Virginia State Parks Director Joe Elton attended the White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors on April 16, 2010. In addition to President Barack Obama, other Administration leaders participating in the conference included the Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Wilsack, Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality Nancy Sutley and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson.
The conference focused on the valuable role working landscapes, cultural sites, parks, coasts, wild lands, rivers and streams play in the life of our nation. The President said, “these places are gifts that we have inherited from previous generations. They are the places that offer us refuge from daily demands… renew our spirits, and enhance our fondest memories, whether they are fishing with a grandchild in a favorite spot, hiking a trail with a friend, or enjoying a family picnic in a neighborhood park. They also are our farms, ranches and forests – the working lands that have fed and sustained us for generations. Americans take pride in these places and share a responsibility to preserve them for our children and grandchildren.”
According to Joe Elton there were about 400 people from around the country participating in the conference and in addition to several panel discussions the afternoon was devoted to break out sessions where diverse groups of people representing the broad spectrum of outdoor recreation and conservation agencies and non governmental organizations, as well as those whose families are involved in various ranching and farming discussed best ways for America to capitalize on the health and economic benefits outdoor recreation and conservation provide the country.
National Association of State Outdoor Recreation Liaison Officers. These groups hope President Obama will return the proper split of these taxpayer funds so local and state parks can acquire the land and build the facilities needed in the 21st century.
Health officials and medical experts report that obesity is a national epidemic that has hit our children hard. Sedentary lifestyles lacking outdoor recreation, unhealthy diets, too much time engaged in video games and other societal issues have officials saying the generation of kids being born today will likely be the first in American history that won’t outlive their parents. This epidemic can be fought close to home in local and state parks where fun outdoor recreation opportunities can provide the aerobic exercise needed for a healthy lifestyle. The challenges facing urban, suburban and state parks is paramount during this great recession and the federal government can bring some relief to the states through the Stateside Assistance Program.
Joe Elton had a chance to talk with Bruce Babbitt, a former Arizona Governor and 47th United States Secretary of Interior serving under President Clinton. They have a mutual friend who served on Babbitt’s staff while he was governor.