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 Wisconsin 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 proposed Lake Michigan Trail as a National Water Trail and expanding the Ice Age Trail 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. Scott Walker and the state of Wisconsin, 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 Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:
Lake Michigan Trail
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is working with the National Park Service, other federal agencies, and the Bay Lake Regional Planning Commission to develop a new, 450-mile water trail along the Lake Michigan shoreline. This trail will become the state's second longest and will increase public access to the trail and along the shoreline.
A campaign to start in 2012 will engage local communities and private affiliates to help acquire land for and build the new trail. The four states bordering Lake Michigan are also working to expand on the National Recreation Trail designation that exists on a portion of the lake. The partnership would support AGO priorities by enhancing recreational access and opportunities and engaging citizens in conservation and the great outdoors.
Ice Age Trail
The variety of recreation options within a one-hour drive of Madison — the state capital — make the Baraboo Hills/Devil's Lake area a hub for outdoor activity that serves more than 1.7 million visitors a year. The area combines unique geologic features, diverse fauna, prehistoric effigy mounds, historic Civilian Conservation Corps buildings, and spectacular scenery.
The Baraboo Hills, long recognized as ecologically unique and valuable, host many preserves, state natural areas, and two state parks. The National Park Service designated the southern range of the Baraboo Hills as a National Natural Landmark in 1980. Various organizations, including the University of Wisconsin, Baraboo Range Preservation Association, and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources have formed a strong conservation partnership and protected thousands of acres through acquisitions and easements.
One such partnership is the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, a collaboration between the National Park Service, state of Wisconsin, and Ice Age Trail Alliance. They work together on trail management and development for the Ice Age Trail. One of only 11 national scenic trails in the United States, Ice Age Trail stretches for 1,200 miles across Wisconsin. State and local partners are working to connect trail segments through strategic conservation easements. This project supports several AGO goals, including large landscape conservation, preservation of natural and culturally significant areas, and support for creative public-private partnerships.
The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In Wisconsin, for example, the Department could provide technical and financial assistance for site development, signage, and land and easement acquisition needed for public access to the Lake Michigan Water Trail. The Department could also expand the Ice Age Trail through strategic conservation easements.
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.