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.