Department Of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Mark Pfeifle
For Immediate Release:October 31, 2003

Interior Supports HealthierUS at New York Marathon
Promotes Recreation on Public Lands

FT. WADSWORTH NATIONAL PARK, NY-As part of the President's HealthierUS initiative, the U.S. Department of the Interior has begun an outreach campaign to promote the use of its public lands for recreational activity.

"The President's HealthierUS initiative is based on the premise that increasing personal fitness and becoming healthier is critical to achieving a better and longer life," said Interior Secretary Gale Norton. "The U.S. Department of the Interior is committed to the achievement of this goal through promoting recreational activity on all of its public lands."

Beginning the New York City Marathon on National Park Service land is a way to emphasize that goal.

The Department is one of five Government agencies charged with implementing the President's HealthierUS initiative. The others are the Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Transportation, and the Army Corps of Engineers.

News reports this week from the U.S. Centers for Disease, Control and Prevention, place obesity as the number one killer in the United States. The leading causes of death are heart disease followed by cancer, stroke, lung disease and accidents. Obesity is the leading cause of the top three killers, surpassing tobacco. The report went on to explain that 65 percent of adults in America were either overweight or obese.

The Interior Department does not make health recommendations. But it is well known that recreational activity, like walking and hiking, is a way to lose pounds, improve cardiovascular health, lower cholesterol levels, decrease blood pressure and relieve stress.

The Department manages one in every five acres in this country. Those acres include 542 wildlife refuges, miles and miles of public use lands and 388 national park units. Within the parks alone, there are 750 miles of paved trails and 12,000 miles of unpaved trails.

"Public lands are not just grizzlies and geysers." explained Secretary Norton. "Here in New York, you can take a walk to the General Grant National Memorial. Or you can try mountain biking in Saratoga National Park, or even hiking along the Appalachian Trail."

Closely related is the Interior Department's "Take Pride in America" campaign, which provides opportunities and encourages volunteers across the country to help repair and restore facilities and lands. These activities also contribute to healthier lifestyles with activities such as restoring trails and clearing paths.

There is a trail, park or refuge nearby in almost every region of the country where people can enjoy hiking, camping, climbing and biking. As Secretary Norton says, "It's not just about caring for the public lands; it's about caring for the people who use them."



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