Located 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii, the National Park of American Samoa is the most remote unit of the National Park System and the U.S. National Park south of the Equator. The Park spreads across three islands, 9,500 acres of tropical rainforest, and 4,000 acres of ocean, including coral reefs. While remote, the islands of American Samoa, true to the meaning of the word Samoa (Islands of Sacred Earth), are welcoming and offer beautiful landscapes and centuries of culture and history.
Seasoned backpacker and adventurer Yang Lu earned the grand prize in the 2015 Share the Experience photo contest with this image of a sunburst captured at sunrise in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah. Yang has made the outdoors part of his daily life and finds deep connection to the land through his lens.
“My photography is not just for recreation, it is to inspire people to explore these areas." -- Yang Lu
Photo by Yang Lu (www.sharetheexperience.org).
The plantings of cherry trees originated in 1912 as a gift of friendship to the People of the United States from the People of Japan. In Japan, the flowering cherry tree, or "Sakura," is an exalted flowering plant. The beauty of the cherry blossom is a potent symbol equated with the evanescence of human life and epitomizes the transformation of Japanese culture throughout the ages.
AMERICA'S GREAT OUTDOORS: Salazar Highlights Two Proposed Projects in Alabama to Promote Outdoor Recreation, Conservation
Projects Will Be Part of 50-State Report
WASHINGTON — Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining some of the country's most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted two projects in the state of Alabama that will be included in the final report — representing what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands, and create travel, tourism and outdoor-recreation jobs across the country.
Landscape restoration and conservation along the Gulf Coast and developing environmental education for Alabama's youth are among 100 projects nationwide that will be highlighted in next week's report — two in every state — as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the outdoors.
The report is a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Gov. Robert Bentley and the state of Alabama, as well as private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor-recreation and conservation stakeholders. The full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.
“Under the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of Alabama and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states, and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”
The two projects in Alabama highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:
Gulf Coast Restoration
The Gulf Coastal Plain of Alabama, more than 31,000 square miles and home to two million people, is a key area in need of conservation. The region's wetland and pine forest ecosystems are habitat for many threatened and endangered species such as the Red Cockaded Woodpecker and Red Hills Salamander. The region is expected to see significant new development and population growth during the next 25 years, putting more pressure on these species and their habitat.
The State of Alabama has partnered with federal agencies and conservation organizations to acquire easements to conserve habitat, protect migration corridors, and enhance recreational opportunities. The partnership's primary focus is on conservation of the remaining longleaf pine ecosystem. Another important goal of this project is to provide a conservation buffer for local military activities, including “Dark Areas.”
Conservation Education for Alabama's Youth
As in many parts of the country, there is an increasing disconnect between Alabama's citizens and the outdoors. This disconnect shows up in the decreased amount of time young people are in the outdoors, the increased time they spend in front of electronic devices, and the decline in outdoor recreation like hunting and fishing.
Alabama is seeking partners to help it address this growing disconnect between people and nature, between urban and rural communities, and between youth and outdoor recreation. Opportunities include an expansion of outdoor recreation in public schools curricula, including hunter and angler education.
The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In Alabama, for example, the Department could support acquisition of conservation easements to conserve critical habitat for protected species and the continuation of military activities at Fort Rucker, Fort Benning, and Eglin Air Force Base.
The Department could also partner with the state of Alabama to develop environmental-education programs to connect young people to the outdoors.
The Department of the Interior will work with each of its key bureaus — including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — to direct available resources and personnel to make these projects a reality.
“The America's Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government's role in conservation on its head,” Salazar said. “Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally driven initiatives.”
For more information on the President's America's Great Outdoors initiative, click here.
To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.