President Obama recently announced his America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, a collaborative effort to seek the best ideas on conservation, how these ideas can be pursued in partnership with local communities, and how the administration can be more responsible stewards and promote conservation. To seek input from stakeholders, listening sessions have been scheduled across the country, including a very important one on Friday June 25 in Annapolis for the Chesapeake Bay region.
The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) wants to ensure national parks play a prominent role in any forward-thinking conservation initiative.
According to NPCA the following concepts are related to the Chesapeake Bay watershed:
– In the Chesapeake watershed, Shenandoah and 50 other national parks anchor larger landscapes of America’s history and heritage. The future of national park wildlife and water quality depends upon the health of the larger natural systems within the Chesapeake region. Vital connections between national parks, other protected areas, and private lands must be preserved — and in some areas, established — to protect plants and wildlife, the landscapes of our shared cultural history, inspiring scenic views, clean water, and water access for recreation. The Administration must lead policies and funding to preserve and protect the meaningful, beautiful landscapes of the Chesapeake region. Such policies should include thoughtfully expanding existing parks such as Petersburg National Battlefield, and providing reliable funding for easements on private lands that help protect park wildlife.
– Our national parks serve as outdoor classrooms where history comes to life and lifelong learning takes place. Students can learn about the Civil War while walking across hallowed ground at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, or explore a forest’s ecosystem while hiking the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The Administration must support and significantly grow successful service learning and other educational programs so that Americans, young and old, have an opportunity to learn about America’s history and heritage in our national parks and public lands.
– We can already see the impacts of climate change on the Chesapeake region through sea level rise and the intensity of storms. Now more than ever, the Administration must protect and work to connect our Chesapeake landscapes so that plants, wildlife, rivers and streams, and our surrounding communities can adapt to the impacts of climate change.
-Every federal dollar invested in national parks returns at least four dollars in economic activity in local communities. In the height of our country’s economic downturn, visitation to our national parks increased by 4 percent in 2009. Despite these facts, our national parks are severely underfunded. The Administration should provide our national parks the operating, maintenance, and land protection funds they need to protect these national treasures for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.
– In the Mid-Atlantic’s Chesapeake region, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a conservation program, has funded many land protection projects. Examples include lands critical to protecting history-soaked landscapes such as Gettysburg National Military Park and Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. The Administration must lead efforts to protect America’s national parks and other public lands by fully meeting authorized funding levels for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
For more additional information on America’s Great Outdoors and the Annapolis listening session, see: