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 Rhode Island 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.
Establishing the Blackstone River Valley Greenway and providing environmental education with the Blackstone River Valley Project 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. Lincoln Chafee and the state of Rhode Island, 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 Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:
Blackstone River Valley Greenway
The Blackstone River Valley Greenway Project will give urban and semi-rural communities access to a range of recreational experiences. These will include a water trail and bike trail along a patchwork of cityscapes, old mill villages, water features, and farmlands.
The area is part of the National Park Service's Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, which tells the story of people's historic connection to the river, including its important role in the Industrial Revolution. The state hopes to revitalize distressed and underserved communities in the watershed by highlighting the Blackstone River Greenway as a medium for other activities like ecotourism and environmental education. The project's goals match those of AGO by preserving nationally significant historical landmarks and cultural and natural landscapes, creating quality recreation and educational opportunities, and boosting local commerce with ecotourism.
The project will also build on existing, successful partnerships developed over the 25-year existence of the National Heritage Corridor. The State of Rhode Island features this project as its primary AGO priority and has gathered considerable local support.
Blackstone River Valley Project
The Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor is an important educational resource at the intersection of history and science. The waters of the Blackstone River once powered Rhode Island's Slater Mill, the first successful textile mill in America, and today the valley remains a living landscape that tells the story of the American Industrial revolution. Today, the river also provides opportunities to educate people about and connect them with the environment. It acts as an outdoor classroom for students to see native flora and fauna firsthand, and its historic role in transportation and power generation teaches lessons on natural resources management.
The river is already a popular ecotourism destination as riverboat rides and interactive school programs create opportunities for a firsthand learning experience in a historically and ecologically significant area. Improving recreation in the area through developing the Blackstone River Valley Greenway will only increase opportunities to educate people about the region as well. Developing environmental-education and resource-management programs in concert with the Greenway will foster a stewardship ethic in a new generation of river keepers. This project meets AGO goals by engaging and educating youth and their families.
The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In Rhode Island, for example, the Department could provide technical and financial assistance toward the creation and management of environmental education programs in the Blackstone River Valley. The Department also can also support the Blackstone River Valley Greenway Initiative in Rhode Island and Massachusetts through planning, technical assistance, and funding.
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.