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(For the week of May 3, 2010)
Obama Holds Conference on the Outdoors
by James L. Cummins

The Obama Administration hosted a White House Conference on America's Great Outdoors on April 16, 2010. Top officials in the Administration lead the conference, which addressed the challenges, opportunities and innovations surrounding modern-day land conservation and the importance of reconnecting Americans to the outdoors. I was proud to represent Mississippi at the conference.

“America’s outdoors are part of our national identity. They are the farms, ranches and forests that we take great pride in, and the neighborhood parks, trails and fields where we spend memorable time with our families and friends,” said Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “Too many of these places are disappearing. In launching this conversation, we strive to learn about the smart, creative community efforts underway throughout the country to conserve our outdoor spaces, and hear how we can support these efforts.”

“Across the country, Americans are working to protect the places they know and love, from the streams they fished as children and the parks where families gather together to the battlefields and buildings that tell America’s story,” said Ken Salazar, secretary of the Interior. “The Conference is a great chance to learn about these efforts, start a new dialogue about conservation in America, and find ways to further the work that is already going on.”

“There is no doubt that we face serious challenges to our natural resources: climate change, air and water pollution, a lost connection between some Americans and the outdoors, and a fragmentation and loss of open space,” said Tom Vilsack, secretary of Agriculture. “We believe that the best way to answer these challenges is to work with landowners, conservation groups, sportsmen and women, local communities and governments to conserve America’s great outdoors, and in doing so, reconnect Americans to our forests, working lands and public lands.”

This conference brought together leaders from communities across the country. Participants included working ranchers and farmers, sportsmen and women, state and local government leaders, public lands experts, conservationists, youth leaders, business representatives and others who view the outdoors as integral to their communities. The discussion was centered on the conservation opportunities and challenges in communities.

The conference offered an opportunity for participants to engage with each other, learn from past and ongoing efforts, communicate how the Federal Government can support these efforts and identify new opportunities to work together to modernize our approach to conservation.

James L. Cummins is executive director of Wildlife Mississippi, a non-profit, conservation organization founded to conserve, restore and enhance fish, wildlife and plant resources throughout Mississippi.