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From Sea to Shining Sea, and Everything in Between

An outdoor enthusiast and businessman highlights how the America's Great Outdoors Initiative is expanding recreational opportunities, connecting Americans with the outdoors, and providing jobs and economic benefits to communities across the country.

If you ask someone to describe their favorite outdoor activity, you will get dozens of answers. And the best part is that no matter the answer, you are able to find a place to do it right here in America.

America is blessed with an amazing network of public and private lands and waters—from remote wilderness areas and local parks, to wild rivers and reservoirs, to hiking trails, bicycle paths, forests, and coastlines. Together, these places are the fabric of our nation’s outdoor recreation system that supports a $646 billion recreation economy, a quality of life that sustains local communities, and an industry that supports more than 6.1 million American jobs.

America's Great Outdoors

Gallatin National Forest, a popular recreation area in Montana's Northern Rockies (Photo Credit: Colin McWilliam, U.S. Forest Service)

It is as a businessman in the outdoor recreation industry and an outdoor enthusiast that I applaud the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative (AGO). In April 2010, the President charged his cabinet “with developing a 21st century conservation agenda.” Just this week, the Administration released the America’s Great Outdoors 2012 Progress Report, highlighting five core components:

  • Connecting Americans to the Great Outdoors
  • Expanding Access to the Great Outdoors
  • Establishing Great Urban Parks and Community Green Spaces
  • Conserving and Restoring Large Landscapes and Working Lands
  • Enhancing Rivers and Other Waters

Why does AGO matter? Well, AGO directly addresses how Americans connect and access our nation’s public lands. As it exists today, the management and funding of our nation’s public lands and waters fall under a myriad of different local, state, and federal jurisdictions and agencies. The complexity of our current system demands better communications across agencies and a holistic approach to the challenges and needs facing our public lands.  Achieving this is at the heart of AGO.

America’s Great Outdoors is about both the outdoor recreation economy and the legacy that we will leave for future generations. Our choices today honor the foresight of our nation’s earliest leaders to protect and preserve our country’s lands and waters. But more importantly, when people go outside, they directly experience this legacy in every park, trail, river, and coastline found in our great country.

The outdoor industry already taps into this legacy to create a healthier, happier, and economically vibrant America. I am glad to know that President Obama is working to do the same.

Will Manzer is CEO of Eastern Mountain Sports and Chair of the Outdoor Industry Association Board of Directors