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White House Conference on Conservation


March 2, 2012


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Transcript

You’re all here for the same reason. Each of you has a deep appreciation for the incredible natural resources, the incredible bounty that we’ve been blessed with as a nation. And you’re working hard every day to make sure those resources are around for my daughters, and your children, and hopefully their children, to enjoy.

Today there is a White House conference on conservation here at the Department of the Interior. The White House is convened with the support of Department of the Interior, Agriculture, EPA, Council on Environmental Quality and the Army Corps of Engineers to bring people from all 50 states, over 500 people total from all 50 states, to join in a conversation about the great outdoors. whether it be outdoor recreation, land conservation, historic preservation, water trails, or youth employment. People from all aspects of this agenda are here today to talk about where we should go from here.

American conservation is at a crossroads right now. And the America's Great Outdoors Initiative represents a very honest attempt to address the challenges that we are going to face in the 21st century. And as well as the vast network of both public and private lands that make up our nation's traditions and our sporting heritage and allows it to exist-

There's a lot of work to be done and the secretary was talking about the Los Angeles River, the Anacostia River, the Bronx River. Those are a lot of places where people are dependent on those waterways but also there are also a lot of restoration opportunity.

With the America's Great Outdoors effort it is definitely a grass roots effort from the bottom up instead of top down. And that makes people feel like they own it. They are real stewards and they are an active part of the process, as opposed to them feeling like things are being dictated to them. So it's so important when people can look out their doors and they say "Wow, I contributed to this."

All the things that we do outdoors are essentially non-exportable. We can't export our national parks or our forest lands or our wilderness areas or our wild and scenic rivers. These are places that are uniquely American, and they provide us an incredible opportunity to get people to spend more of their disposable income in our outdoors, local parks, state parks, national parks, whatever it might be. And they are fueling the economy in a really important way.

When we go out into the great outdoors we have to buy camping equipment, we have to buy rafting equipment. We have to get instructors and pay them who teach the sport to people with disabilities. And so all of this -- we have to take hotels rooms out, we have to buy meals, buy gas. All these things generate revenue for businesses that are located in these recreation areas.

Billions of dollars have been infused into local economies as a result of our national parks and the surroundings economic opportunities they provide. There are also opportunities for people to learn about green jobs. Jobs that can't be exported as we heard earlier today from Secretary Salazar. These are jobs that we can keep at home, we can grow, and that we can train a new generation of Americans so they can become environmental stewards.

Here in the United States 192 billion dollars are pumped into the economy and it supports 1.6 million jobs. And really to keep that economy going you need conservation. You need to work with our wildlife species, keep hunters and anglers on the field. Help us support the local businesses that have a real interest in getting folks outdoors.

We've had a real tradition in country of people being connected to the land and gaining a lot of their enjoyment whether it be hiking, biking, or boating, or hunting, or fishing. These are all things that are very much a part of the American ideal.

I still remember traveling up to Yellowstone, and coming over a hill and suddenly just hundreds of deer, and seeing bison for the first time, and seeing Old Faithful. And I remember that trip giving me a sense of just how immense and how grand this country was. It gave you a sense of just what it is that makes America special. And so when I went back to Yellowstone with Ken and my daughters, it was the first time they had been, and I'm standing there, I'm thinking not only about them and the first time they're seeing this, but I'm also remembering back to when my grandmother and my mother had shown me this amazing country so many years before. And that is part of what we have to fight for. That's what's critical, is making sure that we're always there to bequeath that gift to the next generation.