming very much about this 21st century conservation agenda. And for all of you who know Barack Obama and his team, results matter. We will get it done and we’ll get it done in the kind of unity spirit that Governor Richardson talked about.
Republicans and democrats standing together as one nation saying that this planet and this place which has been so much the creator of the best ideas for conservation of the United States America will continue to leads in the 21st century. Thank you all very, very much.