Washington DC—On Friday, President Obama and members of his Cabinet held the White House Conference on Conservation: Growing America’s Outdoor Heritage and Economy at the Department of Interior in Washington, DC. Attendees encompassed a diverse community of conservation leaders from across the country and included boaters and other outdoor recreation enthusiasts, hunters and anglers, farmers and ranchers, conservationists and business owners, local government officials and tribal leaders coming together to discuss the future of conser
vation in America. Part of America's Great Outdoors Initiative (AGO), the day aimed to strengthen partnerships and identify next steps in advancing community-driven conservation and outdoor recreation initiatives that are building strong local economies and healthy lands, waters and wildlife across America.
The American Canoe Association (ACA) was invited to participate in the day’s proceedings and was represented by Wade Blackwood, Executive Director, and Cate Huxtable, Stewardship Coordinator. "It is encouraging to see that this administration places such an importance on protecting and promoting the natural resources that we love to paddle and that make this country truly unique. Through America’s Great Outdoors, policy makers have demonstrated a real commitment to introducing youth to the many benefits that paddling and outdoor recreation provides, as well as preserving our public lands so that they can be appreciated by generations to come,” says Huxtable.
The conference consisted of welcoming statements from White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair, Nancy Sutley, and an introductory address about the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative from Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar. "You are the voices of conservation," said Salazar addressing the audience. The conference was the capstone of a week of conservation announcements that included building new programs that incorporate National Parks and lands into the classroom, creating a new National Water Trails System, and conserving more than 1 million acres of grass- and wetlands.
Three panel discussions, moderated by EPA Adminstrator Lisa Jackson, CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley, DOI Secretary Ken Salazar, Army Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy, and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, provided a forum for conference attendees to pose questions to moderators and panel speakers about conservation within communities, on rivers, and of rural lands. Eleven different breakout sessions allowed for more specific questions and topics to be addressed regarding various aspects of conservation.
The conference concluded with remarks from President Obama about how much has been achieved in the name of conservation and looking forward to a prosperous future. In his address, Obama quoted the great conservationist Aldo Leopold. He said, that "conservation is ‘a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution.” Obama went on to say, "[conservation] is not just about doing nothing; it's about doing something affirmative to make sure that we are passing on this incredible blessing that we have. And you also know that effective conservation is about more than just protecting our environment -- it’s about strengthening our economy…There will always be people in this country who say we’ve got to choose between clean air and clean water and a growing economy, between doing right by our environment and putting people back to work. And I’m here to tell you that is a false choice… With smart, sustainable policies, we can grow our economy today and protect our environment for ourselves and our children.”