A rugged, whitewater river flowing northward through deep canyons, the New River is among the oldest rivers on the continent. New River Gorge National River in West Virginia encompasses over 70,000 acres of land along the New River, is rich in cultural and natural history, and offers an abundance of scenic and recreational opportunities.
Big Southern Butte is one of two domes rising from a sea of basalt near the center of the eastern Snake River Plain in Idaho. The butte is one of the largest volcanic domes in the world, but at 300,000 years old it is also one of the youngest. Hikers who trek to the 7,550-foot high summit are rewarded with spectacular panoramic views. Photo by Devin Englestead, BLM Upper Snake Wildlife Biologist.
First light at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Established in November 22, 1939, the refuge has provided a critical stopover and wintering spot for thousands of sandhill cranes, geese and other waterfowl for 75 years. Bosque del Apache's sandhill crane population has multiplied from 18 birds in the 1840s to more than 20,000 birds today. Photo by Kim Hang Dessoliers (www.sharetheexperience.org).
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.