A White House conference is scheduled for Friday to examine the links between conservation and local economies, tourism, outdoor recreation, and "healthy lands, waters and wildlife."
The conference is intended to "spotlight the community-driven conservation efforts that have taken root across the country and to discuss how to build on their success. The conference, Growing America’s Outdoor Heritage and Economy, will explore the link between conservation and strong local economies through tourism, outdoor recreation, and healthy lands, waters and wildlife."
Invited to attend are a range of boaters, hunters, anglers, farmers, ranchers, land conservationists, historic preservationists, outdoor recreationists, small business owners, local governments, tribal leaders and other key stakeholders from around the nation "to strengthen partnerships and identify next steps in spurring and supporting successful conservation projects," a release from the Interior Department said.
In advance of that conference, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Wednesday an initiative to develop a system of "National Water Trails."
“Rivers, lakes, and other waterways are the lifeblood of our communities, connecting us to our environment, our culture, our economy, and our way of life,” the secretary said in a release. “The new National Water Trail System will help fulfill President Obama’s vision for healthy and accessible rivers as we work to restore and conserve our nation’s treasured waterways.”
Secretary Salazar signed a Secretarial Order that establishes national water trails as a class of national recreational trails under the National Trails System Act of 1968. The order sets the framework for Secretarial designation of water trails that will help facilitate outdoor recreation on waterways in and around urban areas, and provide national recognition and resources to existing, local water trails.
“The Corps will actively participate, working with many local partners, to develop the water trails system and connect people to the water resources close to their homes,” said Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works. “The National Water Trails System will recognize and promote local efforts at a national level.”
The first river designated as a "National Water Trail" under that order is the Chattahoochee River Water Trail in Georgia. The water trail travels along 48 miles of river within the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.
The park serves 3.2 million visitors annually, most from the local Atlanta metro-region. In addition to providing over 65 percent of the public greenspace in this urban region, the river provides most of Atlanta’s drinking water. The park and new water trail contain 18 developed public access points and connects with other local city and county parks. The river is heavily used by anglers, tubers, kayakers, canoers, and rafters.
“The Chattahoochee River Water Trail provides clean water, greenspace, and river access for millions of Americans every year,” Secretary Salazar said. “As our nation opens a new chapter on rivers - one where we value our waterways for their recreational, economic and ecological importance - it is fitting that the Chattahoochee River Water Trail leads the way.”
With each designation, signage, technical assistance and resources will be provided to build on and promote the development of quality water trails. Water trails that are designated can become catalysts for restoring the health of local waterways throughout the community.
The National Trails System Act of 1968 authorized the creation of a National Trails System composed of National Recreation Trails, National Scenic Trails and National Historic Trails. Although National Scenic Trails and National Historic Trails may only be designated by an Act of Congress, National Recreation Trails may be designated by the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture.
Under the Secretarial Order, the National Park Service will coordinate the national water trail nomination process.