The Department of Interior has released the final 50-State America’s Great Outdoors Report

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We humans love being in and around water and this report underscores that association with the majority of projects dealing with waterways and wetlands. Here’s the link to the report. Here’s the release:

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today released a final 50-State America’s Great Outdoors Report outlining more than 100 of the country’s most promising projects designed to protect special places and increase access to outdoor spaces. The full report – which contains two projects per state – comes as part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) initiative to establish a community-based, 21st century agenda for conservation, recreation, and reconnecting Americans to the outdoors.

“We have listened to the American people and their elected representatives about the most important things we can do to conserve our land and water and reconnect people, especially young people, to the outdoors,” Salazar said. “These projects represent 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 nation.”

The full list released today includes:

24 projects to restore and provide recreational access to rivers and other waterways – such as establishing the Connecticut River as a National Blueway and expanding recreational opportunities at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers in the Twin Cities;

23 projects to construct new trails or improve recreational sites – such as completing gaps in the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin and expanding the multi-use Shingle Creek Trail in Florida;

20 projects that will create and enhance urban parks – such as rehabilitating wetlands habitat and building new outdoor recreational opportunities on Chicago’s South Side and increasing river access at Roberto Clemente State Park and restoring the Harlem River in the Bronx; and

13 projects that will restore and conserve America’s most significant landscapes – such as conserving Montana’s Crown of the Continent, establishing the Flint Hills of Kansas as a new easement-based conservation area, and conserving the native grasslands of North and South Dakota.

The list also includes 11 initiatives requested by states to establish new national wildlife refuges, national park units and other federal designations; five projects that will assist states and communities to protect key open space; and five initiatives to educate young people and connect them to nature.

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. Key stakeholders that were engaged in the conversation included private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor-recreation and conservation groups.

Interior Department agencies will work with states and communities to advance the projects with existing resources through technical support and with their administrative authorities, and coordinate among each of its key bureaus – including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – and, where possible, other federal agencies, to direct available resources and personnel to make tangible progress on these projects. They will also partner with states and communities to leverage grants, private funding and other resources.

In the next month, the Secretary will identify a Department official to lead each project. Those individuals will be held accountable for the development of an action plan, in collaboration with local stakeholders; and the advancement of that plan during the next year.

When President Obama launched the AGO last year, he assigned the Secretaries of the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality to lead the initiative.

Based on the extensive listening sessions, the federal agencies submitted to the President “America’s Great Outdoors: A Promise to Future Generations,” a report which defines an action plan for conservation and recreation in the 21st century.

Among the goals set forth in the report were better focusing the conservation and recreation efforts of the federal government by creating and enhancing urban parks and green spaces, renewing and restoring rivers, and conserving large, rural landscapes.

“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.”

To view the full report, see below or click here.

To download a PDF of the report, click here.

To view a map of the projects announced, click here.

For more information on the President’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, click here.

Here’s the description of the Rocky Mountain Greenway project in Colorado from the report:

As a result of decades of private, local, state, and federal investment, significant areas of open land are now protected and available for public use in and around the Denver metropolitan area. This investment includes establishment of 40,000 acres of parks and open space, creation of over 140 miles of trails, and completion of water quality and recreation improvements within the Denver metro greenway system. There has been significant federal, state, and local investment in the cleanup and restoration of the Rocky Flats and Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuges, as well as private and public investment in the creation of Confluence and Commons parks in the Central Platte Valley in Denver. An investment of $100 million in these environmental and recreational improvements has created an estimated $10 billion of related economic benefits.

To maximize the benefit of these disparate assets, federal, state, and local partners want to create links to creeks, river corridors, and local, state, and federal parks and open space areas. The state and DOI are joining forces to create a “Rocky Mountain Greenway”—a system of uninterrupted trails linking the three national wildlife refuges in the metro region (Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, Two Ponds NWR, and Rocky Flats NWR) and other trail systems in the Denver Metro Region. The NPS also will explore creating connections from Rocky Mountain National Park to the Denver metro area.

Potential Action: Provide technical and financial support to connect the three national wildlife refuges in the metro region. Provide financial assistance for water quality and riparian habitat improvements and for work to extend trails and open space along the South Platte River and Sand Creek Greenway.

Partners: FWS, NPS, State of Colorado, local governments, and nonprofit and private sector partners.

Here’s the description of the Yampa River Basin project from the report:

The Yampa River Basin in northwestern Colorado is one of the most hydrologically and biologically intact watersheds in the West. As the largest naturally flowing river in Colorado, the Yampa hosts high-quality recreational experiences for boaters and fisherman. It provides roosting and nesting habitat for the sandhill crane, blue heron, and bald eagle. The river is also vital winter habitat for Colorado’s second largest elk herd, and large deer herds, making the area a world-class hunting destination.

Good stewardship and conservation of these lands and waters—both public and private—is critical to ensuring strong local economies built around ranching, wildlife, and recreation that contribute greatly to the economic and ecological health of the state of Colorado and the Colorado River basin as a whole. Two recent successes in the area include 61,485 acres of private land on 131 different properties that have been placed under conservation easement and extensive public and private investment in the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program. The creation of the Yampa River State Park, the reconstruction of important buildings at Dinosaur National Monument, and recreation improvements at Elkhead Reservoir are the first of many steps that will help spur tourism, recreation, jobs, and greater public use, all goals of AGO. The stronger and better coordination among governments at all levels and local communities afforded by AGO will help leverage current resources to increase the pace and scale of future accomplishments, including voluntary conservation of working agriculture lands, invest- ment in forest management and wildlife corridors, and support for a diverse and sustainable outdoor recreation economy.

Potential action: Support the acquisition of conservation easements from willing sellers. Increase efforts to control invasive vegetation that seriously threatens important river val- ues, and work at the headwaters of the river to conserve and promote important fisheries.

Partners: BLM, FWS, NPS, State of Colorado, county and local governments, land conservation groups, veterans organizations, and youth corps.

More coverage from Wendy Koch writing for USA Today. From the article:

To reconnect Americans to nature, the Obama administration is promoting 100 projects nationwide — two in each states — such as new urban parks, wildlife refuges and walking trails as well as completing gaps in Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail and restoring the Bronx’ Harlem River.

The projects are part of President Obama’s Great Outdoors Initiative, announced last year, and result from 50 meetings between state leaders and senior federal officials. They won’t receive new federal funding but technical support and guidance.

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