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 Oklahoma 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.
Possible establishment of a national park at the site of the largest Civil War battle in Oklahoma and expanding recreational access to the Blue River 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 the state of Oklahoma, 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 Oklahoma 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 Oklahoma highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:
Honey Springs Battlefield Park
Some 1,200 acres of Oklahoma Historical Society-owned land makes up Honey Springs Battlefield Park, site of the largest Civil War engagement in Oklahoma. Multi-cultural Civil War soldiers, including American Indians, fought side by side on Honey Springs Battlefield. Preserving the region's remarkable cultural history is of state and national significance.
The Honey Springs Battlefield Park project complements AGO goals by preserving this important historic landmark for both educational and recreational purposes. Increased access and improved park infrastructure are the project's highlights. This will draw more tourism and enhance the visitor experience. Guests can learn about the war's profound effect on the American Indian population. They can explore Oklahoma's wildlife while traversing the park along miles of hiking and biking trails. McIntosh and Muskogee counties and the Oklahoma Historical Society support improving the park, as do local stakeholders.
The 141-mile-long Blue River, one of Oklahoma's few remaining free-flowing rivers, lies within jurisdictional boundaries of the Chickasaw Nation Indian Tribe and is also part of the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer. It is within 150 miles of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and 175 miles of Oklahoma City and their large, diverse urban populations. Chickasaw National Recreation Area, Tishomingo National Wildlife Refuge, and Tishomingo National Fish Hatchery are both located nearby and would benefit from watershed-protection measures for the river.
Blue River Wildlife Management Area is next to the river, and the river corridor offers abundant recreational opportunities, including hiking, camping, hunting, canoeing, and fishing. Trout are stocked in the stream, and in cooler winter months the Blue River is a premier Oklahoma trout-fishing destination. It is also a significant smallmouth bass fishery year-round.
The Blue River project furthers AGO goals through the protection of additional critical natural areas for wildlife migration and expanding and improving access to the river for public use and enjoyment.
The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In Oklahoma, for example, the Department could support designation of Honey Springs as a National Battlefield Park. The Department could also designate the Blue River as a National Blueway and provide technical or financial support for expanding and improving river access.
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.