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America's Great Outdoors: Your Chance to Speak Up


How can we best reconnect with nature and the "Great American Outdoors"? NPT file photo.

Are Americans losing touch with the rural side of life? Are we forgetting how pastoral settings appear and make us feel? Have we lost the urge to see what's on the other side of the mountain? President Obama fears so, and he's interested in your thoughts on how to get Americans reconnected with the "great outdoors."

"... we are losing touch with too many of the places and proud traditions that have helped to make America special. Farms, ranches, forests, and other valuable natural resources are disappearing at an alarming rate. Families are spending less time together enjoying their natural surroundings," the president said earlier this spring in a memo regarding America's Great Outdoors. "Despite our conservation efforts, too many of our fields are becoming fragmented, too many of our rivers and streams are becoming polluted, and we are losing our connection to the parks, wild places, and open spaces we grew up with and cherish. Children, especially, are spending less time outside running and playing, fishing and hunting, and connecting to the outdoors just down the street or outside of town."

So, what's the solution? Part of finding solutions is soliciting your ideas. In a series of listening sessions around the country, representatives from government agencies such as the Interior Department are meeting with the public to glean suggestions on how we can reconnect with nature and how we can preserve our rural landscapes and streams.

"The federal government, the nation's largest land manager, has a responsibility to engage with these partners to help develop a conservation agenda worthy of the 21st Century," President Obama noted in his memo. "We must look to the private sector and nonprofit organizations, as well as towns, cities, and states, and the people who live and work in them, to identify the places that mean the most to Americans, and leverage the support of the federal government to help these community-driven efforts to succeed. Through these partnerships, we will work to connect these outdoor spaces to each other, and to reconnect Americans to them."

If you live in the Seattle area, your chance to speak up is Thursday. From 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. there will be a listening session at Franklin High School, 3013 South Mount Baker Boulevard, in Seattle. For Los Angeles area residents, a gathering is scheduled for July 8 from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Thorne Hall, Occidental College, 1600 Campus Road in Los Angeles.

The folks at the National Parks Conservation Association hope that if you attend one of these sessions that you'll make a plug for the national parks.

The National Parks Conservation Association is calling on the Administration to give our national parks a prominent place in any forward-thinking initiative surrounding conservation in our nation. From the volcanoes in Hawaii to the Great Smoky Mountains, our national parks provide some of the best means of connecting Americans, young and old, to America’s great outdoors, and preserving the natural and cultural diversity of our nation. There are 13 National Park sites in Washington State. These parks are physical chapters of the continuing American story and they tell both happy and sad tales, but the story is not complete.


Everyone has a need for the outdoors, some need it more than others and some need it sooner than others and if you keep politics and the politicians out nature will take it’s course.

How can we prize the Great Outdoors when we see our government allowing mining and oil companies to destroy OUR public lands? They pollute OUR streams and literally tear down mountains to get at coal. They put in miles and miles of roads in OUR wilderness areas with hundreds of drilling sites destroying habitat. We have to fight to keep them out of OUR parks. So, really, why should people care?

Well, WickedLady, as the saying goes, "those who show up call the shots." In other words, if we don't care and don't make the effort to speak up, the odds become much greater against our desires/interests/wishes being addressed.

Surely, it's not an easy road to travel, but every now and then a victory is notched.

Thankfully our National Parks should always be there for people to reconnect to nature. Yet they often require a longer journey than what's in most people's backyard. A great project would include the youth of urban areas to help renovate local green spaces. Make it fun to get outside.

What I am saying is that the government needs to set an example to the people. The government needs to protect our great outdoors and let people know how precious and beautiful our wild areas are instead of letting them be destroyed in the name of the almighty buck. Sure, we can voice our opinions but unless the government takes note it does no good and who wants to go to a national park that is polluted by nearby mining, etc.

I for one am glad that many of our greatest natural resources have been kept in as pristine a state as could be reasonably achieved.

However - I am also realistic that natural resources on federal lands are used for purposes other than just scenic beauty. I'll admit my faults. I use toilet paper and use water to flush my toilet and wash my dishes, and some of my region's water supply comes right from Yosemite. I drive or fly (often to NPS sites) in vehicles using petroleum fuels and lubricants. I used consumer products made of the minerals/metals mined on federal lands. I'm typing away on my computer made with various petrochemicals and mining products, which is powered by electricity produced using (among other things) natural gas, mined uranium, dams, and wind turbines.

On my various National Park adventures, I have seen firsthand clearcut areas in Olympic National Forest as well as open pit mining of BLM lands in Utah. I know it's ugly, but I've probably benefitted from those activities when I've used products made with wood products or various metals.

I feel that one of the reasons that people don't come up into the Smoky Mountains and enjoy what they have to offer, is that they are brought to a dead standstill before they get there by Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. You would be amazed at the number of tourists that will go on vacation to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg and say that they have been to the Smokies! My personal opinion is that if Pigeon Forge was somewhere else and Gatlinburg was not the tourist mecca that it has evolved into, I feel that the mountains would be appreciated more by folks that respect it for what it actually is.
The reason that people don't get outside and enjoy the outdoors for what it is, is because we have become "technologically lazy". In other words, if it is plugged in or runs on batteries or you can charge it up, that is most folks gratification. They don't see past the beeps, buzzes, tweets, or whathaveyous, to actually enjoy their outdoor surroundings. I don't know what it would take to get people to actually get outside again, however, they are missing out on quite a bit. I know there are some folks that would argue vehemently with me about this, but imagine a wild-eyed week at work or school, then just shutting everything off and going out into the woods for a hike on the weekend. The sounds of the peace and quiet and just the beauty of nature is just cathartic to the soul. I know that it has been for me. The one positive thing that I have noticed however, is that more people are getting out and actually hiking and camping than in previous years. (At least here...). It is not overwhelming in numbers, but it is gradually increasing. Who knows? Eventually, it just might catch on again!

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